Language Classes in Moodle

Telling jokes

Picture of Glenys Hanson
Telling jokes
Hi there,

I recently listened to a BBC programme Is it worthwhile learning another language? discussing the fact that fewer and fewer young people in Britain learn a foreign language. The bit I liked best was a joke (sorry if you've heard it before):

Three companies are in fierce competition for a lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia. They each make a presentation:
  • the British company mentions that its Chairman was at school with the Prime Minister,
  • the Amercan presentation is very slick and high tec,
  • the Japanese presentation is... in Arabic.
What's that got to do with teaching languages on Moodle? I find that students can be quite intimidated by having to write in forums in a foreign language. If one of the first tasks you give them is a non-threatening "fun" topic, it can help them to plunge in. Asking them to publish a joke in the foreign language and explain why they liked it is one example. They should know that they need to respond to at least two of their fellow students' messages and say why they liked, or didn't like, the joke.

Do you have other online ice-breakers that get students participating?


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Picture of Don Hinkelman
Re: Telling jokes and other ice-breakers
Particularly helpful Moodlers
I really like your post-a-joke-in-a-foreign-language idea, Glenys. How about offline ice-breakers? I think of Moodle as a great blended learning tool. Here is what I do on opening class in a new school year..
  • greetings in the target language (have them say their name using target language intonation--very difficult for them)
  • rules for classroom speaking--one joke per day with a partner--then I teach them playful bullying (slapstick humor is the lowest level, but most universal across cultures)
    • oops! push your partner's pencil on the floor, say "oops!"
    • ouch! hit each other in the shoulder, say "ouch!"
  • teach communication strategies, give them a difficult word to figure out without a dictionary
    • what did you say?
    • once more please?
    • how do you spell it?
    • what does it mean?
  • ask a question to the teacher, lots of personal questions (I write on the board as they ask)
  • finally, introduce themselves on a forum in Moodle. Followup by each student reading and asking a question to each member of their small group (I have them sit in groups of four)

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Picture of Glenys Hanson
Re: Telling jokes and other ice-breakers
Hi Don and everybody,

I love the "Oops!" and "Ouch!" activities but unfortunately I'll likely be doing little face-to-face teaching from now on. I agree with you that blended learning is the ideal, but, for a number of reasons, my experience has been either entirely face-to-face or entirely online.

There are advantages to entirely online - students are motivated to use the platform because they can't communicate any other way - but it's also more difficult to "warm up" the group. I do quite a lot of "Just for fun" activities. Here's another one :
  1. Go to The Subservient Chicken, type in some orders and see what happens.
  2. In a forum, write about what happened and say what you think of it.
  3. If they have the level, I also send them to The Subservient Chicken - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and start a discussion on advertising techniques.
I've just been to see and noticed that the advertising is much more intrusive than it used to be - another subject for discussion. big grin

I'm always on the look out for more "Just for fun" things on the Internet. Do you know of others?

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