Desert Island Project for young learners

Over the past two weeks, myself and my colleagues have had our learners working in groups on the Desert Island project. My colleagues carried it out last year and were really pleased with it. I am not sure where the original idea is from so cannot credit it, but if anyone can tell me, then I will update the post. 

In the school where I work, there are 7-8 classes of each grade with around 19-21 students in each class. We did the project with 4th grade learners in the Turkish system, so they are around 9-10 years old and most have been learning English since they were in Kindergarten. We don’t stream learners in the 4th grade so, all classes have learners with mixed abilities. 

We didn’t plan anything concrete and just swopped a few ideas before. The basics that we spoke about were that the students were supposed to work in groups of 4-5, the concept of a desert island should be discussed and some materials, such as maps and flags should be created by the learners. 

Each lesson is 40 minutes long and I spent 6 lessons on this in total. 

In the first lesson, I showed them a picture of desert islands to activate their schemata and they brainstormed vocabulary they associated with the concept. We spent some time discussing what one looks like, where they can be found, why it is deserted,  what would happen if they got stranded and so forth. Every class had a slightly different take on it and so the questions would differ a little.

I then did some mental imagery with them. I asked them to put their heads down on the desk and close their eyes. I set the scene by telling them they were on a big ship, having fun and chatting to their friends who are on their desk… I then told them they had to get in a lifeboat and they arrived n this island with the people in their group. I asked them to imagine what the island looked like, smells, animals, noises, things they could eat and drink and so forth. I let them digest all of this as I spoke in a quiet voice and then asked them to share and make notes. 

In the second lesson, the students named their island and described it to the other students. They designed a flag appropriate for their island name. 

In the third lesson, I gave them a blank A3 piece of paper and discussed with them how big their island was, what the shape was, where they would sleep, wash, get fresh water, cook and hunt. They then designed their own maps and labelled them with some of these things that they felt were the most important. different groups and classes came up with different things as it had now become personal for them. 

In the subsequent lessons, they made lists of what was in their backpack that they had managed to retrieve before the ship sank, they wrote diary entries on how they felt and what they were doing on the island, some of the groups wanted to ‘discover’ a new animal and drew and described the animal, they wrote rules for their island and assigned jobs for everyone in the group (they had lengthy, passionate discussions about that part, with some girls refusing to cook and wanting to hunt instead!). 

No project was the same and each member of the group put their own stamp on the work they did. 

The final session was to be based on them interviewing other people who wanted to come to their island and stay there, so they had to be aware of the rules and jobs and so on, and the island ‘community’ members would decide if they could stay and live on their island or not. I gave them each an A1 sheet of card and they decided how they would present their island information, some even talked about designing passports! (Private school children collect more air miles than I do :D) 

All in all, the aim of creating a new community was achieved and the children didn’t want to stop doing the project. My colleagues did some slightly different things such as, writing a help letter and a final spoken presentation of their island. I will upload some of their posters as soon as I can so you can see the finished product. 

This was an excellent way of getting students to use their English (they spoke mainly in English with some odd slips of the L1) in a creative way and required them to use lots of different language. 

If anyone decides to do this, please let me know how it went and if you did anything differently. We will be doing this project again next year with the next 4th graders, so any feedback would be welcome. 


Starting the delta

The beloved DELTA… so many covet it and so many fail it. At the moment, I am in the middle of module two and it will probably be the reason I don’t get to write much again! the only reason I decided to write is that I looked high and low for something on the DELTA but it seems others are reluctant to share their experience and knowledge. I have wanted to do the DELTA for years but there was always some reason that I never got to do it, be it time, money or both. Now I am back in Istanbul (have been since June 2012), I knew it was time to pick myself up from the module one exam fail letter floor and start again. I attended the module one course at ITI – aka International Training Institute – but decided not to take the exam for the second time as I knew I would get the results during the second module and another fail letter probably would have put me off altogether, plus I felt that the more knowledge I gained in the second module would all contribute to the exam I am to take in June. There still is the issue of Cambridge expects you to answer things in certain ways but at least now I know more than I did three months ago (I hope I do anyway!) Back to module 2 -I’m preparing for my second assessed lesson at the moment (same institution) and as I type that I am wondering why I am sitting here writing this instead..I guess my brain has had enough of tone units and learner problems for one evening. Finding time to concentrate on the focus I have chosen is difficult as I need a fresh mind and I am one of those people that prefers to study for long blocks of time, say for three or four hours on the trot, and I have dealt with a lot of learner problems at work already today, that’s why I thought taking up my blog again would be a good idea, and now there is a mobile app too, I can blog to my hearts content 🙂 If you are debating doing module two, make sure you have done module one first, it is a good way of getting back on the knowledge horse even if you don’t take the exam right away. Please don’t expect it to be easy, and make sure you have the commitment to see it through to the end, it is stressful but I know it’s going to be worth it in the end. I am doing the DELTA for better career prospects but I am also doing it for me in the sense that I want to be a better teacher, not just earn more money as much of a bonus as that will be in the long run. Don’t let your place of work pressure you into it if you are not 100% up for doing could end in tears. Well, I think that’s enough for tonight and hopefully this time, this blog will stay alive. Well, it will if someone is reading it 🙂

The end of the delta road (well, sort of…)

imageModule two is drawing to a close and I had my last external observation yesterday. The tension before the observation led to dreams about deformed feet, copious amounts of caffeine, palpitations, and hot flashes.

Was it all worth it? Yes.

I had a calm observer who set me at ease with her demeanour and my kids (I teach young learners aged 10-11) were ‘awesome’ (to quote my American colleagues). They will be rewarded with ridiculous amounts of ice cream today!

Ironically, my main goal of achieving the certificate , which should by the way be printed in gold, has become a secondary thought as I have progressed through the stages of becoming ‘a better teacher’. The experience I have gained, the knowledge I have learnt, and the constant reflection that I have gone through has made this worth the time, money and the stress that accompanies the delta.

One word of advice for future candidates; read anything and everything you can get you hands on before you sign up. I wish I had been this proactive for years before I attempted to put myself through this but, I also believe I read more than I normally would as I am doing it 🙂

I exited the observation beaming like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in wonderland and witnesses claim they saw me doing little dances all day (no photographic evidence is available at the time of writing- phew).

The only downfall is I have to wait until August to find out what I actually passed with (or if I did at all!) but, delta, you’re worth it!