Shapes and relationships

Level: (Pre)Intermediate
Length: 90-min twice a week
Group size: 5
Topic from book: People we know
Language practice: Asking questions, telling anecdote

Running order:
1. ‘Back to the board’ to review expressions with ‘have’ (from previous lesson)
2. Introduce/review ‘shapes’
3. On a blank piece of paper, listen to the teacher and draw the shape anywhere they like on the paper but big enough to write something inside
4. Within each of the shapes, write down one of the following categories: family, friend, work, school, other
5. In groups, brainstorm people we know in those categories (not their names but our relationships with them, what we call them, eg relatives, best friend)
[6. Listen to a list read out by the teacher, add them to the appropriate category – used to include particular vocabulary item, to review classroom language and if students have trouble coming up with terms, especially those outside of family]
7. In pairs, ask each other about someone on the partner’s page starting with something like: “Can you tell me about your best friend?” Ask as many follow up questions as one can.
8. Students rotate. Teacher gives feedback and feeds in language
9. Final rotation in two groups (previously not partnered in pairs)
10. Class feedback of the most interesting person they talked or heard about. Language feedback.
11. Next class, teacher gives out lesson commentary (teacher’s write up of the lesson conversation with tasks as homework, review language at the beginning of the following lesson)

What kind of conversations would be generated with your classes?

Commentary:
Recently, I tend to start my adult classes with a review using ‘back to the board‘. My reason is that we all get tired of the usual greeting ‘How was you day?” type questions sometimes. Let’s face it, most of the time, our days are pretty uninteresting. I also see it as a good way to help my learners be more creative with their language and hope that it can encourage them to use more communication strategies. This seems to work well to get them warmed up and even a bit psyched up. After the ‘match’, everyone tends to get more relaxed and open. I also find that revision and recycling is very important for this group.

Last Friday, in our class, we talked about:
1. How young some of our parents were
2. Our varied views on
marriage and having children (“I don’t like children because they squeak!”)
3. Surprising facts about our parents (he used to have a shaved head, he looks a bit like a sumo wrestler…)
4. Great stories about strangers (the creepy guy who flashed junior high school girls, the man that was watching porn in a MacDonald on his laptop…)

What I have been wanting to achieve in my class is to have lots of Dogme moments while generating conversations in which the themes and the language focus from the book should naturally emerge. I have one worry with this, have I worked on the language enough for intake? How much of the meaningful conversations become useful input that my learners take up to modify their interlanguage?

To reconcile this insecurity, I started writing a lesson commentary, with a page for useful language and a page for lexis (to be recorded like a lexical notebook). For the last few lessons, I gradually modify it so that now the students are responsible to fill in the lexis part after having chosen items from the lesson commentary themselves. Before and after the lesson commentary, there are a few tasks to help the learners focus on language. As it’s a nine-week course of 18 sessions, I thought we could do a roundup at the sixth sessions, so learners can measure, reflect and monitor their own progress by going through the conversations we have had. Let’s see how it goes.

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About Connieay

I have taught English in Japan, Qatar and Egypt. At present, I'm taking a short break to raise my little munchkin and finishing a Masters on TESOL/Applied Linguistics. My teaching life started in Tokyo back in 2009. And yes, I was there during the massive earthquake in 2011. That day, I was in school waiting for my students to arrive. My very young learners did come after the quake and we all hid under the table during the numerous aftershocks we shared. That night I continued to teach my classes and was stuck in school as all the trains were stopped. I was taken in by the lovely Miss Satou and shared that eerie night with her shaken dog Oscar which kept licking my face throughout the night. Before teaching, I lived and worked in London as a science editor and researcher. I enjoy dancing salsa and love travelling. Having a Chinese root means food is crucial to ensure my happy existence. Teaching is an experiment that I hope to carry on for a long time. I am interested in multilingualism, CLIL and how the brain is involved in learning. If I were a bird, I would be an albatross, a bird with stamina, persistence and the ability to go far and high. I value long-term relationships but am perfectly happy being independent and can endure solitude if necessary.
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