Prize fighter

Ladies and gentleman. Welcome to tonight’s T.E.F.L Dogme lightweight regional title fight. It’s a packed crowd here in Santander, where we are expecting to see a closely contested fight between a relative newcomer and one of the sport’s veteran fighters.

In the red corner, we have Adam ‘el gordito’ Beale. A new face to the Dogme scene, who is looking to establish himself in the ranks. After a relatively successful start to his short career, his last two fights ended in T.K.Os, so he’s looking to get back on track tonight. His style is explosive and full of energy, but his lack of experience is his undoing and he tends to fade in the latter rounds.

In the blue corner, is the no-nonsense, straight punching English, ‘CEF B1’ learner. A cornerstone of the Dogme scene who has seen his fair share of fights. A stubborn fighter, who very rarely opens up, preferring to wear his opponent down and deliver the killer punch when their defences are well and truly down.

Tonight looks like it’s going to be an interesting fight. The fighters have touched gloves, the bell goes……

Round 1 – I had my positive head on tonight. I had a brief plan of attack and went for it. I opened up by telling the student’s that we would start by reading a story. I asked them to read the story, not to worry about any unknown vocabulary and when they had finished they had to discuss, in groups, the gist question clearly displayed on the board. Simple.

Beale comes out swinging and the English learner is immediately on the back foot. Beale means business tonight!

I had found a nice simple story in Global intermediate which contained a simple moral about how you should be grateful for what you have and if you work hard, things will work out. I had blown the story up to A3 size and I had also used tippex to blank out the words and, so, but, and when. I told the students to ignore the blanks as they would be used for the next activity.

The initial energy from the first minute seems to have faded and the opponents seem to be working each other out as they move around the ring cautiously eyeing each other up and down.

After about 4 or 5 minutes I was expecting the students to start talking about the gist question as instructed. I checked to see if the two groups had finished. A few had, but some were still going. I reminded them about the gist question. I checked again two minutes later, still no talking but everyone had finished. I encouraged them to start talking about the question. I turned to write something on the board and as I did one of the students asked, “sorry, but what do we have to do?”

‘The English learner throws a heavy body blow that stops Beale in his tracks. A little winded I think, he’s in trouble’

Deep breath. I explained the gist question again and motioned towards the board where I had written it, large and clearly visible for the whole class to see. My explanation was slow, deliberate and full of gesturing. “oh, okay”, and then finally they began to speak, a word here, a sentence there and then a brief discussion broke out in each group. Amen.

Beale seems to have recovered quickly and uses this second wind to go on the attack

I got feedback from the groups about the gist question. They understood the question. I asked if they needed to know all the words to understand the text. They replied no, but I could clearly see a list of words they had written down that they wanted to ask about. We boarded the vocabulary. I gave examples, checked for meaning and did a little bit of drilling for the more difficult words. I didn’t want to spend too long on this section.

The bell goes and both fighters look relived to hear it. Beale did well to recover from the body blow, while the English learner looks to be searching for that weak spot.

Round 2 – I now asked the students to read back through the story and fill in the gaps that I had created in the text. Lots of discussion, some laughter even, they seemed to be enjoying themselves and I was a lot more relaxed. They finished off and we went through the answers. They noticed that the same words kept coming up and after some corrections everyone was happy. We discussed the job of these particular words, how they connected the sentences to allow the story to flow. We looked at the adjectives and talked about how they make the story more interesting to read and create a better mental picture for the reader. Quickly we discussed the use of pronouns and then the overall structure of the story, the beginning to set the scene, the middle to deliver the main part of the story and the end to conclude and bring the story to a close. All simple stuff, yet after the last couple of lessons I wanted to make sure they had the basics and the support to carry out the main task. We also talked about the ways that we could start and end a story. We boarded the phrases, ‘once upon a time’ and ‘they lived happily ever after’.

Beale picks up the pace in this round and fires in two or three quick jabs that seem to bring the English learner to his senses. This fight has suddenly come to life.

Round 3 – I cleared the story away and put a large black and white picture on the table in front of the students. The picture was from ‘The mind’s eye’ by A.Maley, A Duff and F Grellet. A great book for interesting visuals. The picture was of a person bent over a park bench, with their head in a bucket. Around him/her is an old trolley and some shopping bags. I sat back and simply asked the students what they thought. “Crazy”, “an artist”, “she’s homeless!”. Perfect. I told the students I wanted them to write the story of this picture. They had all the tools to do it. I asked them to start the story with ‘once upon a time’, and to finish with ‘they lived happily ever after’. I asked for a volunteer to become the scribe and walked out of the classroom.

Beale lands a great right hook that seems to have caught his opponent unaware. The English learner looks dazed and a little confused.

