Saturday, 19 March 2016

Skating and skiing

A big part of our study programme covers learning about Finnish society, culture and the way of life. For this reason we have had several field trips, and there are still quite a few more to come before the term finishes at the beginning of June.

What we Finns are passionate about is winter sports. Everybody skis, skates and enjoys wintery sports of some sorts. The students were excited to have a go at skates and skis. Helsinki City offers excellent, I mean really excellent sport facilities to young people aged 17-29. The programme offers 49 different sports for free! My colleague and I were happy to take our students skating within this programme.  Off we went to an indoor ice rink! The city even provides two instructors to instruct the skaters, how great is that!

Another great field trip took place in the skiing tracks of Paloheinä in Helsinki. Unfortunately, it was the only cloudy day of that week, but nevertheless, it was simply fantastic! The students had their first experiences on cross country skiing and they loved it. Many local skiers approached them and wanted to learn more about them. What a great way to interact with the locals!

Good old learning stations!

I’m a big fan of learning stations. They are great for letting students choose what to do, in which order and they are also a very natural way to differentiate teaching. I also very much like that students work in small groups and help each other. Learning stations naturally also allow the teacher to go around and be of help when needed. 

Since September my students have been learning Finnish at an overwhelming pace. This week they started to study vocabulary on Finnish nature. Here are a few glimpses of our Friday’s stations.
  • Increase your vocabulary with Quizlet. Choose the themes you wish to practise: nature, trees, birds, animals in the forest, insects
  • Study the vocabulary and play a game of domino.
  • Start studying the text (challenging).
  • Go out and find the following trees. Photograph them and show your findings to the rest of the group. Test if they know which trees you captured.
My favourite station this time was the one that took the students outside the classroom to explore surrounding nature. It was a sunny day, too! 

Speaking about nature, can you believe that Finland has 187 888 lakes!

A game of domino

Learning vocabulary with Quizlet. A picture of one of the 187 888 lakes in Finland.
Do you know what this tree is in Finnish? Check it out here.
Photo taken by a student in my group.

Tools and ideas

Voice typing with Google Docs

It really is great that Google has this feature. How to use it in language learning? The first thing that came to my mind was to help students check their pronunciation and get immediate feedback on it with the help of voice typing. What we did was pretty simple. The students had a text in the target language, which in our case is Finnish. They read the text and observed if it was similar to the original one. They often wanted to try several times to make the pronunciation match with the text. The feedback is instant, which is great. It's also really easy for them to practise pronunciation this way at home. 

Do you have any other ideas? 

For those readers who are not familiar with voice typing, check this posting by Alice Keeler.


When I heard about Quizizz, I was curious to see what it has to offer in comparison with, for example, Kahoot and Socrative which my students really like. Turns out Quizizz also offers a homework option. The gaming factor is also there, but instead of time pressure, the students can now do the quiz in peace and quiet with the help of any material they can think of. Highly recommended!

Google Slides

Better late than never! I have only recently discovered the wonderland of Google Slides for language learning classes. What a great way to collaborate, differentiate, learn together and so much more!
Presently my students are practising the use of past tense both in affirmative and negative sentences in Finnish. For revision I created a presentation with each slide containing only two sentences: the first one being affirmative and the second one negative, which appears with a click. The students worked in pairs and took turns in reading the affirmative sentences and then trying to form the negative ones and then checking with a click if they got it right. It worked really well and the students got a lot of practise! Simple and useful! 

I was pleased to find a lot of information both in Finnish and English on how to use Google Slides in the classroom. I very much like the idea of creating a presentation and giving each group a slide number to work, and there are so many other cool ways to use this tool. To read about them, here's a link to a crowd sourced presentation initiated by Alice Keeler and Hans Tullmann.

Quizizz in the classroom

Quizizz in the classroom

Practice makes perfect