My Teaching House

Bringing the World Closer

Even now, this late in the day, a blank sheet of paper holds the greatest excitement there is for me — more promising than a silver cloud, and prettier than a red wagon.
- E.B. White

I’ve just returned from “a return” to nature. Hiked 30 hours through Killarney Provincial Park. Amazing mountains, nature, wild. I suffered and was “with myself”. No gadgets or wifi. Just my mind and foot after foot after foot step.

In teaching, I don’t always go with technology. I’m a big fan of just using a blank piece of paper and having students create content. My Teach | Learn coursebook is full of examples of this and is built on the back of my “blank piece of paper” philosophy.

To continue reading this article . . . EFL Classroom 2.0 - Teacher Talk

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I really enjoyed this article, and I think it is good for all teachers to "return to nature" from time to time. Doing so is good practice, not only because technology may be unavailable, but also because it can be constraining. We surround ourselves with overhead projector sheets, PowerPoint presentations, and realia in order to use them. Hopefully this use fulfills the purpose of the lesson, but surrounding ourselves with such technology also makes us feel obligated or constrained to use them, even if they may be less than ideal in the moment. I think that sometimes a change of direction - or just a simple piece of paper - might fulfill the purpose of the lesson even better.
I thought some of the activities described were a great way to have students test their skills in a game format (the alphabet list and categories, for example). An activity that might work for advanced learners is group creative writing task. The students wouldn't collaborate but rather contribute individually to the final projects: short stories. Each student would start out with a piece of paper and write a sentence (the start of the story). They would then pass their paper to the person to their right while receiving a page from the person to their left. After adding a sentence to the story, they would pass it on again. This would continue for however many sentences the teacher chose, perhaps until the papers returned to the people that wrote the first sentence. At the end, each student would read the full story. Students could practice reading, writing, and speaking, and the stories could be quite entertaining. It could also be a creative way to use new vocabulary or a new verb tense.
I love anything creative, and I often feel that technology sometimes stifles creativity. (Or maybe I'm just behind on the times.) This article reminded me of a game we used in AmeriCorps when working with young children while trying to teach them about the alphabet. We would draw part of a letter and have the children guess what the letter was. Eventually we would finish drawing the letter in pieces, and they could read it back to us. Just a little, simple game on a piece of paper entertained them for way longer than legos or computer games. I just think that being interactive is really important and fun.
I loved this article because it reinforces the importance of creativity during a classroom. There are countless ways to use any object to help emphasis a point of teaching. I liked the idea of using the paper for individuals during a game to make the experience interactive but also individualistic. For me I find activities that test a student on their own comprehension but reinforce their understanding as a group to be the most rewarding.
The blank piece of paper technique makes sense to me. Perhaps this is because with each leaf, learners and educators alike are offered a blank slate (something that is often key to the learning process). Not only this, but a blank piece of paper is versatile, as well as practical. There is fun to be had with a blank piece of paper (as anyone whose made a paper airplane can tell you), while one could also poor there mind out on it. I thought all in all it was a great and insightful piece; one that makes you think of all that can be done with so simple a resource.
I liked the ideas presented in this article. In the day of technology-assisted teaching, it is easy to forget that teaching can still be very effective while very simple. Just the idea of brainstorming would be a great way to solidify vocabulary, if not larger language ideas. One great thing about this 'blank sheet of paper" philosophy is that it's more mobile than a technology assisted classroom and can be utilized in out-of-classroom class meetings. Further, since the emphasis is on a stripped-down, easily-outlined style, a students has room to create original and creative content.


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