This activity is from Teaching unplugged (Thornbury&Meddings, 2009) pg63, Every picture tells a story. The aim was for the students to produce a story using the visual as a stimulus, I would go back in and reformulate and correct then hide that version. The students would then have to reconstruct the new version in pairs, from memory. The students were slow to start but soon got into the swing of things. I popped into the room a couple of times just to let them know I was still about. Each time, I was met with a question or two about this verb and that, how to spell this and which preposition went where. It was going well, but we were running out of time. I needed a new strategy as I wouldn’t have time to do what I wanted.

The English learner has rallied and seems to be back in this fight, giving as good as he gets. Looks like this one is going to the wire. The bell goes and the fighters go to their corners. Beale is in deep discussion with his trainer. They seem to be developing some sort of plan to finish this fight in the last round.

Final round – I spoke to my DOS about what to do next as she was originally going to come in and observe the last part of the lesson. I was tempted to rush through and get it done or simply carry it over into the next lesson. Her words of wisdom convinced me otherwise. A bank holiday next week meant a long gap between lessons, the flow of the lesson would have been lost. She suggested that I save the story, make corrections and add notes to it and then email it back to the students at the weekend. They could then re-write the story for homework using the corrections and suggestions.

The final round begins and Beale is looking to end this fight now. He strides out with purpose and a new-found confidence. 

I went back into the class with 20 minutes to go. The students had called me back to let me know that they had finished. I glanced at the board and smiled. They had clearly put in a lot of effort and produced a really good piece of work. I praised them and asked if they had enjoyed the exercise. The smiles said it all. I explained the homework and, to use the remaining time of the lesson, I asked the students to fill out the learner diaries, so that I could collect them in. We finished by reviewing the lesson and then it was time to go.

The final bell goes. That was close. I wouldn’t like to call it, but I would say Beale might have just edged it on points. Both fighters embrace. They seem to have found some respect for each other during this fight and part into their respective corners on good terms. The judge’s cards have come in…………Beale wins! A close call by the judges. It wasn’t pretty at times but he did the hard work and got stuck in. He has work to do, but the future is bright.

Post fight interview – I was pleased with this class. After the dejection of the previous lesson I knew I needed to get this one right. I had looked at the blog and the comments people had made and simply went back to basics. I felt more comfortable and the students seemed to enjoy themselves. I gave them the support they needed by doing some very basic activities and then let them use it to create a really good piece of work. It was by no means a perfect lesson. I have along way to go yet, but it was important for me to get back on track and feel more positive about the whole experience.

I am hoping to add the story to the blog over the weekend. In my haste to get out of work and write this all up, I forgot to take a photo of the board. Secondly I am hoping to add comments from the learner diaries at the weekend, so watch this space.

I cannot find the comfort in this (Dogme) world.

“I cannot stop the thought, running in the dark, coming up a which way sign, all good ‘teachers‘ must decide” (E.Vedder)

I don’t normally write about my lessons until Sunday night, when I have had the weekend to wind down and put my reflection/blogging head on. But tonight I feel the need to blog here and now. There are too many thoughts running around my little brain to sleep. So here goes.

I felt confident about tonight’s lesson. After a weekend of reflection and some positive comments on the blog, I felt ready to go back into class with a new determined vigor and energy. Going back to basics I think was how I put it in the last post.

I opened up with a simple activity. In pairs, I asked the students to talk to each other about their weekends and tell their partner about the best and the worst thing about their weekend. We were off. Some nice conversations started, they were enjoying it, some vocabulary came and went up on the board. A good 5 minutes passed. I asked each student to report back what their partner had said. We listened, I asked a few questions, probed a little deeper. We had a little conversation about sleep, lying in on a Sunday, and then a student revealed that he didn’t like sleeping. He only slept for 5 hours a night because he liked to be active and was simply too busy for it. ‘Teachable moment’ flashed before my eyes, yet I resisted the urge. Very unlike me.

We wrapped up the activity and talked briefly about the last lesson. I checked that everyone had prepared their ‘family’ presentation and gave them a couple of minutes to check their notes. I split them into two groups and asked them to give their presentations. While they were talking, I wanted the other students to think of questions to ask them at the end. Simple enough and off they went. The presentations were actually quite good. Despite my reservations about the last lesson, the majority of them had taken on board the idea of the presentation having a simple structure and also some of the vocabulary from the last lesson came up too. I sat and listened, making notes to talk about at the end. One group was doing well, asking questions and continuing the conversation. Meanwhile the other group seemed to be struggling with follow-up questions. I resisted the temptation to throw in my own questions, then suddenly one of them blurted out a perfectly well constructed question. Excellent I thought, “anymore questions” I asked. Blank faces and the shaking of heads followed. The next person started to give their presentation, this was followed by another silent period and no questions and then again for the following presentation. One of the students had said she shared the same temper as her father and got angry occasionally. I decided to ask her about it to encourage the students to join in. ( it went something like this)

 ” So you get angry like your father then?” (me)

” angry?” (student)

” yes, you said you have a temper like your father” (me)

” I don’t understand” (student)

” A temper? You said your father gets angry sometimes. What does he do when he gets angry?” ( Me. By this time I have really slowed down my speaking voice and I’m now making gestures to signify anger)

“uhhhh…………..” (student)

“Does he shout, or sometimes bang things loudly?” (Me, know gesturing wildly)

A period of about 30 seconds passed. I was determined to get her to talk about this. 

