Friday, May 5, 2017

Experiment with virtual museum

I got this idea AFTER the IATEFL Glasgow conference in April. Vi"siting the Glasgow Museum of Art, I found a glass case in the main hall which contained various artifacts from the museum's collection, each identified with the name of the local resident who had chosen it for either its beauty or ugliness, along with a few sentences explaining the person's choice. Apparently, the museum had organized a program offering Glasgow residents an opportunity to visit the museum and choose items they found beautiful or ugly. The personal comments were so endearing!

This brought to mind my advanced learners, four in the group, and not a very cohesive one -- so I asked them to visit the National Museum of Natural History in the U.S. online, take a virtual tour of the various halls, and choose an item for its beauty, another one for its ugliness, and write a few lines. They had just learned the words 'epitome' and 'epitomize' so several students used those words in their explanations.

I collected their screenshots of the museum items along with their comments, and placed them on a page in the class wiki, which we viewed together in class and discussed, focusing especially on how each individual's use of English reflects his or her thinking and personality.

One student wrote

"I think that whales are too big relative to me. I think their eyes are evil-looking. Maybe that's the background of my choice that I do not like any aquatic animals."

Another said

"The epitome of beauty I found is an aquarium. I chose this because the underwater world attracts me, also watching fish just swim around and underwater plants sway has a calming affect on me."

This project seems to have drawn the students together by allowing them to respect each other's unique personalities through English.

I recommend it for anyone who needs to build a good atmosphere in their classroom.

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