Every place tells a story

As English teachers, we never know when and how we impact people and generally we think this is limited to the classroom, but this is not always the case. There is this teacher who unknowingly encouraged me to reflect on a picture that I had posted to the Eltpics Facebook page.  For those of you who don’t know it, Eltpics is a collaborative project where ELT professionals share their own copyright free photos and images for non-commercial use in ELT contexts.   So, I would like to dedicate this post to one of the Eltpics curators, Julie Raikou, who inspired me to write a post for the picture I had shared. This picture has a story to tell and a lesson to teach.

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This small haven is located in a beach resort about 100 km from Rio, Brazil. Despite its beauty, it is an invitation to trouble. You can only reach the pool by jumping across a stream on rocks. Once you reach it, you must face the thousands of mosquitoes and wasps in search of blood or whatever it is that they feed on. It is chaotic but it pays off. The place is simply amazing and you forget the long horseback ride, the bees, the rocks, and everything else once you’re refreshing in the pond. It’s a new experience every time I go there.

Real life resembles the pond. Despite the flies and bees, we can’t help feeling like exploring it and discovering new things. When it comes to ELT, real life can pose lots of threats to learners, too.  However, real life can also offer plenty of exciting, real spaces: streets, parks, ponds, paths, and forests where people interact in different ways and every space is an invitation to learn something new.

So, how can we create real life spaces in our classrooms? How can we give students a thrill that goes beyond interactive digital materials? How can we make the most of our classroom and create totally different learning spaces for our students to want to explore?

Here are some simple, quick ideas:

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  • An interactive white board or an overhead projector can turn your classroom into a forest of shadows for your young learners to create their own critters.

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  • Groups of desks turned into countries with their own rules, borders, and government for my group of pre-teens.
  • A blindfold can turn your classroom into a dark, mysterious place for students to perform simple tasks such as listening for directions and following a route.
  • Adults simply love the idea of having an imaginary cocktail party. Just bring soft drinks and finger foods to mimic an office party.
  • Music sets the right mood and turns the classroom into a different, unique space. I usually have some background music playing as my students come in.

I really love watching my students as they venture into the new, unexplored territory that our classroom has been turned into. I just hope they take back home lots of stories to tell.

 

Teresa Carvalho

Teresa holds a B.A. in Linguistics from USP and Delta Modules 1 and 2 Certificates. She has been teaching for over 25 years and has presented at webinars and at both local and international Conferences, including ABCI, IATEFL, and the Image Conference. She also holds a Specialization degree in English Language from PUC-Rio. She is interested in visual literacy and in language development for teachers of English as a foreign language. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Language Studies and is conducting research in the role of images in the construction of identity.

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