Interactive English Walls

Write Your Idea Wall

Another English wall experiment. This time I added an explanation in Japanese and a task: “If you were at this American restaurant, what would you order?”

Using the pink boxes below each picture, students mark their choices. Ultimately, we will be able to see which dish is the most popular among students at our school.

English Wall Idea

This is a picture of one of the other teachers at my school participating in the English wall activity. I think it’s good for students to see teachers outside the English department trying out English, so I try to encourage them to check out the English wall when they have time.

Bonus Idea: More Interesting Free-Write Spaces

Of course there is nothing wrong with a blank free-write wall, but what happens when we add something extra to transform the conversation? Most students are technology fiends these days, so I thought I’d add an i-phone message into the mix.

This text-messaging scenario adds a level of realism to responding in English.

This text-messaging scenario adds a level of realism to responding in English, which is absent when we just ask for responses to an ordinary prompt. Technology is engaging even when it is printed on a piece of paper it seems. Note: The gray speech bubble above says “Elliott just sent you this message. Let’s answer him!” The blue arrow says, “Write freely!”

As soon as I changed out the blank free-write space with this A4 sized i-phone graphic, suddenly students were bunching around my English wall and writing their answers. Perhaps it was the picture of the question or the picture of the i-phone, but something clicked with the students when they saw this question presented in this format. I think using this kind of format for an in-class free writing activity might work well, too.

Free Materials

Please download the blank templates below to use this material on your English wall or as an in-class activity. The WORD version is editable, while the PDF is ready for print. Click on the links below to download:

Editable version (WORD, .docx)

Blank, print-ready version (PDF)

5 Ideas for Getting your English Wall Noticed

Part of the problem of designing a great English wall seems to be breaking through all the noise. Students are inundated with information from posters lining the walls of the schools. So we ALTs have to figure out ways to attract students to the location. And we got to figure out how to stand out. Here are some of my ideas.

1) Use a Rubik’s Cube to Draw Students In

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There is something magical about Rubik’s Cubes that force people to pick them up and try to solve them. If the students notice the Rubik’s Cube then the are more likely to notice the other content you have diligently prepared. I think other games/puzzles will work well too.

2) Post Memo Pads and Pens

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Memo pads and pens give students something to do while at the English wall.  Even if the content is old, they can still write a new message. Since attracting attention is about being out-of-the-ordinary, I like to post memo pads like this one shaped like an apple.

3) Make Packets that Will Flutter

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In addition to being helpful for conveying more information about something, these packets will flutter as students walk by, catching their attention and making them more likely to notice the wall.

4) Get Personal

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It’s really no secret that stuff about you or other teachers on display is some fascination to students. A friend of mine likes to post information about other ALTs in the city (with their permission, of course). Along those same lines, I’m thinking it might be fun to try to introduce all the teachers in the staff room like this.

5) Use Recurring Sections

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Just like a newspaper column, sections on your board that you update periodically will get your students coming back for more. “Jobs that Use English” is one section I’m trying out new this year.

Conclusion

I remember putting hours of time and effort into my first English wall displays only to find that barely any students were checking out what I had put up. It was through this discouragement that I realized that, like anything else, we got to make our material stand out if people are going to take notice. So I hope these ideas are helpful to you if you are having any similar problems.

Surely there are other great ideas out their for attracting and keeping an audience of students, so please post your ideas in the comments section.

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It’s not much, but here’s an example of my full English wall display.

English Wall Ideas

I have tried many different topics and ideas for my English wall with varying success. Even when I post an Enlgish free-write space, I am always unsure of how students are receiving the information — is it interesting? Can they understand? Is it too easy? Or too difficult? I have never been able to find an answer to any of these questions, so it has remained as one big mysteries of my job as an English teacher here.

Recently, though, I did discover a new way to add coherence to my English wall (and make it easier for me to produce material). The first is to divide the wall into two sections: travel and culture. The second is to use a color printer and word processor to make print out sheets of the material I want to present.

 

For my English wall I now have three sections: 1) Free-write space 2) a space for posts about culture 3) a space for travel posts

 

Using the word processor to arrange photos and add captions turns a job that usually takes one to two hours to produce from scratch, to one that takes about 30 minutes, depending on how long it takes to find good photos. I decided to use ‘culture’ and ‘travel’ as organizing themes because they cut to the point of the things I want students to learn about, while being general enough to accommodate many kinds of topics.

 

In this example of a 'culture' post, I present about graduation traditions in America

 

For the culture section, I have presented about many different topics so far, from the typical American holidays, to graduation traditions in America (as pictured).

 

Planting the desire to travel by showing interesting places to visit

 

For the travel section, I feature a new city or country that students can visit someday. The title for my page is ‘sightseeing in…[country/city name]’ and I give suggestions for the popular attractions to visit in that place. In the example above, I am telling students about all the places in my hometown of Seattle, Washington (USA) to be sure to visit. I don’t have a picture of it, but for the travel section, I also include a page about popular food to try in the featured city or country.

 

The English Free-Write Page

 

As a last touch, I give students a place to write anything they feel like writing. I am really happy if students ask questions or comment about the English wall, but regardless of what they write, I try to respond with my signature. I can start conversations with many students that way.

Elliott Hindman, Yamagata-shi