“Does it have legs?” a child asked. The child in front of the class answered quickly, “yes, it does.”
“Can it fly?” another asked. “No, it can’t,” was the answer.
It took a little while and a number of yes/no questions, but soon the class knew the animal’s secret identity: a giraffe.
This guessing game is a favorite among many ESL teachers, including myself. The question I found myself asking was how to make it more challenging for the older learners. Also, how could I change the format of this game so that every learner could participate, even the shy ones?
It took a little searching, but I soon had a viable answer: flow charts. In essence, a flow chart works just like the verbal version of the guessing game, but visualizes the process of elimination involved.
There are different ways a flow chart can be used in the lesson.
For younger learners, one can make up a poster-sized chart with pictograms on the question blocks and pictures of the vocabulary being sorted out.
For middle learners, one can make a flow chart with simple questions.
The older learners can make up their own flow charts to try out on classmates.
Flow charts allow children to visually sort information along the lines of simple questions. The example provided here is about a few animals, but with a bit of creativity, one can help children make their own flow charts about any number of topics one teaches about, for instance modes of transportation, clothing, food, weather, hobbies, and jobs. By having children sort the information in this fashion, they are also activating their logical-mathematical intelligence, broadening their learning.
Flow charts can also be used to assess a learner’s understanding of the concepts taught. Can he or she ask questions effectively to find out what the secret word is? Can he or she formulate the questions correctly? Can he or she create a flow chart that includes all of the concepts learned during the last few lessons? These are just a few possibilities that come to mind when connecting flow charts to assessment of our learners.
The examples provided here are, of course, rather straightforward and very simple. I suppose children in high school or adult ESL learners could make more intricate examples, for example to describe their day or how they prepare a meal. I wonder if others use flow charts in their ESL classrooms? If so, how? I’d like to hear your ideas.