The Paperless Pause

Many of us do our best to reduce paper use in the classroom… As participants in one of the most paper dependent professions in the world, is there anything more we can do?

Written by Tara Benwell for TEFL.net

Paperless Pause

The TEFL industry uses a lot of paper. Shall we count the ways?

1. Photocopied worksheets
2. Tests and quizzes
3. Lesson plans
4. Record keeping
5. Strips and game pieces
6. Notes for subs
7. Newsletters
8. Bulletins and notices
9. Core books and texts
10. Extra copies for just in case

We photocopy on both sides of the paper, bring scraps home for our kids, and recycle anything that hasn’t been plasticized, glittered, or glued. As participants in one of the most paper dependent professions in the world,  is there anything more we can do?

What if  “pencils down” or “books away” wasn’t a signal that a new handout or quiz was about to get passed around? Not only would we save a few trees, we could also connect daily with our students in a way that is both communicative and meaningful.

Make the paperless pause a daily ritual by changing the classroom environment for a short time. If your school has a lounge or an outdoor area, bring your class to this alternative location.  (For example:  Gather around a tree.) If weather or space prevents you from leaving the classroom, clear off the desks and sit on them or push them back for floor space.

Here are three ideas to fill a paperless pause. These require no preparation, no pencils or pens, and no paper.   Limit your pause to a set amount of time each day or your students (and administrators) may complain that all of the talking is a waste of time.

1. Been there done that

Humans love to tell related stories.  Sometimes we don’t even let other people finish their story before we start telling ours. Think of a funny, embarrassing, frightening, or unbelievable thing that has happened to you. Tell your story and encourage students to take turns sharing something similar.

To keep the conversation going you may want to teach your students a few key expressions (No pens and paper.  Think “repeat after me.”):

That reminds me of a time…
I had a similar experience…
I know exactly what you mean…

2. English Mania

A video posted on YouTube has been making its way around the Internet. The speaker calls English learning a “Mania” and poses this question to his audience:

Is English a tsunami washing away other languages?

Pose this question to an EFL class and you might be surprised at the response.  You can show learners the video before or after the paperless pause or assign the viewing as homework.

3. Oh…you didn’t know?

Let’s face it. Teachers are mini-celebrities. If your students could buy a tabloid filled with real life stuff about the teachers at your school, they probably would. A great way to get students talking is to share something unexpected about yourself.  For example, MyEC learners were surprised to learn that I secretly watched WWF wrestling. It’s easy to share this kind of thing with students without getting too personal. After you have revealed your hidden talent, hobby, or Hollywood crush invite members of the class to do the same.

If every TEFL teacher spent an extra fifteen minutes a day connecting with students without the distraction of paper and pencils surely we could save a lot of trees.

What paperless activities can you share with TEFL.net?

Written by Tara Benwell for TEFL.net
June 2009 | Filed under The Environment
Tara Benwell is a Canadian freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials for the ELT industry.