The current semester is far from even half-way over and I am already planning next semester’s Advanced English Composition course, which is an academic writing course. Reading is an essential part of this course and lately I’ve been thinking about ways to get my students to read more, beyond the readings I assign them in class. As I have written about before, Flipboard is one of my favorite apps and I think the answer lies here. Flipboard is an easy to use and visually appealing way to read news, publications, blogs, and social media. You can subscribe to any number of “magazines”, news sites, and blog feeds. What’s more, you can also (collaboratively) create your own magazines, which can then be subscribed to by anyone. So, here are some of the ideas I am currently kicking around in my head: Continue reading
The treasure hunt is an amazing activity that combines cooperation, competition, physical effort, and mobile phones to make a very enjoyable learning experience for students. Below is a description of how teachers can create such an experience and activity themselves.
(Warning: this activity is not for those who are disorganized, can’t multitask, or can’t handle a little time-sensitive pressure).
The premise of an ELT (or really any subject) treasure hunt is simple. Students follow clues to find tasks, complete tasks, and get more clues until they have solved an entire puzzle. The clues and tasks are spread over an entire floor, building, or even campus. The subject of these clues and tasks is up the teacher, but usually some learning point students have recently been working on, reviewing for an exam, or in my case, practicing various proofreading skills. Students are given clues, which contain multiple answers. The correct answer will lead them to a task, which is posted in another location. They complete the task and message me the answer, image, or video. If they are correct, I give them the location of the next clue. And it repeats until the last clue, which has its task based in the classroom or office that I am in so I can determine the true winner. The winners get a small prize.
These kinds of treasure hunts can be done in any number of ways, but one of the ones I have made relies on KakaoTalk (What’s App and Twitter may also be possible to do this with). We already use KakaoTalk for messaging, class reminders, homework, etc., so it is a natural choice for anything mobile-based. The fact that Kakao allows users to send not only messages but also voice recordings, pictures and videos is a definite plus. Furthermore, the fact that Kakao offers a desktop application is a deal sealer. When I first started doing these treasure hunts, I did it all from my smartphone. Handling incoming answers and sending clues wasn’t easy to organize. The desktop application makes it much easier, though it still requires good multitasking skills…and patience.
To design a good treasure hunt takes some work. First, you need to decide on the number and types of tasks. For my proofreading tasks, I copies proofreading activities out of the book which required students to do things like gap-fills, choose the correct word form, make corrections, etc. Besides answering questions, students could also write sentences, draw math formulae (and send a picture), or have a conversation or discussion (and send the video).
After making the tasks, you also have to make some clues. Clues also test content, but in a less in-depth way. They are single questions that have multiple answers. The correct answer points students to the task. The incorrect answers lead the students to nothing, or if you want, on a wild goose chase.
The hardest part comes after making tasks and clues: mapping out the treasure hunt. I work in a five-story building, so I spread the clues and tasks out to the outsides of offices on different floors. My clues would point students to 217, 520, and so on. For each clue and task, I would include a note saying not to remove the paper, that it is part of a lesson, and if there are any questions to contact me or my department.
Finding locations is only part of mapping out the game. You also have to create a path for each team. I usually make four or five teams, and give each one a different path. I start them at different clues and make it so no team is at the same clue at the same time, or at least they don’t visit clues in the same order. I choose one team and plan out their route, then plan the next, being careful to choose different paths. It’s important to make sure that all students do the same amount of work, only in different orders.
The final steps are to actually post the clues and tasks around the school, and then test out the game yourself. Then, explain the activity to the students, set up team leaders whose main job is to be the texter (team leaders are usually the students who have phones with the longest battery life and the best internet connections), and then send them on their way. Then, prepare for the chaos.
Groups will send in answers – sometimes multiple groups at the same time. I usually quickly text back a “Please wait…”, which I figure out:
- where they are
- what task they completed
- if they are correct or incorrect
- where they need to go next
If they are incorrect, I text back what they need to fix. If they are correct, I tell them where to go next. It seems simple, but with multiple groups in different locations, it can be pretty hectic to organize it all. You need to set up a command center where you have easy access to the map you created and the tasks (with answers). Also, be prepared for missing clues (some get taken down despite the notices) and redirecting students to proper tasks.
I also usually set a time-limit (30 or 45 minutes) and a rule that when the first team wins, I will call all students back to the classroom. If you want them to do all the tasks, you could also end the game when the last team finishes.
Even though this requires a lot of planning and multitasking, it is an extremely rewarding experience for the students. They likely never get to run around the school like children. The fun, excitement, and physical activity combined with the tasks you give is a sure combination for a great learning experience.
Here’s a summary of what you have to do to make a KakaoTalk treasure hunt. This summary assumes students are already used to using KakaoTalk.
- Create tasks
- Create clues
- Map out where the clues and tasks will go
- Choose the number of teams and make different paths for each team to follow
- Post clues and tasks in correct locations
- Test run the game yourself, following each path
- Explain the activity to students
- Make teams, choose team leaders, and send them on their way
- Set up your command center and begin responding to students
- When all students are back in the classroom, announce the winner and give them their prize
Here is the latest Treasure Hunt I did. You will see all the tasks and clues (which conveniently label the locations they should be in) as well as the maps and checklists I made to keep track of students.
