More ideas on ways to encourage students to talk about their passions

I’m happy to admit that by preparing these lesson materials and from listening to my student speaking on the topic, I’ve learnt a lot and what’s more I have cast aside certain negative views and prejudices that I’d held onto since my school days when skateboarding suddenly became a thing and I just couldn’t understand the appeal. Since then I haven’t given it much thought other than the occasional sense of aggravation when a skateboarder rattles past way too fast on a crowded pavement.

This teenage student has changed my opinion and so perhaps if you’re thinking, this is not for me, it might still be worth your while to read on. In any case while some of the materials here are certainly aimed at skateboarders/skateboarding enthusiasts, I’ve made a point of creating some extras that are for anyone with a little curiosity…

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Why it’s a good idea to swap teacher/student roles once in a while

The idea of making tailor-made resources for students is to make their lessons relevant and interesting to them personally and I’ve found that when I make the effort to do this, they respond with much more enthusiasm than if they feel you’re just using the same old tried and tested materials you always use. It’s very time consuming, so it’s not possible for every lesson, but definitely a good way to start things off and break the ice.

When a student feels strongly or passionately about a subject they will find new means of overcoming linguistic obstacles like the lack of vocabulary or uncertainty about grammar. The desire to share their interest pushes them to find new words and when you can help them with this, they are far more receptive and likely to remember for next time. It’s also about confidence – they’re on home turf, talking about a subject they know all about and suddenly the roles can be reversed, they can teach you something. I think particularly for teenagers and younger learners who may not have had much opportunity to speak English, even though they’ve studied at school, this gives a huge boost to their confidence.

What changed my opinion

With this particular student, when he talked about his experience and what he loved about skateboarding I started to appreciate that it was as much about hanging out with friends as it was about learning tricks. Unlike other more formalised sports you’re not limited only to sports centres or playing fields or courts, which can be exclusive; it’s an urban sport where streets, pavements (sigh), curbs, stairs and benches become the arena which makes it much more accessible. It also seems to be an activity that isn’t so much about competition and sporting rivalry, rather it’s about friends helping and encouraging each other, sharing videos and just enjoying being outdoors. I hadn’t really any reason to think about any of this but I’m a convert. Not that I’m about to leap on a board, but I certainly have kinder thoughts when a skateboarder speeds by or I hear the clattering of repeated attempts at a trick as I stroll along the Promenade des Anglais.

As promised there are two sets of materials here, the first set is for students who are either skateboarders or enthusiasts of the sport. The second set is for anyone with ideas of how to adapt the materials for other hobbies/interests/passions. All these materials are aimed at Intermediate+ level students.

And if you’re not at all interested in skateboarding…

don’t worry! There’s a spin off supplementary blog coming up VERY SOON right here with a fabulous lesson plan for a collaborative project on creating infographics with a great choice of topics to explore so there’ll be something for everyone.

1. Materials for Skateboarders/Enthusiasts

This introduction is simply a set of conversations questions all about the skateboarder’s personal experience, their motivation and inspiration as well as more practical matters. If you are teaching a group and some of the students are into skateboarding while others are not, you could also adapt this exercise by giving the non-skaters the task of making and asking questions using the just the headings as a guide. Also this document could easily be adapted to use for other hobbies/pastimes, most of the questions would only need the words connected with skateboarding changed.

This video lesson is rather technical so I’ve included the teachers notes and answers. The presenter talks quite fast and there’s a fair bit of information. However, as skateboarding started out in the USA (more on this in part two) much of the technical language is English and shared globally. So even if you find all the different terms for tricks and manoeuvres a bit confusing, your skateboarder student should be able to help you understand. I recommend using your own lack of knowledge to encourage the students to explain as much as possible!

With this particular student, he also shared a skateboarding video with me and during the online lesson we watched it with the sound off pausing while he commented on what was happening. This is another great thing about focussing on the student’s interests, they will often come up with their own resources on the topic, be it videos, blogs, or articles.

2. Materials for all: a brief history of skateboarding

This is a video comprehension task about the history of skateboarding. It’s a short animated video without too much technical stuff, however some of the language is quite advanced so I’ve created an infographic based on the video which students can use to check their answers.

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