Nina Loback is Richmond Brazil’s Academic Coordinator for Language Schools. (You can read her complete biodata at the end of this post.)
As Google has been around for more than 20 years now, we might forget how useful and rich a tool it can be in the language classroom. We can overlook it the same way we don’t consider the pencil and paper as technology anymore. We just take it for granted in our daily lives but might be failing to use its full potential in language teaching.
Basic tools like using quotes “” (to get results in the exact words given) combined with the analysis of the number of hits are widely used by ELT teachers on their own when preparing lessons or translating since those tools give us insights into frequency and usage. But how frequently do you bring those tools into your classroom?
Activity type: web-based game.
Target language: adjectives and word order.
Classroom Time: 10 -15 minutes.
Preparation: you need internet access and a computer or smartphone (via browser) to play it. According to each group level, decide if it is necessary to revise any vocabulary/structures. This game is intended to be used as an extra to any lesson on adjectives.
A Elementary students would work with 2 adjectives on a simpler word order such as adjectives before noun.
B Intermediate students can also work with 2 adjectives: opinion vs factual adjectives.
E.g. Opinion: lovely, boring, interesting.
Facts: big, thin, old, red, Brazilian, metal.
C For more advanced students the task can be made more challenging by defining a minimum number of adjectives to be used (3, 4 or 8).
Opinion + Fact (order: size, physical quality, shape, age, color, origin, material, type, purpose).
1 Explain that the goal of the game is to get combinations of words that get more hits on google.
2 Ask students to work in pairs or small groups.
3 Ask students to make word combinations with the target adjectives and write them on a piece of paper. Ask them to make from two to five or even more, depending on the time you allotted for the activity.
E.g. basic online tool.
4 Each group hands their paper with the sentences to the group/pair on their left.
If students can use their cell phones, ask them to Google search the key words of the sentence using quotation marks and test if they got the order right according to the number of hits.
E.g. “basic online tools”
Ask students to take a print screen of each hit as evidence in case there isn’t an agreement when adding up at the end.
[Alternatively, if students can’t use their phones in class, check the Google search results with the whole group with a projector, IWB or on your own phone.]
5 Add up the number of hits for each group of words. The winner is the group with the highest number. According the images in 4, one group would score 74 whereas the other would get 27,200 in the first set of words.
Tell students that getting low frequency combinations doesn’t mean it is wrong. E.g.
Students with no smart phone or internet in the classroom?
They can make their lists of combined adjectives in class and check it on the internet as homework.
To avoid embarrassing situations, it’s very important to activate ‘safe’ search when using search engines in class. Learn how to turn on Google safe mode here.
Nina Loback is Richmond Brazil’s Academic Coordinator for Language Schools. She has a degree in Languages (UEPG/PR/BR), holds CPE, TKT and is an ICELT holder. She has taught adults, teenagers and children for 10 years and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is an advisory council member of BRAZ-TESOL Curitiba Regional Chapter and co-founder of Voices Sig for Women.