Our senses allow us to enjoy our food, the sound of music, the beauty of a sunny day, the softness of a child’s hair – in short, our lives! With the aid of the Internet, I realised that I can teach my students about the special gift of the senses and how they work, even during the lockdown!!
How it all started
It was during the second covid19 quarantine 2020, when I had to teach remotely, both synchronously and asynchronously ,when I just happened to have accidentally stumbled upon two great hidden internet apps ,that teachers and students definitely have to check out- not to mention everybody experiencing a lockdown.
Presentation of the two apps
Window Swap is an application born of people like us, who were trapped in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had to find a way out (in technology) so as not to lose their sanity.To me, it’s the perfect app so you can travel without moving;)
We go to window-swap.com, and click to see pictures or videos uploaded by other inmates, like us, from around the world! What you see is not live, they are shots uploaded by users, since the page was created, last spring.
Window Swap is the brainchild of Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, a couple living in Singapore who were quarantined there. They locked themselves in a house, and when they got bored of the view from their own window, they thought of seeing something else. And they started building a site to travel to other worlds, through windows !
Like Drive & Listen, an app that lets you travel to different parts of the world listening to local radio stations, Window Swap fills that gap by giving you a sneak peak in the window of a complete stranger, into a complete unknown country.
It has shots of places you may have dreamed of visiting, such as Australia, Chile, Japan. And invalid sites, from other worlds, like Albany in the USA. A meadow, with its pond, its labrados and everything, from a terrace that, logically, you will never see in your life, but now that you see it, you like it!
At the same time, a Facebook page was created, “View from my window”, for everyone to share the view from their windows, until travel restrictions end, wherever they are. Until today, dozens of posts are uploaded every day and descriptions, reactions, comments, etc. play from everywhere!
Without further ado, I decided to let it be comforting for my students,as well!
I loved the main idea: exactly in the phase that you are, that you do not fit in the place, that you are tired of seeing the same walls and the same view, whatever it is,a complete stranger, in Scotland, India, Canada is sharing the same view with you.
The second app, the Drive and Listen app was created during the quarantine,last Spring.
All you need is a desktop. You open the app and scroll to choose which city you want to drive. Tel Aviv; Mumbai; Havana;
Play! Suddenly you are in the exotic, long-suffering capital of Cuba, driving a ’55 Plymouth and listening to Toto’s “Africa”. You can change station and catch another frequency! Either you let it see where it will take you or if you want, you change city.
You can also choose how fast you want your vehicle to move, even if you want to hear the noise of the street, like a window opening or closing, the wind, the rain, people talking etc
Of course the shots you see from the streets are not live broadcasts, they are videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and have been connected to the app. But radio is real-time! And most of the shots are from car dashcams, so it’s like living in that moment and being at the wheel or in the driver’s seat, as you prefer.
It’s basically like a game. Tired of hearing the same things? You have a list of 50 cities around the world to choose from, where you want to travel. What should our friends in Moscow be hearing now? What are they chatting about, in Los Angeles? What do you get from a radio show in Buenos Aires other than the name Diegito?
And if you want a real break, from all and sundry,the list also includes a small town in Switzerland, the enchanting Lauterbrunnen, with about 2,000 inhabitants, in the canton of Bern -a very nice destination if you want to take the mountains, as soon as the border opens and get rid of COVID-19!
The creator of the app is Erkam Seker, a student from Istanbul who is studying in Munich – Computing, what else? When travel restrictions began in Germany, he began building this app on the Heroku platform, mainly because he felt nostalgic for his own city, that is, for personal use. As we started doing puzzles,renovations (or the rearrangement of furniture in the space, ok) to kill time and forget about the lockdown restrictions, this young man wrote code!
When he saw how relaxing it was for him to fool around with pictures from the driver’s seat and change radio stations around the world, he continued, hoping to give courage and inspiration to travelers who could not travel or to expatriates who could not return home! He started to connect his app with city streets, and at some point the Thessaloniki, GR radio stations went up ,last Spring …
You want music when you read, when you work, when you cook, and of course when you drive. But especially in the car, you have the feeling that you can enjoy music in a different way. So much so, that if your favorite song is playing, you will wait for it to end even if you have parked – yes, you are not alone: 7 out of 10 drivers will not get out of the car until one of their favorite songs is finished.
Just like the creators of these apps, when I saw how relaxing it was for me to fool around with pictures from open windows or the driver’s seat and change radio stations around the world, I decided to introduce the apps to my students and use them in my online lessons, hoping to give courage and inspiration to the ones who could not travel or leave their homes!
Here’s the padlet wall I created for my students to help them share their window or street descriptions, after they have used the two apps.
MIAMI, USA –
AARON AND JESSICA’S WINDOW
The rain sounds loud
The grass smells nice
The sky looks cloudy
The garden looks beautiful.
The food in the barbeque tastes delicious.
Teaching the Verbs of Senses, online
Start by writing the five senses across the top of your virtual white board (hearing, touch, smell, sight, taste) and ask your students to explain what each one is.
Now that they know the vocabulary for the senses themselves, list under each one ADJECTIVES that relate to that sense.
Ask your students to volunteer adjectives that they already know to go with the verbs. For example, under smell you might write nice, yummy, disgusting or other related words. Under sight, your students might volunteer the words beautiful, stunning, interesting, tiny.
Write down whatever words your students offer, and then add some more of your own.
Finally, ask your students to describe what they can see, hear,smell,touch, taste ,in the places they “visit” while you are using those two apps ,by sharing your screen. To me, this is the perfect speaking activity!
The teaching steps, in detail
1.The five senses (5 mins)
• Introduce the five senses
• Put students in groups in webex breakout rooms (WebEx breakout rooms is a video conferencing features that allows the host to separate larger video meetings and webinars into several smaller groups of a set number of participants.) and ask them to match the body parts with the correct sense
• Check the answers as a whole class
2.Adjectives matching (10 mins)
• This task introduces students to adjectives which can be used to talk about the five senses
• Ask them to read the words in the diagram and decide what sense
each adjective can be used with. There may be more than one possible answer.
• When they have finished ask them to write one more adjective for each sense in the chat box, or have them use the webex annotate feature.
• Check answers as a whole class and drill the words if necessary.
Stronger students can write more than one adjective for each sense
3. Listening (5 mins)
• In this task, students watch the video and tick the senses they hear in their notebooks or write them in the chat.
• Tell the students to check their answers in breakout rooms , first, if you wish.
• Check the answers.
4.Discussion (5-10 mins)
• In this activity, students have the chance to use some of the vocabulary they have learnt ,in a
discussion about their own senses.
• Put students in pairs or small groups-in breakout rooms- and ask them to discuss the questions.
• Monitor and provide content-based feedback if students require it.
• Share brief whole class feedback of interesting answers.
5.Writing (5-10 mins)
Now is the time for the students to write their descriptions . I ask my students to do this as homework.
Encourage them to use as much detail as possible . They can use the word “object” whenever they need to refer to what they are describing in their writing. Also, challenge them to use some of the vocabulary that you listed on the virtual board earlier. They should try to use variety in their word choice as well as give thorough descriptions, if possible. For young learners, a paragraph such as the one in the example above, is more than enough.
All in all
Observation is key to producing strong writing and speaking.
If our students are able to observe the world around them they will be able to better elaborate their writing and speak ,effortessly. If they can better elaborate their writing and speak effortessly , they will keep our attention and make their audience want to read more.