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Cool things that happened during the winter holidays

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At the beginning of the second semester I got my pupils to write A few cool things that happened to them during the winter holidays. This activity was inspired by a great blog post “Cool things that happened today” by Mike Griffin (I liked the idea very much, but I ‘slightly’ modified and adapted it to my secondary school pupils).

I tried the activity out for the first time last year with my 4th year pupils (intermediate level: B1 and B2) and it was really fun and enjoyable. I did the activity with several classes then and when I told my teenage pupils what they were going to write about, their first reaction was: “Nothing cool happened to me… or nothing special happened that I would like to write/talk about…”, but after a bit of my explaining to them that cool things are also some good little things that happen to us and make us happy, many amazing things sprang to their mind.

I love this kind of personalized writing/speaking activities because they are very good for kindling students’ imagination. The activity is also great for pointing out the importance of enjoying every moment and always looking on the bright side of life; and, it is very good for practising Past Simple Tense, as well.

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When I did the activity at the end of January this year, I introduced the activity telling my pupils a few cool things that happened to me during the previous three weeks:

  1. I came across a gorgeous chocolate and cake shop near Kalemegdan Park two weeks ago.
  2. Since I got a wonderful book ‘Storia della Bellezza” by Umberto Eco for my birthday, I decided to revise and improve my knowledge of the Italian language.
  3. I enjoyed having a coffee, chatting and laughing with my close friend at a café yesterday evening.
  4. I was really happy when I woke up this morning and heard a nightingale singing beautifully in the garden.

Then I handed them out stick papers and asked my pupils to think a little about what they enjoyed doing during the winter holidays and try to write a few sentences about that. When they finished the sentences, we stuck the papers on the board. We corrected some grammar (mostly the Past tense irregular verbs) mistakes as a class. I made some suggestions regarding vocabulary (about using some more usual or appropriate words and expressions; and using some collocations correctly: make friends instead of meet friends, give/have/throw a party instead of make a party etc.). I also suggested using more adjectives in order to make language a lot more expressive and interesting. And, I tried to focus much more on content than on grammar while talking with them (I made only some most necessary corrections, actually).

It was really fun for my students and me as well, and I would like to share with you some of the sentences my teenage pupils wrote:

  1. I had an epic New Year’s Eve party with my friends. We had a lot of fun and I lost all my money because I was drunk.
  2. I fell in love and spent a lot of time with my boyfriend.
  3. I ended a terrible relationship with my girlfriend.
  4. I rode skateboard every day because the weather was awesome.
  5. I spent my winter holidays in the mountains. I was at Kopaonik ski resort and made a lot of friends there.
  6. I went to the French Alps and enjoyed snowboarding every day.
  7. I travelled abroad two weeks ago. I went to Moscow because my father is living and working there.
  8. I spent a lot of time on the Net, mainly on Facebook and playing computer games.
  9. I was very glad to have finally passed my driving test.
  10. I found a job at a publishing house and made illustrations for children’s books.
  11. I watched a really exciting basketball match Red-Star Atletico Bilbao.
  12. I started playing handball again after a few years pause.
  13.  I met my old friend whom I hadn’t seen for a long time.
  14. I started writing my book “Blood Diamond” in which rebels called K.U.F. are fighting against the soldiers who are killing the natives of Sierra Leone because of diamonds.
  15. I celebrated six month anniversary of dating my girlfriend.
  16. I went to a pop concert and had a wonderful time.
  17. I was working very hard to save money for my new car.
  18. I was on the bus which crashed into a building (a hotel) a few days ago, but fortunately no one was seriously injured.
  19. I threw a party last week for my eighteenth birthday. It was fun and I got a lot of presents.
  20. I spent a week during my winter holidays in Tanzania with my German boyfriend. I love photography and took a lot of photos while we were on safari. It was such an invaluable experience.

I have always believed that what our students bring to the learning environment is our richest resource. We should only create an atmosphere in which it feels comfortable and stimulating for students to talk about themselves and really listen to each other (which is the most difficult of all, in my opinion, particularly with mixed level classes).

I encouraged my students to ask questions if they found something interesting and fun, and if they wanted to find out something more about that. Since my pupils and I were very curious about Đurđa’s journey to Tanzania, I asked her to bring her photos to class next time.

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Đurđa Đurašković, one of my best students (class 4-3), loves travelling and has been a lot of times abroad. She told us that she had never been to Africa before, and that it was a really priceless experience for her.  She brought the photos next lesson and while we were enjoying these fabulous photos, she was talking enthusiastically about her safari in Africa and how it was a little daunting taking a photo of the animals from the jeep.DSCN0283

She talked about her impressions of Masai tribe people and how she enjoyed dancing the ritual dance with the girls from the tribe, and bought a lot of lovely souvenirs. She made friends with two beautiful girls Tasheca and Siena who taught her some Swahili words and phrases:

Mambo? (= What’s up?)

Poa! (=I’m cool!)

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She described the country as amazingly beautiful; it was very hot but the greenery and  gorgeous Baobab trees everywhere, hordes of animals migrating from Kenya, and the lake Manyara which makes home for flamingos and water buffaloes made her feel as if she were in paradise.

??????????Đurđa is very fond of nature and animals and she described the animals she had seen in Africa with a lot of warmth, especially the giraffes that were unbelievably beautiful and looked so proud and friendly while moving gracefully around the jeep and bending over to see the people inside better. 

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This is one of Đurđa’s favourite photos because she adores elephants, and the little one in the photo is really cute.??????????

Đurđa said that you can learn about some culture much more by one such trip than by studying about it for five years. I especially liked when she said that she was so fortunate and grateful for this priceless experience, and: 

“Every trip opens my eyes a little bit more and that is what life is about, being curious and broad-minded and interested in learning new things.”

I would like to thank my student Đurđa Đurašković for these lovely photos and her amazing story. 

Thanks for reading the post. 🙂

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About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

3 responses »

  1. Hi Ljiljana!
    I really enjoyed this post. After Mike’s original post, I asked learners to collect cool things that happened to them over the course of a week. They enjoyed it and like you say it’s a great way to focus on the positive and to find out more about the learners. I like your adaptation. I’ll be starting back soon with learners after a long break so I think I’ll do something similar with them.
    Thank you!
    Carol

    Reply
    • Hi Carol,

      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post and liked my adaptation. When I read Mike’s post ‘Cool things that happened today’ about a year ago I thought how perfect his idea was because it was so simple. I’ve tried the activity out with my teenage pupils a few times so far and it has always been successful and fun in spite of the fact that teenagers are very difficult to motivate to speak or write in English, especially after a long break (summer/winter holidays). So, I’m sure this activity or something similar will be great for your first class after a long break.

      Thanks once again Carol and I’m looking forward to your new comments. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Cool things that happened this winter holiday | Библиотека Ваздухопловне академије

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