Back to the Future:
Low-Tech Activities for a High-Tech Classroom

2013_Heyer_SandraSandra Heyer

I recently had the pleasure of teaching in a classroom renovated specifically for English language teaching. From a console at the front of the room, I could access the Internet, project documents, or play music with a few taps on a user-friendly touch screen. Even the students’ desks were carefully chosen with language lessons in mind. The lightweight ergonomic desks were on casters, so re-configuring their arrangement for pair work or small-group work was a breeze. In fact, the desks moved so easily that my students could move them without getting up—they just shoved off with their feet and glided over the low-nap carpet.

My students and I loved our state-of-the-art classroom. However, a few weeks into the semester, I realized it had one hidden drawback: It was making us all a little lazy. Because I was at the console a lot of the time, I wasn’t moving around the classroom as much as I usually do. And my students weren’t moving at all.

This lack of physical activity was somewhat troubling in light of recent research indicating that being sedentary is dangerous to one’s health; it is linked to serious illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. “Sitting,” Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic has famously proclaimed, “is the new smoking.”

My class met every afternoon from 1:00 to 3:30—a total of 2 1/2 hours of sitting. Was all that sitting adversely affecting my and my students’ health in a small but cumulative way? If so, what was the remedy? Jettison the high-tech console? Replace the sleek gliding desks with wood-and-metal clunkers? No way!

Fortunately, the fix was quick and easy. I looked through my repertoire of activities for ones that would get us all moving. Then I began incorporating one or two of them into every class. It’s hard to say whether the activities will have a long-term health benefit. But the short-term benefit was obvious. After just ten minutes of moving around, my students returned to their seats—and I to the console—with renewed energy.

In this newsletter and the next three, I’ll share the activities that worked well in my class. They are interactive, can be adapted for almost any level or learning environment, and—most important—get students up and out of their seats.

Activity 1: The Moving Line
Levels: All

This low-prep activity, which facilitates a lot of interaction in a short amount of time, gets the whole class out of their seats. Continue reading

Get Your Students Ready for Mainstream Courses

Get Your Students Ready for Mainstream Courses

It seems simple, but it isn’t. Your students have to understand and participate in mainstream classes, but getting them ready can be daunting. Academic Connections follows three principles to teach the language and skills that research has shown your students need for academic success.

Principle 1: Research Base

Academic Connections
starts with research into what students need. This research found a
common set of skills that are important in all academic situations. …

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