Ever seen stretched papers, black-and-white photos behind a detective in your favorite crime/spy fiction? Ever wondered why they are designed like that? The concept of the Detective’s Wall is not new: as Esquire reports, even BBC’s 1979’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy utilized this technique to visualize all the information the investigator knows of a case.
But how can we make use of these seemingly messy and unorganized boards? And why not start thinking about utilizing them when it comes to language learning?
Here are three tips for you:
For Teachers, Educators or Instructors:
When I was still studying at university one of my respectful professors (who I look up to very much) said that even up to that day he used greaseproof papers for preparing for some of his presentations. He went on explaining that the whole sheet worked as a mindmap and hence he could track his progress, modify the logic or restructure elements. Although I was more obsessed with extracurricular activities i.e. socializing at that time, I ended up being a language teacher and using the idea of the good ol’ greaseproof paper. If I teach a new topic from Law Enforcement English, I use either the whiteboard, or I give students pictures (or articles like this one) and instruct them to collect relevant words for that topic. Or, this can be a project work for groups: just like the Detective’s Wall it can contain mixed forms of media, like articles or photos, notes, etc. And yes, I am also aware of the fact that there are online tools available. In case there is no Internet, or just you just want your students to stand up and mingle “offline” collaboration can be the key!
Ever used study boards? You know, these bulletins that serve as a visual representation for, say, a scientific project?
Depending on your goal, your space / Detective Wall can serve as a territory for words to learn, some articles or photos. The reason why I am getting back to basics is that sometimes you should actually write instead of typing, because:
1, actually writing down words helps you recall them more effectively later on
2, it is a filter as well, you find zillions of information online, but when you work on your own at your own speed, selecting the information you actually need you can decide what to include to your wall.
So, I suggest to create your offline space, maybe hang it on a wall, to see how you are progressing. Maybe, you would like to change it every week, since you advance faster. Even when you aren’t studying your wall will be in front of you – and if you make it visually attractive or funny, looking at it will not only help you memorize certain words, it will be nice to see your board.
Get more creative and use your post-its to label your surroundings! For example, when I was studying at university I kept putting post-its on my fridge with important notes to help me memorize those whenever I opened the fridge – and that happened a lot of times!
When I prepare for a presentation, I always start off with a blank paper and start making a mindmap. Of course, I can’t and don’t put photos and pictures but the idea is the same: just like the detectives, I scribble down what I know so far. Then, the research phase starts t find information to support my arguments. It’s not a greaseproof paper, but it will do.