20 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”!  
20 ideas for activities that can be carried out in socially distanced ways:

1. EDL's 20th Anniversary Great Bake-Off

This year, the European Day of Languages celebrates its 20th anniversary. And in order to share this special moment with all of you, we invite you to participate in our Great Bake-Off challenge!

Will the recipe for your birthday dessert be one of the 20 chosen ones?

Focus: whole-school/classroom activity

Resources: https://edl.ecml.at/Activities/20thAnniversaryGreatBake-Off/tabid/3230/Default.aspx

2. EDL's international happy birthday video

At the European Centre for Modern Languages we are very excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the European Day of Languages. To commemorate this very special day, why not add your voice in wishing "Happy Birthday!" in as many languages as you/your family/ friends/schoolmates/fellow students/colleagues can manage in this 20 second challenge?

We are very grateful for your help in turning this occasion into the most multilingual birthday ever!

Focus: classroom activity

Resources: https://edl.ecml.at/Activities/Internationalhappybirthdayvideo/tabid/3231/Default.aspx

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

    8. Language fair

    This can be as small- or large-scale as you wish. You would only need to divide the students into groups and have each of them represent a country. If everyone wants to choose the same country (which tends to happen) you can randomly select a country for each team by drawing lots or using an online tool like Wheel Decide.

    The goal would be for them to organize an activity for the fair around the country’s language. Some examples could be cooking a traditional recipe, learning a typical dance or a song, or even do a sketch using a foreign language. To make sure you respect social distancing, the fair could be organized in a large space or even outdoors.

    The objective of the language fair would be to encourage students to discover the world around them and show them that there is more than one way to learn a new language.

    Focus: whole school/classroom activity

    Resources: Wheel decide link

    For inspiration: https://languagesconnect.ie/thinklanguages/

    9. Language contest

    Students love it when a class breaks away from the routine, so why not organize a language contest? This would be an activity for the whole class to participate in, where students could either play as a group or as individuals.

    When looking for inspiration, our EDL language challenges are a great resource to use for this event. Both the handbook and the app versions include a wide range of activities where students can put their language skills to the test. Examples of our challenges include listening to a radio station in a foreign language, using a recipe in a foreign language or finding out how many different languages are being spoken in a particular class/school/organization.

    The aim of this activity is to encourage learners to go a little outside their comfort zone and take advantage of the plentiful opportunities available to practice or learn more about a language beyond a specific classroom context.

    Focus: school/classroom/out of school activity

    Resources: EDL language challenges

    10. International online tandem

    A very effective way to learn a language is through tandem learning, i.e. practising with a native speaker. However, due to the pandemic, meeting new people or going on exchanges hasn't really been an option. To make sure your students don't miss out on the great opportunity of learning a language together with a native speaker, how about organizing an international online tandem?

    This is an activity that requires a certain amount of organization, so to make it easier your school might consider joining the European Commission's eTwinning platform. eTwinning promotes school collaboration in Europe through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). It allows teachers to search for other registered eTwinners and schools, connect with them, and collaborate on different activities.

    By joining this platform, your school could easily get in touch with a foreign school in the eTwinning network and organize the international online tandem. Of course, this event can be organized as many times as you wish and with different language combinations to enable students of different foreign languages to participate. The goal is to make international friends and practise your language skills as much as possible.

    Focus: whole school/classroom activity

    Resources: https://www.etwinning.net/en/pub/index.htm

    For inspiration: example of an eTwinning event

    11. Board games day

    Organize a ‘board games day’ with your students to show them just how much fun languages can be! Students can be divided into groups and rotate from game to game. For added motivation, you can also split the class into groups but have them all play the same game to see who wins. By keeping this activity at class level, you limit the number of participants sand ensure that social distancing is possible.

    The idea behind the activity is for students to practice the language they are learning a fun way, so that just maybe they don’t even realise they are actually learning!

    Focus: classroom activity

    Resources: https://www.spanishplayground.net/spanish-board-games/ https://www.ef.com/wwen/blog/teacherzone/try-these-classic-board-games-in-class/(these are just some board game ideas that can easily be adapted to any other languages)

    12. EDL shirt contest

    Every year, the European Centre for Modern Languages organizes a T-shirt competition on the occasion of the European Day of Languages. So why not encourage your students to take part?

