I love the interactivity of English language teaching, particularly after a dense input stage in an EAP classroom. Within an art and design context students tend to gravitate towards the image before the word; focus on the colour of an object rather than the stress on a syllable; or react visually rather than through writing. Asking art and design students to present meaning through words in a linear format can often interfere with the affective filter. My practice therefore depends heavily on the use of imagery. Yet the search for such images where visual and textual meanings align with abstract contexts, is a time-consuming process.
One activity guaranteed to bring life to my classroom is Spot the Difference. Integrating the four skills, this collaborative task encourages fluency and an opportunity to develop confidence with new language. However, during this task I regularly meet two challenges. The first is the amount of time I spend editing images so that composition fits linguistic meaning. The second challenge emerges during the listening stage of the task, when student A is describing their image, while student B zones out. I find both the lost opportunity for learning along with the underexploited use of resources frustrating.
This afternoon during the 11th Virtual Round Table Web Conference, I had the pleasure of listening to Teresa Bestwick talk about Spot the Difference as part of her session on learner-generated content. To encourage both parties to engage fully with the task, Bestwick suggested that each could insert deliberate inaccuracies when speaking thereby providing a more valid reason for listening. This practical suggestion adds a creative stage to this communicative task. Manipulating language raises the cognitive challenge and provides an opportunity to take risks, improve fluency and build rapport. It is a simple yet effective strategy that is now firmly in my toolkit.