Extras, or Something We Cannot Do Without?
Do university students enjoy communicating with body language? I do believe so. In my English Literacy class for building reading and writing skills, students work on a few projects in each semester. One of the projects is to make a class cookbook, an activity based on a unit in a commercial course book (Martin, 2010). Students work on their own original recipe and I combine all the recipes in one PowerPoint file to share among the group. Below are three haptic, i.e., tactile-kinesthetic, activities for student pairs.
To write up a recipe, students need to learn, among other things, cooking verbs and verb phrases, and the transitive verb pattern (verb-plus-object) with an occasional propositional phrase. After learning new cooking verbs and verb phrases such as dice, shred, beat, simmer, and season with at the pre-task stage, students work in pairs. One of them acts out, or mimes, actions to demonstrate the target verbs, and the other says the verb aloud. They take turns. Some verbs are easy to show, but others are difficult. Would you like to make a guess which verbs are easy and which are difficult? Try them out! You’ll see. Doing is believing.
To describe cooking procedures, students also need to learn a variety of prepositions. Prepositions are function words, and they compose a closed list, so we first practice common gestures to demonstrate each preposition. For example, for in, we make a fist with one hand and put an index finger of the other hand in it. In practicing propositions such as in put A in B, cook A for 10 minutes, and preheat the oven to C, one student reads a phrase with a pause in the preposition part, like in “put potatoes (pause) a bowl.” Her partner makes the gesture for in and says the whole phrase, “Put potatoes in a bowl.”
After they have written an original recipe of their own, each of them picks up one recipe card made by a classmate. Again, students communicate in mime. One of the pair reads the name of the recipe and the ingredients first, and then starts acting the recipe out, step by step; without knowing what to make with which ingredients, it is too difficult for her partner to guess and describe what the student is doing.
All the three activities described above are like games. At the beginning, there might be some hesitation among students, but they get used to them soon and stay engaged until I shout out, “That’s it. Stop!” Usually, it takes some time before the excitement is all gone. You’ll be surprised to find what you do is more than what you say, and I believe you’ll remember better what you did than what you just said.
Martin, D. F. (2010). Write away right away. EFL Press
Harumi Kimura (EdD.) is a professor at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University. She studied L2 listening anxiety in her doctoral study, and her academic interests include second language acquisition, learner development, learner psychology, multilingualism, and cooperative learning. She thinks that her mission is “to make learning another language less intimidating and a bit more rewarding, plus fun.”