Scissors and Pieces

Most enthusiastic language teachers “Go To Pieces”, meaning they literally use a material that is in pieces and compels students to practice and communicate. At its heart, “pieces” is a way of teaching that puts communication at the core of language teaching and learning. It’s an important technique for all materials developers.

Think about it. “Pieces” as an approach or frame, stretches over a wide swath of materials, methods and delivery practices. The blank dialogue is front and center. But you also have jigsaw type activities. Gap fills are basically whole texts in parts (some parts missing). Retelling is basically putting the pieces of a story back together again. Same with sequence or ordering activities. I could go on and on – there are so many activities which the teacher deconstructs and asks the students to reconstruct – to put the pieces back together again….

I’ll add, a pair of scissors can be a teacher’s most important tool and best friend! But don’t do all the work yourself – get students using those scissors, cutting up things and putting them back together. They are the king’s horses and all the king’s men.

I’d like to highlight one such “pieces” activity. Yesterday, still after 8 months, unpacking my boxes of books and writings, came across this poem, one of a series I made at the time (1995?). From one newspaper, I made a collage, a poem.

A newspaper poem

This would be a simple but wonderfully creative and student-centered activity. Give students any disposable text (flyers, magazines, newspapers, brochures) and let them be creative. Then present to the class or share in some form.

Now you can also do this online.  The New York Times makes it easy for students to blackout text and make a blacked-out poem (also known as “erasure poetry” or “redacted” poetry.  Go here >>>> to make one or view their library! Here’s my own attempt.

Go to pieces is a great philosophy for a language teacher. Why I’ve told many of my student teachers over the years that a pair of scissors is the best friend, most important tool in their kit.

Maybe during this activity, you can play this great tune – “Pick up the pieces”. 80s funk at its best.


Also published on Medium.

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