A guest post from Lindsay Clandfield. Lindsay is a well-known ELT author, teacher and teacher trainer, and a person who never seems to run out of original and inspiring ideas! I’ve been lucky enough to work with him on a variety of projects over the years. He was one the first online moderators on our The Consultants-E online courses, and set the standards very high indeed. Below he shares more of his great ideas, this time for online teaching activities. You can check out my own guest post of six favourite teaching online activities on Lindsay’s blog! Nicky

Photo by Flnz

To celebrate the launch of our new book, Teaching Online (published by Delta Publishing), Nicky and I decided to invite each other for a guest post on our respective blogs. Of course, you can guess what happened. We both chose to do a list of our favourite activities from the book! Instead of going back and changing things, we thought “well, why not?” This way people get twelve free online teaching ideas AND we don’t have to rewrite our posts 🙂

The following then, are my favourite six activities that I use regularly when teaching online courses. By online, I mean here that both myself and the students are doing the activity 100% online and at a distance from each other (not in a computer room together, or me using a connected IWB in class).

1 My window, my world

This is a getting-to-know-you activity. Start by taking a photo of your regular workspace (preferably including the closest window and what you see out of it when you aren’t looking at the computer). Prepare a short written description of it. Post both the description and the photo to your discussion forum* or class blog. Learners then do the same. You and the learners then read each other’s descriptions and comment on them.

It’s a great way to get a window into what the other people on your course are like. The idea for this originally came from our colleague based in Italy – Valentina Dodge.

*if you are using a VLE (virtual learning environment) then you will be able to set up different discussion forums for activities)

2 Five clicks away

This is a great reading activity that really can only be done online. First find a visually attractive web page on a topic of general interest to your learners. Choose one that has several links on the page, preferably in one area of the page. A news or magazine site will work well, or a site on a specific topic, such as the World Wildlife Fund or a film review site. Tell the students they must start at this site. They begin reading on whatever takes their interest. However, they are ONLY ALLOWED FIVE CLICKS away from that page. At the end of five clicks they stop browsing and take a screenshot of the page they reached and prepare a description of 1) the end page they got to and 2) the steps they took to get there. They post these to your course website.

It’s often very interesting to see how different people ended up in completely different places.

3 Follow that story!

Here’s another reading activity. Find a large news site in English and choose four to five news stories that you think “have legs” (that is, they will keep going for at least a week, e.g. the world cup would have been a good one in July). Give the list of news stories to the students, and provide them with the URLs to several news sites in English. They must “follow” their news story for a week, reading or watching items relating to it in English from a variety of news sites. At the end of the week, they summarise their findings into a report and post it on the course site (or email it to you).

4 What’s my line?

This listening activity works as a homework activity or even in a face to face class if you have a connection to the internet. But I’ve used it in distance courses too. First, choose a series of movie trailers for movies that are out or coming out now. Four to six should do. Watch each trailer and make a note of two phrases you hear in the trailer. Then add a “distractor”, a phrase that isn’t in the trailer but that could be. Give the students the title of the trailer and the three phrases. They have to watch the trailer and identify the distractor. This activity is always very popular, and learners can make their own “What’s my line” activities for a partner afterwards.

5 Binomials

This is a synchronous activity, which means you and the learners are online at the same time, for example in a chatroom. In fact, this activity needs to be in a chatroom so people can type answers at the same time. Nicky and I have found that chats work really well for social stuff and helping a group to “gel”, as well as for little language quizzes. In this activity, the teacher starts by typing half of a binomial, e.g. bread and… The learners all then type as quickly as possible the first word that comes into their head (in this case, butter). Continue with other “halves” of binomials, but slowly widening these out so that there may be more than one choice. Here are a set you can use:

war and…; love and…; man and…; right and…; king and…. I use this activity as a warm-up, and I like using binomials. But you could do the same with irregular verbs, synonyms, antonyms or any other word pair.

6 Parting gifts

I learned this activity from Nicky herself and Gavin Dudeney (they were my tutors on my first e-moderation course some seven years ago now) but it actually was first used by Ana d’Almaida, another online tutor we work with at the Consultants-E. It’s a great closing activity. Towards the end of the course, set up a forum called Parting Gifts. Invite learners to contribute a little virtual gift to the course site as a way of saying goodbye to the group. There are so many possibilities of cool things to “gift” online for free that I am always amazed by what learners come up with. I’ve had funny youtube videos, links to great resources, jokes, recipes, video messages…the list of possibilities is endless, and people always like leaving comments on how much they enjoyed each other’s “parting gifts”.

So, there they are. Half a dozen of my favourite activities when teaching online. There are plenty more where these came from in our book, which I already mentioned at the beginning of this piece so will stop talking about now! In the meantime, have you taught online and if so do you have a favourite activity? Post a comment!

Free Teaching Online Webinar 22 September 2010

Photo by koukrapoc

You can experience some of our teaching online activities by coming along to our free Teaching Online webinar on Wednesday 22 September 16.30h – 17.30h CET (Central European Time).

Check the exact time in your country, and if you can make it, sign up online with your name and email. We will email you a link to the webinar room half an hour before the webinar is due to start. We will hold a raffle during the webinar to give away free copies of the book! 🙂