Ichiro Email Scramble
15 min to 20 min
Writing + is probably the most boring section of the New Horizon textbook and the JTE is not likely to deviate from it except on rare occasions. This activity is a pretty standard activity for reading comprehension that is turned onto its head to create a cool listening and writing exercise. The main point being this activity is used to set up Step 3 of Writing +2 where the students write their own email to someone.
There are lots of scrambles around for general use. You can take any short story and rearrange the sentences and then have the students put them back in order to check for reading comprehension. This email scramble makes this a team oriented activity.
Purpose: To help the students understand the order to conversational English.
Secondary Purpose: Focus on proper punctuation.
Tertiary Purpose: Reading, writing and speaking practice.
I have done this activity 7 times and found it does two very different things. This email scramble either greatly energized the class and they were really into it or one or two students from each group would do the activity while the rest of the students sat and talked, broke rulers, threw erasers or engaged in some sort of non English activity. I will also offer solutions to these distractions that hopefully you won’t have to deal with if you use this activity. For the classes that did engage the activity in full they came away with a very solid working example of how to construct an email in English. You can debate the relevance of this skill all you want. If the JTE is doing the activity and you are in class, this email scramble at the very least it keeps the activity from being too boring.
Prep: Print out the attached PDF or PPTX files or make your own following a similar format if you are using New Horizon. You will need enough of part 1 for each group and then one copy of part 2. When you get to the classroom the JTE will introduce the lesson and do new words and reading practice for Step 1 in the book. Take this time to place the individual sentences around the room. Tape the pages into a folder or a larger opaque-colored sheet of paper that folds over the top, this way the text is covered. I placed them on empty desks, tables and counters, but if you are pressed for space you can also tape them to the walls/windows.
Execution: Have the students form 5 to 6 groups and pass out the blank writing exercise page to each group. Have each group pick one person to be the writer. The writer is not aloud to get up at any point during the first part of the activity. The remaining students at the group will be allowed to get up all at once or one at a time (depending on how long you want the activity to go) to find the sentences around the classroom and whisper them back to the writer. They also have to have all of the punctuation perfect on each sentence. Watch out for sly students who just hold the paper up and let the writer read it. To avoid this, you can tape the “folders” onto the table surfaces. Instruct the students to sit as a group and raise their hands when they have all six sentences written down.
After they have all 6 sentences written down check them for accuracy. If they are missing anything tell them to check again. Once they are all correct, explain that they must now order the sentences correctly to make a cohesive email. For example, “Hi Kevin” wouldn’t be the last sentence in an email. While the dictation is very easy for them and they enjoy it, this is really the tricky part because it means they have to comprehend the sentence meanings. Make sure you have already read the text and the “Tool Box” vocabulary in class. The first team with the right order is the winner and gets bonus points, stickers or whatever your JTE prefers to use as a reward.
For the classes with unruly students who didn’t want to participate I stopped the whole class from what they were doing and had everyone sit back down. I then went around and chose new writers for each group and then allowed them to continue. I made sure I picked the students who were purposely not participating to be the writers at this point.
If you want to make the activity a little longer add one or two sentences that don’t fit within parameters of the email. This way they also have to take some time to figure out what 6 sentences they are supposed to write down. Also to lengthen the activity, you can add a rule that each student in the group must dictate to the next, like a telephone relay, instead of letting all 5 members free in the room at once. This means they must all work together on one sentence at a time. This should also make the activity a bit more quiet, as you have only one group member speaking at a time. Stress that the dictation answers are a secret that you don’t want to blurt out for all the other groups to hear.
A final thought: Sometimes there is nothing that you can do about unruly or disobedient students. As a general rule it is not within the ALT’s purvey to discipline students in class. Occasionally I have pushed the boundaries if a student is talking while I’m talking but for the most part I let the JTE handle discipline. This is very problematic when you have a good activity that is being ruined by a few trouble makers. I try to find sneaky ways of getting them involved from just asking them questions one on one to doing things like rearranging the activity on the fly to force their inclusion. If you are a new teacher, try to have maybe one or two modifications for each activity you do in class.