Here is a screenshot of my “command center”:
KakaoTalk is a free instant messaging app for smartphones, tablets, and the PC. There are many such apps to choose from, but Kakao, being Korean, is ubiquitous here. It is also popular around the world – it is localized in twelve different languages and has over 90 million users. KakaoTalk is tied to both your phone number and a user ID. Simply adding a person to your phone’s contact list adds them to Kakao if they also use the service.
(See below to learn how to quickly add a whole class of students to Kakao.)
Ninety nine percent of my students use Kakao. Since all students use it, it makes sense to harness it in and out of the classroom. Some of its features include instant messaging, group messaging, photo and video sharing, polling, and VoIP free calls. Aside from free calls, I have used all these features to transform Kakao into a powerful edtech tool.
Here is a list of 9 ways I use KakaoTalk. Can you think of any more? Sound off in the comments below.
Cancelled class? Upcoming test? Paper due next week? Changed room? You can use Kakao to send important announcements and reminders to students.
2. Homework and Quizzes
Many of my homework assignments are detailed on course homepages. Many of my quizzes are based on Google Forms. It’s quite easy to send these links to students so that they can easily access them anywhere, anytime. If you want them to complete an online quiz in class, just grab the link and Kakao it to them! As a bonus, if you forget to assign homework, you can always send a message after class. I did this a number of times throughout the semester. The students surprisingly didn’t seem to mind.
3. Link and Resource Sharing
Want to give them a little help with a grammar point? Share the link. Want to share a related website, blog post or video? Give them the link. Want to share a cool story or song? Give them the link. With Kakao, it’s easy to push content to students’ phones. This is also one way in which you can extend learning beyond the classroom. Link real-world media to classroom content. You can even make it part of their homework (see number two above)!
4. Student Contact
Sometimes you want to contact a student individually. Calling is too personal. Email is sometimes not checked. You can send a text message, or use Kakao. Next to each message’s time stamp is a small number that tells you how many people have read the message. If you are only talking to one student, you will see a 1, indicating they didn’t read it yet, or nothing, indicating they have read it. That’s pretty handy information.
5. Q & A
Sometimes students have questions about assignments, homework, or even course content. I always recommend that they ask in Kakao because it is likely other students have the same question. If it is a question of a personal nature (such as messages related to absences or grades), I suggest they ask with a private message. However, most of the time it is a relevant and important question, one which the whole class is usually thankful for. Bonus: they can ask also ask in their native language and receive answers from other students.
The polling option is relatively new. It allows you to set up a question which is asked to all the students. These questions come with multiple choice options, including a free choice option. If you want their opinion about a lesson, or to vote on some classroom issue, polling is where it can be done. I polled students on who was using gFlash+ or Quizlet, and even what they would like to work on in a class between units falling right before a holiday. Non-bonus: I allowed the free choice option and got several “nothing” responses to the latter question.
7. Scavenger Hunts
One of the activities I did last year was a scavenger hunt. I hope to write a detailed blog post about this in the future. Students, in teams of 3-4, would start at their designated question and follow answers to other questions. The answer to major questions had to be Kakaoed to me. I would then Kakao back with feedback (if they were wrong), a clue, or the location of their next question. It went on like this until a team completed all the questions and solved the puzzle. It was a little difficult to manage on the phone, but now with KakaoTalk for the PC, it will be a breeze. Bonus: students can also submit videos for conversation-based questions
This isn’t really something I did, nor was it related to learning, but I did notice students using the group to organize an end of semester outing. I thought this was really cool. They could get together, eat, drink, and probably make fun of me. In a way, KakaoTalk helped them form a community outside the classroom. Ideally, they could also use this to schedule study sessions or schedule a meetup for practicing English. Ideally.
How to Add Students to Kakao Talk Quickly
- First, gather all the students names and phone numbers. Hopefully you used a Google form to get all this at the begining of the semester.
- If you have an iOS device (iPod, iPhone, iPad), the quickest way is to go to iCloud.com, login, choose Contacts, and add the students one by one. Just copy the name, then copy the phone number. A class of 20 students takes less than 5 minutes. My record is 20 students in 2 minutes.
- If you have an Android, you can import them to gMail or try this app. I don’t have an Android phone, so I don’t know the best method.
- Be sure to give your students a unique name so they are better organized on your phone. For example, if a student in my advanced English 102 class is named 김바보, I will name him “SS A102 김바보” so that I know exactly who he is and what class he belongs. Plus, all students are organized under SS and by class on my phone. They are very easy to find.
- After adding contacts to your phone, open Kakao. They should sync automatically.
- Create a group. Under “Chats” click the + sign, then select your students. If you followed my naming protocol, they should be easily found under SS + class.
- After adding them, send a welcome message. Then, click on the drop down arrow, choose Settings and rename the group. Also, turn off notifications because you will get a lot of messages.
- Finally, make sure students know some good chat etiquette: no texting after midnight!