Zero Waste Teaching, or leftovers centre stage

Fridges, not so long ago full of Christmas delicacies, grow empty now, with a random portion of dumplings still awaiting its turn … Let’s hope that nothing went to waste and any leftovers found their way to those in need. What if we applied a similar principle to our teaching?  What would you say to lessons cooked up from various “leftovers”  picked from our shelves and freezers offering our students nutritious revision and freeing us from the necessity of having to cook from scratch?

Picture on a plate …

If you or your students happen to take pictures of the board or a piece of paper stuck to the wall, it’s time to bring them back from that forgotten corner in the freezer  and give them a new lease of life.

  • Ask your students if they remember what the lesson was about. Who did the writing – the teacher or the students?
  • Is it possible to rewrite the text from the photo? How about making a short note based on the picture? And why not try to use it to explain what the lesson was about to someone who was absent that day?
  • How about covering a part of the picture and asking students to recreate the missing elements?
  • What exercises can you create from this photo?
  • And what dish will appear on the lesson menu, if we group several pictures like these together?

An old handout on a new plate

If your shelves, folders, desks as well as nooks and crannies are full of old handouts which were supposed to come in handy one day, the time has come to whip up a new dish. 

● You can always use them as scrap paper.

● If both sides are printed over, look at the exercises again  – can your students do them without making any mistakes, keeping in mind that they worked on them in the past?

● Ask students to add more examples to the exercises from the handout.

● Have them write a different type of exercise containing the vocabulary and grammar from the original photocopy. 

● Cut the handouts into two (vertically), distribute them among students and ask

them to recreate the other half so that the exercises or text make sense.

Games, flashcards, and other snacks …

Are there any materials in your desk that you diligently printed  in colour, cut, laminated  and then used only once? Don’t let these delicacies rot away in the drawer  – get them out and serve them today.

● Have students recall the rules of the game or activity they performed with the help of these materials and  ask them to explain these rules to each other.

● Use them again to revise the material, but differently than the first time.

● Hand them out to students and have them come up with the rules of a game or exercise which will allow them to revise the specific material in a way they will find engaging.

● Let them use materials which were intended for learning vocabulary, to

recycle grammar and vice versa.

Into the pot, or a revision casserole …

If you fancy a bigger challenge, combine different materials: photos,

photocopies or games to engage students in a big revision game which they

will prepare themselves. This huge revision casserole will serve you well not just

after Christmas, but any time you feel the need to let some air into that lesson fridge of yours.

Author: Ewa Torebko

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