“Go on you can do it, take your time” (Me. At this point I was doing a gesture as though I was coaxing a cat out of a tree)

She looked left and right, shrugged her shoulders and laughed out loud.

“I don’t know” (student)

I gripped the side of the chair and closed my eyes. A big breath and then I launched into the feedback, highlighting certain things on the board.

  • Struggling with saying dates, such as 1994 etc
  • I have 18 yrs instead of I was/am 18yrs
  • Questions to ask about how long or often things happened in the past
  • The pronunciation of words ending in -ed
  • The excellent use of the word ‘rebellious’ one of the students used to describe his brother.

I moved onto the next activity. I had brought a newspaper and cut out pairs of photos that had a common theme. Unemployment, celebration, work, weather, disaster. I asked the students to walk around in their pairs and choose the pictures they would most like to talk about. Once they had done this I asked them to discuss what they thought the pictures had in common and to write one word on the paper next to the pictures to describe this. Celebration came up straight away,  and with some encouragement so did work and unemployment. Next I asked the students to describe to each other what they could see in the picture. Lots of vocab again. I then supplied the groups with one question about each set of pictures that they had to discuss and give an opinion about. Before doing so I elicited different language we could use to give our opinion.  We had a good list;

  • I think….
  • I believe…..
  • In my opinion…..
  • From my point of view……..
  • As far as I’m concerned……..
  • My view is….

Okay we were off. It started well, some of the expressions were used. A little forced but nonetheless being used. I walked around listening and if the conversation dropped I wrote another question down to try to re-ignite it. It was hard going, to say the least. I encouraged them to talk about the question and discuss why, instead of just giving a short and extremely brief answer. We swapped pictures, the same thing happened, we swapped again. Well you get the picture. Blood out of a stone, springs to mind. The class dwindled to an end.

I asked the class to bring in their own picture for the next lesson. I think we need to try again with this one and maybe their own images will prompt some better discussion.

I felt very low at the end of this lesson, the lowest yet. Tonight was difficult, it taxed my patience and even made me a little angry. (see conversation) I’m becoming a little frustrated and perhaps even a little stressed. Feeling the pressure somewhat, I guess. I have never felt comfortable with this class and never feel relaxed enough to simply enjoy the lesson without worrying about what’s happening next. The complete opposite of what I knew Dogme/ teaching unplugged to be before I started this project. Before, in the unplugged lessons I had done previously, things were much more laid back and easy-going. Because of this the lessons were far more productive, I had more energy and excitement and the students fed of this positiveness. Now I feel as though I am only transmitting negativity and this is perhaps affecting the students. I mentioned earlier about the possible ‘teachable moment’ that came up at the beginning of the lesson. Normally I would have dived head first into it, instead I was more worried about what I had planned. I worry about covering what’s on the ‘can do list’ and student generated syllabus or what the book should be covering at this stage. I know that my DOS, who has been incredibly supportive and encouraging, is watching me closely and will be the first to tell me that it’s just not working and perhaps it’s time to call it a day.

Am I expecting to much, planning too hard, pushing too hard or simply not good enough?

“I wish I was a neutron bomb, for once I could go off!” (E.Vedder)



Black hole sun

With the relative success of the previous lesson I wanted to try to continue with the same topic of family and introduce the other two skills we hadn’t really concentrated on, listening and writing.

The start of the lesson was based around discussing the relationships with our families, whether they had a big family or not and would they like to have a family in the future. Not much came up in the discussion and it proved to be hard work to get the students to open up. I moved on and told the class that I was going to tell them about my own family and I wanted them to answer some questions after I had finished. I did the live listening with an initial gist question and then repeated it again with the same information, but this time with four questions looking for specific information. This all went smoothly enough and the students asked me some questions about my family and home town.

Next I explained that I wanted the students to give their own short presentation about their family. Before doing this, I split the class into three groups and asked them to brainstorm as much vocabulary related to families. I monitored the groups. At first it was simply names for different members of the family, so I talked with the groups about how they could describe people in their family. A list of adjectives started to grow but apart from that nothing else seemed to come up. Noticing that the groups were struggling I talked about how I had staged the listening. First some general background information to set the scene, a chronological order of how the family was formed. (where and when my mum and dad met, the years my brother and I were born etc) Some specific information about similar characteristics and family traits and then a general summary to finish. The students looked a little lost at this point. I boarded the different stages and asked them to start making notes for their presentation.

