• IMPROV e English Team

Techniques based on the participation in open activities

In terms of language learning, such activities can create a safe and secure environment in which the learners can apply and practice the developed linguistic skills and interact with native speakers. Moreover the preparation, design and implementation of these activities contribute to the visibility of foreigners in local societies and make them face real language and cultural challenges out of the classroom. Even if this kind of activities cannot be considered as the only tool to teach a language, they offer a wide variety of dynamic activities that can complement the regular language courses offered to a group. They are also very useful for those educators aiming to implement on their language courses a “flipped classroom” model on which the learning experience must take place at both, inside and outside the classroom and far from the traditional pedagogical models.

Besides that, the participation in open air activities (especially in groups) promotes a peer learning model on which learners learn from each other. This is especially important when dealing with languages and immigrants as this model puts them on real life scenarios and make possible at the same time that they share they experiences or methods of adaptation to the new hosting community, its culture and society.

Last but not least, as most of these activities promote the realization of activities that could be related to learners’ hobbies or interests (they should be explored and detected previously by the educator), they reinforce the learners’ motivation, decrease drop outs and promote the use of learners’ other skills than the linguistic ones.

According to this, two subcategories or potential activities have been proposed to provide samples of this kind of activities:

a) Active open activities

They are those on which learners are involved in all their processes: preparation, design, implementation and performing. Learners can acquire during these stages very different competences while creating a final result which does not only display their knowledge or skills but it also impacts the local community. (By entertaining its members or raising their awareness about concrete issues). Some examples of active open activities that can be proposed to a group of learners can be:

- Film competitions: It is a contest on which participants should get the triumph using their own recorded films. The films are judged by other people and the main goal is the learning process of the learners during the preparation and recording of their films. The learners of a new language can use this activity for discovering new vocabulary although they can also improve team work, communication, expressing ideas or personal experiences through the characters of a film.

- Photovoice: It is a method to show a social action or cultural difficulty in order to be aware of a problem or situation by using photography. Participants should prepare and share a group of photos which represent a concrete theme. This group of pictures can include also a narrative part. The most interesting benefit of using photovoice is the wide variety of points of view that can be showed. It can be used with the purpose of learning languages in the first stages of the process, when the users have not enough level to reproduce a speech but they can use the photovoice to transmit some problems through images.

- Music events: It is a live performance where participants play different compositions. The learning process is appreciated in the entire musical process such as how to use different instruments, how to compose a score, the interaction with the rest of the members of a band, repeating new vocabulary, etc. When coming from different cultural backgrounds, music also help the learners to understand each other’s backgrounds and allows them to discover how to detect and reproduce patterns (that are also used on grammatical expressions, phonology or oral expression).

- Sport tournaments: It is a competition through different kind of physical activities. The participants learn and/or improve during the preparation about how to play, its rules, and they interact with the rest of their colleagues or competitors. This kind of activities can help to learn a new language through the communication with the colleagues. Sports are also basic expressions of a culture that could help them to be integrated in a local community and interact among it. Moreover, sports promote other values that can be very useful inside the language class (Ex. Respect, work in teams, entrepreneurship, tolerance, etc.).

- Cooking or food festivals: it is an entertaining event centered in the different ways to cook, on which participants elaborate different recipes in order to let people know aspects or characteristics of a concrete theme or culture. As a language learning tool, this kind of activities are an excellent way to learn all the vocabulary about food, cooking and shopping, etc. while at the same time the participants acquire cultural facts related to the hosting country or are able to express those related to their countries.

b) Passive open activities

As a difference with the previous subcategory, this one includes activities on which learners do not have a very active role. However, they open them to new realities, environments and make them interact with other target groups. They are excellent to create informal learning experiences and open learners to real life. Some examples of activities in which learners could be included to reinforce their motivation or knowledge acquisition about different topics could be:

- Study visits: It is an instrument for getting information about some practices among peers, organizations or people. It consists of visiting and watching the place where a practice is developed and learn how they are doing it. Both, the visitor and the host should be involved in the visit in order to make better the interaction between them and to take advantage for the leaning process. It can help the language learners to discover new job positions, industrial processes, public services, etc. and all the vocabulary or processes related to them.

- Job shadowing: It is a way of training that consists of going to the place of the hosting entity or body for a while and seeing what the people there are doing in order to learn how to do or develop a task in a real way. After all the time “in the shadow”, participants will be ready to imitate and develop by themselves what they have learnt but on a different context or space. During the job shadowing the learners can learn and practice job related vocabulary.

- Cultural trips: to make a trip to a cultural place can also help language learning by promoting their interaction, learning about a concrete theme and better understanding the culture of a host country in order to interact afterwards better with its community. It could be a great opportunity for the educator to introduce vocabulary related to history and culture.

- Lectures, conferences or roundtables: they are events on which participants listen, debate and/or discuss about a concrete topic. It consists of a speech of someone with knowledge in front of an audience who asks afterwards to interact with him/her.

- Attend exhibitions of photo or video (also going to the cinema or theatre): when learners visit an exhibition about a topic or watch an audiovisual material, they learn by watching what is showed. As it offers a visual support, it helps the learners to understand new concepts or terms by linking them to images, movements or episodes seen without having a previous linguistic knowledge about the name of the things that they are interacting with.

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