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Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

The Path Game

Ray Janssens, Antwerp, Belgium

1. Rationale

An effective language learning activity is one that involves learners as human beings and offers them practice in all four language skills. In my experience The Path Game answers all these criteria.
This game offers a light-hearted way to get to know yourself (and others) a bit more.
Therefore it is suitable for the beginning of a new course.

2. Materials needed

- Teacher: (chalk)board or OHP
- Students: paper, pen, (translating) dictionaries.

3. Procedure

3.1 Stage 1

- Begin by getting your students in the proper frame of mind for this activity.

- Tell them you would like them to imagine in one way or other (by closing their eyes perhaps) that they are walking along a path at a leisurely pace and with enough time for 'observation' en route.

- To avoid unnecessary disruption during the dictation stage, it is advisable to pre-teach any unfamiliar vocabulary occurring in the instructions, such as twig, tree trunk, fork, beyond, etc

- Tell them also that you will be dictating seven instructions along the 'path' and that they have about two minutes to write a short paragraph for each of these seven items.

- Once you can see that they have started 'walking', dictate in a neutral, clear but not too loud voice the first instruction:

1.You are walking along a path. Describe the kind of path it is.
In an unobtrusive way help individuals with vocabulary questions, allow to use the dictionaries but do not manipulate or steer the writing process in any way. Make sure everyone joins in and works on their own. Leave a writing gap of about two minutes and then dictate instruction no 2.
2.You find a twig along your path. What kind of twig is it? What do you do with it?
Then, with 2-minute intervals, dictate the remaining instructions:
3. A tree trunk is blocking your path. What do you do?
4. You see a bear on your path. What do you do?
5. You come to a fork in your path. Which way do you go?
6. You come to a wall. Describe it.
7. You hear a sound beyond the wall. What is it?

3.2 Stage 2

Now that the dictating/writing stage is over, ask individuals to read out what they wrote for no 1. Tell them there is a symbolic meaning to it, using the key below. Repeat this for nos 2 to 7.

Symbolic key:

1. How they see life.
2. Their attitude to small problems.
3. Their attitude to big problems.
4 .Their attitude to the opposite sex.
5. Their political tendencies.
6 .What they think death is like.
7. What they think is after death.
To round off, you can ask your class how well they think the game describes their outlook With a responsive class a critical look at the so-called symbolic meaning may spark off a lively discussion.

4. Conclusion

To me this is one of the simplest, richest, most integrated, most creative and funniest learning activities I know. I have lost count how many times I have used it with all sorts of classes, including adults, and it always worked except once with a small group of 4th formers who kept up their reputation of trouble makers until they left the 6th form!

Acknowledgment: I learned this activity from Mario Rinvolucri

[Editorial note: this learning took place in the later Paleolithic period!!]

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