7 event suggestions involving social distancing

Struggling to find ideas for a ‘socially-distanced’ event for this year’s European Day of Languages? In these uncertain times it can be challenging to organise events which are both safe and are attractive to a large number of people.  Below are a few ideas to get your creative thoughts flowing, most of which are based on the principle of “starting small to go big”!  
7 ideas for activities that can be carried out in socially distanced ways:

1. Organise a ‘special edition’ newspaper for the Day of Languages

...either for your class or for the whole school/institution. This can be as small- or large-scale as you wish.

To start with however you will need an editorial team, journalists and a photographer in order to develop your very own Language Tribune or Herald or Bugle or Times or whichever title you wish to give your newspaper to be published on 26 September!

What could be in it? Like a normal newspaper, it can contain a variety of interesting features and articles: an editorial, interviews - perhaps with the Director of the school on why languages are important, with pupils who are interested in a particular language, with teachers on what first attracted them to the language they teach and/or with any polyglots you have access to. How about then highlighting the resources that are easily accessible in your school/institution and in your locality; doing some desktop research on some of the places in your town/city whose names originate from other languages and why. Find out some interesting facts about languages a ‘Did you know section?’, or include the lyrics of a popular song in a foreign language (perhaps with a translation). You can even develop a crossword or quiz on languages. And just about every newspaper has a sports’ section and/or a gossip column, so how about profiling a sports ‘celebrity’ or other ‘star’ in your area who has a different language background?

Of course if you wish to make it more challenging – how about producing a bilingual version?

Focus: whole-school/classroom activity

Resource pages: https://edl.ecml.at/downloads, an example

2. Learn how to say "Hello" in several languages

Pupils work in small groups to create posters containing a greeting such as “Hello” or “How are you?” in several different languages. The pupils presenting the posters and/or uttering the greeting are recorded on video (for example using a mobile phone). The clips can be combined into a single video - presenting the results of the activity, or a competition can be organised to see in how many languages the pupils can make the greeting within a limited time period (for example one minute).

The aim is to teach pupils about language diversity and further motivate them to study foreign languages.

Focus: classroom activity

Resource pages: https://edl.ecml.at/downloads, an example

3. Language taster workshops

A 30-60 minute workshop to introduce a language to a group. Depending on the space available you determine the maximum number of participants.

The workshop could for example include

  • some of the unusual aspects of the language and some of its similarities with the first language of the participants
  • greetings and key phrases, counting 1-10
  • interesting trivia facts, ‘false friends’ and famous speakers of the language,
  • if introducing a sign, language it could also include fingerspelling your name and knowing how to meet and greet a deaf person
  • The sessions do not necessarily have to be moderated by qualified teachers but can also be run with pupils/students/colleagues from different linguistic backgrounds presenting their home languages. As they are called taster sessions – some samples of national cuisine might add some extra ‘spice’ or ‘sweetness’ to the event.

    Taster sessions can equally well be run online using a video conferencing platform such as Skype or Zoom as well as face-to-face events.

    Focus: organisation/ whole-school/classroom activity

    Resource pages: https://edl.ecml.at/languagetrivia, https://edl.ecml.at/signlanguage, https://edl.ecml.at/celebrities, an example

    4. Eurovision song/poetry/story-telling contest

    As Eurovision didn’t happen this year, why not create your own mini contest? Of course, this could prove a huge endeavour, so first determine on what scale you would like it to be held (for example within one class with a few teams/groups, or involving several classes, or perhaps involving the whole school). Why not set up an organising committee to help prepare the event. Do also bear in mind that not everyone can sing like Celine Dion or Andrea Bocelli. You might like to widen it out to a song or poetry contest, making it more inclusive - this will possibly also save your ears! After all, the important thing is the language – can the ‘performers’ use a foreign language and still sound impressive. Performances can either be live (whilst ensuring social distancing – see here for a very professional example) or recorded. If you wish to have a competitive contest, then, of course, a voting system and perhaps judges are also required as in the real Eurovision!

    Focus: whole-school/classroom activity

    Resource sites: Youtube, Spotify etc.

    For inspiration: see Junior Eurovision: a minority language view

    5. Missing traveling? Make a map of the places you want to visit and learn the most useful expressions in the language of your dream travel destination.

    This can be done as individual projects or in teams. If everyone wants to choose the same country (which can tend to happen!) you can randomly select a country for each team/ pupil by drawing lots or using an online tool like Wheeldecide.

    You can make a list of elements which each poster should contain – such as: reasons why to go there; the sights to visit; things to do; which language/s is/are spoken there and what makes it/them unique; as well as what expressions would be important for the holiday.

    Focus: classroom activity

    Resources: Discover the world through languages poster, https://edl.ecml.at/languagetrivia, https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

    6. Set up your own treasure/scavenger hunt

    You can do this the ‘traditional way’ with a series of items (or tasks to be carried out at different locations) to be found at different locations or use an app such as Actionbound . Participants then have 10-15 tasks to carry out within certain timeframe. These can be ‘multiple choice’ or ‘open’ questions (such as ‘write down 10 dishes originating from other countries and with foreign names that are available in a certain area of the town or city’, or (relevant only to Graz!) ‘find at least two pathways leading through the city park that are named after cities in other countries’ (Pecs Allee, Dubrovnik-Allee or Coventry Promenade is the answer in case you are interested!). Each question to be answered or item to be found can be allocated a number of points in order to make a competition out of the activity. The hunt can either be carried out by in small groups of 3-4 or individually. If you are running it as a competition – in order to add further incentive you will probably need to think of an appropriate prize!

    Focus: classroom activity

    Resources: https://edl.ecml.at/quiz(inspiration for questions to run as a virtual treasure hunt), Actionbound, ICT inventory of OERs

    7. EDL secret agent’s language challenges

    Here you have 51 challenges to choose from, that can be carried out over an agreed period of time – so there is plenty of choice of activities to undertake! If you only have a short time available, you can even let the ‘wheel of fortune’ decide which challenge to take. If you decide to take the 51st challenge, you are invited to create a short video clip, based either on the one of the existing challenges or on one of your own invention, and upload it to the EDL website.

    Some ideas for this final challenge which are particularly relevant to current situation, are:

  • “Show how you are cooking your favourite national recipe”
  • “Recommend a movie from your country in a foreign language”
  • “Recreate a country you would like to visit in your home”
  • “Film a one minute workout in a language you are learning”
  • There will be small prize for the top 10 video clips!

    You can either use the Handbook of language challenges (available in 25+ languages) to carry out the challenges or the new app version (currently in 15+ languages). Don’t forget to reward yourself with a certificate if you complete 10 or more challenges!

    Resources: https://edl.ecml.at/languagechallenge

    Cartoons © Benoît CLIQUET