It is a fact that 2020 is going to be remembered as the year that has changed us in terms of offering quality education in unusual conditions. Undoubtedly, teachers had to readjust to the new Covid-19 pandemic reality through searching, identifying, and implementing the best solutions to provide educational safety for both students and parents. Since we needed an instant result, we were forced to come up with the best decisions/scenarios to be PRESENT online for our students. From my point of view, teachers adapted promptly and created innovative, interesting, unique activities for their online meetings. More than that, students proved to be real partners during the process. Consequently, we formed a team, we strived, and we finally succeeded.
In the following paragraphs I am going to display top 5 successful online activities for B1/B2 level that I find useful, inspiring, and efficacious for the remote teaching process. I must admit that it was a real challenge to select 5 in connection with their relevance to my students’ needs and interests, but I do believe that my choices may guide you to create new demanding activities in your real or virtual classrooms. In an ending note, the words of Marie Forleo, an American entrepreneur, should govern teachers and students alike: ‘you were born to create and contribute’.
1. Portfolio Page
Portfolio page activity represents a must in the context of developing the Eight Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. That is why, teachers should have in mind the complexity of this framework. Among the online activities that I used during my classes, I would mention: Celebrate Approach (e.g., Embrace the European Day of Languages, Brancusi’s Day, Education Day, Meet Kazuo Ishiguro), The best writing activity (e.g., The best narrative, descriptive, discursive essay or the best article, proposal, report, letter/e-mail), My project (e.g., Simply words…based on vocabulary and use of English, art/music/healthy lifestyle projects). Either you are online or offline, students are going to appreciate portfolio pages being thoroughly involved in producing them. Finally, make sure you permanently collaborate with your students in respect of deadlines, topics, models, instructions, or digital tools. Make them feel connected, important, and high-flying.
2. Learn a poem by heart!
It was an excellent activity for my high school students from the very beginning. Starting my google meet session reciting lines from 2 different poems such as: “Phenomenal woman” by Maya Angelou and “Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare aroused students’ attentions. On the one hand, posting the poems in English as well as in Romanian, adding links for watching valuable videos, creating assignments were the steps I took to create the environment for the activity. On the other hand, students had the chance of reading, listening, improving their vocabulary, and playing their roles for the final product, which was unbelievable. Consequently, students were able to meet 2 different personalities and they had 2 weeks for making and adding the video on google classroom. Since the activity was a real success, I do recommend this type of activity at least once per semester in terms of forming competence in cultural awareness and expression.
3. Be a teacher for 20 minutes!
Simply address the following question: Would you like to be a teacher for 20 minutes? and the students will be immediately interested in coming up with a prompt answer. Changing places will lead to building notable confidence in your students’ skills to voice their English level.
Moreover, to assume roles, to research on a topic, to prepare a lesson, to find more about this profession, to address/answer questions are the ingredients of creating a multitude of opportunities in your online/ offline classrooms. Basically, this type of activity is welcomed at least once per week to allow each student to access it in a school year time. Be a teacher for 20 minutes! proved to be a creative, flexible, and challenging activity for the students involved. In a nutshell, this activity could be described as a thought-provoking one, developing key competences that have become a feature of European education policy.
4. Quote Corner
One of the most enjoyable and productive activities consisted in working with a variety of quotations that were meant to develop students’ abilities of analyzing, paraphrasing, interpreting, expressing opinions or building essays. Obviously, I focused on speaking and writing activities bringing inspirational and positive quotes that the difficult period required to develop students’ skills to reflect upon oneself as well as to cope with uncertainty and complexity. Under no circumstances should you hesitate in using awesome resources such as:
a) “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
b) “Hold dear to your parents for it is a scary and confusing world without them.” Emily Dickinson
c) “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.” Queen Elizabeth II
d) “When times get tough, we don’t give up. We get up.” Barack Obama
e) “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
5. English through movies/songs/games
Another relevant and productive activity that conducted to successful online classes was English through movies, songs, and games. Watching movies: Enola Holmes (2020) or The Remains of the Day (1993), listening to songs such as: Fix you (Coldplay) or Memories (Maroon 5) and playing games: Kahoot, FluentU or Quizlet are valuable activities in order to improve mainly speaking/ listening/reading skills. Having a debate on a certain movie, analyzing a song from various angles, or playing a cultural game enlarge a complex range of competences. Hence, students are engaged in understanding, developing, and expressing one’s own ideas and sense of place or role in society in a variety of ways and contexts.