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Teaching role play: magic pen to highlight letters in grid temporarily

Uploaded by Julie Alexander, Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France)


This graduate class in education prepares learners for a teaching experience abroad. These pre-service French primary teachers will teach regular school subjects: English language, maths, geography etc. in English primary schools. This class is taught in English, but the focus is less on developing learners' language proficiency than on learning to teach other subjects to English learners. In this role-play activity, the learner at the IWB is organising a vocabulary game which she has designed for teaching 6 or 7 year old native speakers of English, while the other learners play the learners' role. In this extract one learner "learner" writes from a list prepared by his team, and the learner "teacher" shows him how to use the magic pen with fading ink, which disappears a few seconds after writing to allow for correction or further writing. While some of the words suggested by these learners are far beyond the capacities of the six-year olds for whom the activity is designed, we hear them encourage and heckle as a primary class might.


Target language: English

Resource language: English

Native language of learners: French

Age range: 18+

Language level: B2 - Upper Intermediate

Educational context: Higher Education

IWB Features: Ad Hoc Annotation, Writing/pen tool (inc. handwriting recognition), Other

Teaching methods: Individual activity at IWB, Roleplay

Language area: Spelling, Vocabulary, Writing

IWB board used: SMART Board

Teacher comment

I think what was good here, was the fact that, you know when she traces the letters, you know, there's a line, then after a few seconds, the line disappears. You couldn't have done that with a normal white board. The first time for me - the disappearing line. For the learners, the teacher doesn't have to erase the line afterwards, and by doing that the teacher would also erase the letters. It's very easy. It's a simple thing, you know, but it's very handy. It's a time saver, it's more natural, you know, show me, show me, and then you don't waste time afterwards. Visually it wouldn't be as good [with a normal board]. The learners would lose focus. So it's important here.
And of course also here, she's using the [smiley] icons. I know the learners like using them. They use them with their emails and phones. I think it's a plus. They are young, they like it.  It's a way to attract their attention.
When you learn language, or when you teach a language, it's always a good idea to associate doing and talking. And something visual. So you have the visual side, the talking side, and of course, you do things.

Learner comments

Learner 1: I did some things that they didn't understand for example for the magic pen.  First they wrote with the normal pen and then I chose a magic pen to show how to present the answer.  And this pen disappears and the transition between the normal pen and the magic pen was difficult.  I didn't want to explain this because I was imagining they were little children and I don't think it's possible to explain to them in one lesson the purpose of the magic pen.

Interviewer: Do you think in general the transition between one person using the board and another person using the board is difficult?  Do you ever worry that when you teach with the board you spend too much talking about the board and not enough time talking about the lesson? Do you think this is a risk?

Learner 2: No there's no risk.
Learner 1: People watch each other and they see how it works.
Learner 3: I was worried about the technical aspect of the board, but now I've seen her lesson, and it's seems very natural.  She explains one time and everybody listens and when we go to the board it's natural: you take the pen, she explains, it's OK.
Learner 4: The children will understand quicker maybe than us.



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iTILT is a European project on Interactive Technologies in Language Teaching which focuses on the use of interactive whiteboards in the communicative language classroom. If you have comments or questions about this project please contact us.