    To enter the competition, students only have to create a design/image/graphic that meets the requirements listed on our website and upload it to our platform: https://edl.ecml.at/Activities/EDLT-ShirtContest/tabid/3147/language/en-GB/Default.aspx

    The winner will not only get to see their design displayed on all of our t-shirts, but he/she will also be featured on our website! Time to get your ideas flowing!

    Focus: whole school/classroom activity

    Resources: https://edl.ecml.at/Participate/T-shirts/tabid/3146/language/en-GB/Default.aspx (here you can check out our t-shirt store and read more about previous winners and their designs!)

    13. Foreign cinema festival

    A great way for your students to improve their listening skills is to watch films in a foreign language. So how about organising an ‘international film festival’? You can do this at either class or school level, depending on the space you have available and taking into account social distancing. Moreover, the festival can last as many days as you want! It may not be Cannes or the Venice festival but you can certainly find a catchy title for it!

    You can choose films from different countries and in different languages. Of course, depending on the students' level in the language, you may need to use subtitled versions of the films. This festival will help students improve their skills without even realizing it and will also stimulate their interest in other languages and cultures.

    You can also find out more about Eurimages, the Council of Europe’s support fund which promotes independent filmmaking at European level. Many of the films supported through the fund are world famous and have won awards at major film festivals.

    Focus: whole school/classroom activity

    Resources: https://www.coe.int/en/web/eurimages/eurimages-prize-list https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-international-films-for-kids ,
    https://www.negrabohemian.com/blog/2019/4/2/20-foreign-movies-to-watch-with-kids (some film ideas for language teachers)

    14. Start an online book club

    Another easy and fun way to get your students to improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary in a foreign language is to start an online book club. This type of activity not only encourages students' appreciation of reading, but also builds their language skills across many areas, such as their spelling. Moreover, you will be able to carry out this activity with different groups of students regardless of age.

    To found a successful online book club, you should take into account the students' interests when selecting the books to ensure that they feel motivated and want to get involved in this activity. You should also make sure that the books are appropriate for the students' level in the foreign language in question. Since this activity will be entirely online, there should be no problem with social distancing!

    In the links below you will find many tips on things to consider when setting up an online book club with your students.

    Focus: whole classroom activity

    Resources: https://bookclubz.com/, https://www.julianmarquina.es/lea-lectura-abierta-plataforma-web-para-la-creacion-de-clubes-de-lectura-digitales/
    For inspiration: https://www.teachhub.com/classroom-activities/2020/08/how-to-create-a-virtual-book-club-for-your-students/, https://globalgraduates.com/articles/books-to-read-when-youre-learning-a-language#00a35aab451b5d97dd43f7b8c586ea52, https://eligeeducar.cl/ideas-para-el-aula/un-club-de-lectura-para-adolescentes-cronica-de-una-odisea-virtual/

    15. Geoguessr challenge

    What better way to encourage your students to practise foreign languages than with a challenge? GeoGuessr is an online geographic discovery game that drops the player in a series of random locations around the globe and challenges them to find out where they are! To do so, players are forced to pay attention to their surroundings.

    Luckily for us, one of the best clues you can get while playing Geoguessr relates to languages. Students will come across all sorts of signs, advertisements and so on during their game. Recognizing these alphabets and languages and where they are spoken will help them to find out which country and city/area they are in. They will have to select on the map the place where they think they are and the closer they get to the location chosen by Geoguessr, the more points they will obtain.

    Moreover, there are different game modes. In some, your students will have a time limit to find out their location. In other modes, you can choose whether you want your students to play across the world or whether you want Geoguessr to place them in a specific country or area to focus on a particular language or culture. A fun time is guaranteed!

    Focus: whole classroom activity

    Resources: https://www.geoguessr.com/, https://www.geoguessr.com/education
    For inspiration: https://srtaspanish.com/2018/05/04/geoguessr-lets-explore-the-world/

    16. 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

    17. 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

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