Minefields - Introduction
Tim Glass

'Minefields' is the product of a concerted effort by '96 - '97 JETs to enhance, upgrade, and improve their previous guidebook. Some of those previous activities have been retained untouched, others have been altered to some degree as experience showed a better approach. However, the majority of activities presented here were gleaned from the product of two seminars on Team Teaching. The JETs presenting them reported they had success using these techniques, yet agreed unanimously that flexibility was a key part of any successful activity. That said, let me add that the most important part of any activity will be your input. If you are positive and energetic towards an activity, the students and JTE will, in general, respond in kind.

I selected the name 'Minefields' because that's what every classroom situation is. You can never be sure when an activity which worked brilliantly with one class will blow up in your face (figuratively) with another. Thus, it ought to be stressed that this book is only a guide. I have taken pains to ensure it is as easy to use as possible, but it is not the final word in teaching English. You will find that it is impossible to use only the ideas presented here in your classes. You will have to adapt, manipulate, fine tune, or even radically alter them; every teaching position is different. Not only that, but every ALT or JTE has a unique teaching style, and an activity that works well for me and my style, may not work at all for you and yours, and vise versa. Keep in mind that these activities were invented/developed/altered... by individuals to suit specific situations; not your current one.

To cater to this, I have tried to describe the activities clearly, yet in a manner which permits, even encourages, the use of personal interpolation. By all means use the worksheets, but use them (whenever possible) as templates from which to craft your own. In doing so you will develop a better understanding of the activity, and your presentation and control of it will likewise be improved.

There will be times when a JTE approaches you as the chimes sound to call you to lesson, and asks if you have a 'plan'; few of these activities can help you then. However, if you are given at least 5 - 10 minutes to prepare then it is hoped that you can find something in these pages that can assist. I would strongly advise anyone serious about their work to buy a clear sheet folder into which they can slip the many new activities they will encounter through the year. Some you will create yourself, others you will adopt from JTEs with whom you work. Whatever the case, such a collection of handouts and activities would be a most valuable supplement to this book, and will save you much invaluable time and loads of stress.

Don't be afraid to improvise. I've begun lessons with sleepy classes by getting the students to perform a series of Jumping Jacks followed by deep breathing exercises. Stretching is also good. The object of such activities is to get the blood flowing from where it has pooled in the students' backsides (from all that sitting), to the brain. Here the oxygen and nutrients it carries can be put to good use building memories and improving thinking efficiency. Try to incorporate physical movement into as many of the activities as you can. Consider the following:

"When we teach well-planned lessons that incorporate movement, we can build everyone's strength. Some students learn best visually, others aurally. Others learn kinesthetically - through action. The more senses we incorporate in classes, the more likely we are to play to every student's learning style."

(Professor M. Helgessen, AJET Magazine, Nov/Dec, 1991)

Each activity has been given an approximate time frame, and the audience and grammar points with which it has been successfully used are also indicated. Let me stress, this is not rigid. If you find the class is taking more or less time than the approximation, don't panic, let them learn at a pace best suited to them. Also, there is no reason whatsoever why an activity which has worked well with a JHS class shouldn't work equally well or better with an adult one.

The few abbreviations used throughout the book are:AET = Assistant English Teacher; ALT = Assistant Language Teacher; JTE = Japanese Teacher of English; OHP = OverHead Projector. In addition to these, the following terms have the following meanings: The symbol o indicates the 'o' is long as in gold, not short as in spot. [You probably can't see these on your computer - online Ed.]

Almost every activity has an accompanying Teaching Tip section. With the exception of Spot the Difference, these have been assigned at random and any relevance to the activity with which they are presented is coincidental; Although an 'art & borders' section is included, it's a good idea to collect your own library of pictures etc.. The students will particularly enjoy any offerings of your own artwork, whether or not you have artistic ability. Such personal touches are endearing to students, and will go a long way to developing your relationships with them. Experience shows these are less successful than work sheets aimed specifically at students from one school or class. Those included are meant as emergency handouts for use in ... emergencies.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those whose work appears in these pages; they are the giants offering those who follow them shoulders on which to stand. Thanks go also to Eve Chenu and Hanna Warrington for their suggestions, and help with proofreading and rewriting. We hope this book will prove to be a valuable, well-thumbed guide to fall back on when all about seems dark.

Why use games in class?

Introduction to the online edition

A note on copyright.

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