This post is a response to a Blog Challenge started by Anthony Smith. This is what Anthony says:
Out of curiosity and intrigue, and as a means of reflection, write what you did in your class(es) today, from checking attendance to giving a test to blowing students minds with the most dogme-inspired, task-based, mobile-assisted, coursebook-free, PARSNIP-full lesson non-plan ever. You don’t have to explain why, unless you’d like. Just give the raw, nitty-gritty details.
Here’s my take:
- Day: Friday
- Date: September 11, 2015
- Number of lessons: 5 (45 minutes each)
- Start: 8:45 am
- End: 1:15 pm
Lesson 1 (8:45-9:30):
Context: A group of fairly motivated senior students (18-19 year-olds), most of them around B2 (intermediate) level, preparing for their final exams taking place in May 2016. In the course, we use a topic-based syllabus. No coursebooks.
In this particular lesson, students were asked to produce a text about travelling (the minimum was 120 words). This was a test and it had been announced in advance so the students could properly prepare for it. I handed out A4 sheets of blank paper and bilingual dictionaries. Some students finished in 30 minutes, others used all the 45 minutes.
Note: Travelling is one of the general topics they need to be able to discuss during the oral part of their final state exam. Altogether, there are 25 topics we need to go through till April, which means that we need to cover 3-4 topics per month. As there are 23 students in the class (an unusually large group), it would be
impossible too time-consuming for me to examine each of them individually, i.e. orally, so in order to track their progress, I decided to test their knowledge of the topics in writing.
I hope to achieve a couple of things via this strategy: 1) First of all, students will get lots of opportunities to practise writing coherent texts. Basically, they’ll be required to write one at least once a week. 2) They’ll
be forced to recycle vocabulary related to the topics and grammar needed to produce the text. 3) Most importantly, through putting things down on paper, they will sort out and refine their ideas for the ‘real’ exam.
Lesson 2 (9:50-10:35):
Context: A2 students (14-15 year-olds), started a pre-intermediate coursebook two weeks ago. We are going to cover Units 1-5 this year. Overall, a pretty weak class and not too motivated. Everything always goes slower than I expect.
In this particular lesson, we revised adjectives for personal traits, i.e. mature, polite, rude, confident, etc. Especially the opposites (confident vs. shy) and prefixes (as in immature) appeared somewhat problematic. Moreover, everyone seemed too quiet. I wondered if it was the low pressure or the topic. The other half of the class, who had done the same thing the previous day, had definitely seemed more lively. I must admit that I feel a little
obsessed with limited by the fact that I need to cover all the things I do with the other half of the class. In the lesson, I realized that although I had known I will be recycling a plan I had already used with the other group, I had entered the classroom rather unprepared. I hadn’t checked my notes before the lesson and my confusion may have been the reason why students were so quiet.
Anyway, there was a Bingo game in my lesson plan, which I hoped would lighten up the atmosphere. Each student chose 6 adjectives and wrote them on a piece of paper. Then they stood up and mingled. Their task was to define the adjectives to their peers. The aim of the game was to tick/cross off all the six adjectives, i.e. the first student whose words were all guessed was the winner. Then we did grammar – we contrasted the present simple and the present continuous. Boring. Although I heard students make a couple of mistakes, I decided not to go into too much detail since this was actually a revision from previous years.
Lesson 3 (10:45-11:30):
Context: A2 students (13-14 year-olds), a class one grade lower than the previous one and the complete opposite of the previous one. I consider this The Ideal Class – motivated, responsive, always eager to participate.
In this particular lesson, we contrasted ‘will’ and ‘going to’. It may look like another boring piece of grammar, but with this class things are never boring. Students interviewed each other about their potential work experience. They asked each other what they were going to do and what they think it would be like. Then we changed the topic completely and talked about The Iceman. We talked about types of material people had used in the past. This group is into history and they seemed to be enjoying the topic (chosen by the authors of the coursebook we’re using). As usual, students listened attentively to what I and the others had to say, and they responded appropriately.
Lesson 4 (11:40-12:25):
Context: A2-B1 learners (15-16 year-olds), just started Unit 6 of the pre-intermediate coursebook mentioned above. One of my favourite groups. Lessons are usually conversation-driven, lively and fun.
In this particular lesson, we discussed social networking sites, which is my favourite topic. The class was quieter than usual (the weather?), but I did my best to keep them engaged. We did some listening and reading related to the topic and then worked on vocabulary. We talked about addictions: Can Facebook become addictive? What about being addicted to smartphones? Is it the same as being addicted to alcohol/chocolate/coffee?
Lesson 5 (12:30-14:15):
Context: A group of fairly motivated senior students (18-19 year-olds), most of them around B2+ (intermediate) level, preparing for their final exams taking place in May 2016. However, in this course we do not directly focus on exam preparation. They have three more lessons of English with another teacher, who concentrates on exam-related stuff. We’re using an upper-intermediate coursebook, which, by the way, I’m not exactly excited about. Most of the topics are uninteresting and irrelevant, the grammar sections long and too complex to grasp. Anyway, I started teaching this group only two weeks ago so we’re slowly getting to know each other. I was somewhat worried about this particular class before I first met them, but so far things have been going well. As the topics and grammar in the coursebook are challenging, I’m forced to write detailed lesson plans. This is pretty time-consuming.
In this particular lesson, we discussed some advanced ways of expressing probability. Students practised using these when describing a picture showing a demonstration (the whole unit revolves around the topic of politics and I must admit that I’m having a hard time. I can’t say I’m into politics and it’s not easy to make the topic interesting and relevant to a group of young adults anyway).
After the grammar section, we started discussing nationalism, namely the situation in Ireland. I displayed a map of Ireland on the board and tried to explain, in very simple terms, what the situation in Ireland looked like in the past. I recycled some vocabulary from the previous lesson, such as atheism, patriotism, nationalism, etc. I was surprised that the students had never heard of the IRA, but I soon realized they were too young to know (luckily). What caught their attention, though, and what I’m definitely going to elaborate on in the next lesson, was the fact that the Catholics never went to the same schools as the Protestants. What immediately occurred to them was the story of Romeo and Juliet. We contrasted the Troubles with other conflicts they are familiar with.
I wrapped up the day with the most challenging class and not the most intriguing topic, but I felt happy and relieved that things had gone well that day.