The atmosphere of the lesson seemed to take a massive dive at this point. I tried my hardest to circulate between the students and offer some support. I had to reiterate several times that they were writing notes and not a script to read from. There were some blank faces, and empty pages. One of the students started to speak in Spanish across the room, then another then another. The lesson was becoming something of a ‘black hole’ as my D.O.S kindly put it. I could feel the black cloud of doubt drifting in. The class came to an end and I was thankful, yet disappointed and left pondering where and why it had gone wrong.

I had a long chat with my D.O.S the next day about what had happened. The feedback was immensely helpful and helped me to really analyse the lesson. Below is my post-mortem.

I think the main problem was the topic. The previous lesson about family had gone well, but only after some pushing from me and a lucky break. In reality I should have moved onto something else and moved in another direction. There had been a general reluctance to discuss any off the open class questions at the beginning of the lesson and I should have noted this and taken it on board.

Secondly, I wasn’t comfortable about doing the live listening. I don’t quite know why, I’ve done it before, I just think I could have found an authentic recording or video to use. I would have liked to have a written record of it to give to the students to help with the structuring of their own presentation. Something to refer back to and to also see the staging clearly.

The group brainstorming partially worked. Some new vocabulary came up but I think it could have been far more useful and interactive. I could have created a class mind map on the board, a culmination of the groups and really built upon what they already knew, eliciting and probing for new words and language. Opportunity missed.

Finally asking the students to take notes in class really should have been done for homework. What better place to get information about your family than in your family home. Stupid really. If I had done that we could have perhaps moved onto some vocabulary recycling activities and perhaps picked up the tempo of the lesson. Rookie mistake.

A lot didn’t go right and it was by far my most disappointing teaching experience with the project so far. The best thing about the lesson was the feedback the next day and writing this blog. The perfect way to take a step back and really reflect on what happened in the lesson. To late to save the lesson but I have learnt a lot just from this one reflection.

My D.O.S asked me if this experience had discouraged me from carrying on. I instantly replied, no. I was disappointed with the lesson, angry even, that I had let the students down and delivered a below par lesson. But I would say I am more determined than discouraged. I think that at times I am trying to control the lesson too much and over plan. Going against the unplugged principles and taking away the emphasis from the students. I think that knowing I have to try to deliver what is on the course syllabus is dictating how I approach the lesson. Rather than a natural emergence, it’s more like forcing something out that I know needs to be covered.

So for the next lessons I think it’s time to go back to basics. Don’t think, just do. Keep it simple and allow the language to emerge. Build it and they will come!

Up in my (family) tree.

At the beginning of the week I found myself flicking through the course book that I should be using with the class. Lo and behold the first chapter opened up on an interesting reading about the BBC programme ‘Who do you think you are’. Interest stirred, I picked up ‘Teaching unplugged’ and flicked to an activity called ‘What’s in a name’. Perfect. I had my lesson.

I started the lesson by asking each student to write their name on the board. I then asked the class if they liked their name, if not, would they like to change it. Most people said they were happy enough, except one student. She said that most people always shortened her name or they couldn’t spell it properly and this annoyed her. With this flicker of interest I revealed the three questions I wanted the students to discuss.

Does your name have a meaning?

Does anyone else in your family have that name?

Is it a popular name here in Cantabria/Spain?

(Thornbury&Meddings, Teaching Unplugged, 2009)

The noise level increased, the students started talking away, I picked up my pen and pad to take notes and all of a sudden the talking stopped. This was new. Normally they enjoy talking in pairs and it gives me time to perhaps feed in other questions to stimulate the conversation. Clearly not this time, so I decided to get some feedback. Out of a class of ten, two people knew the meaning behind their name, apart from those two, everyone else in the class had someone else in their family with the same name. Unsurprisingly the names of the students were all fairly common to Spain so not much came from that. Okay, don’t panic I thought. I went back to the two people who knew the meaning behind their names. One was named after a flower, but didn’t know why. She didn’t really want to say much else on the subject. I went to my last option. It turns out the student’s name is Greek in origin and means messenger. I probed a little further.

“Do you know much about your family history?” (me)

“Yes, I study History in University”

 “Have you done any research or looked into your families past?” (me)

“Yes, I……..(lots of back and forth between her and her friend in Spanish to find the right word) …. a coat of arms.

“Really!?” (me)

You beauty. I couldn’t believe my luck. I drew an outline of a shield on the board and asked if this was what she meant. She nodded enthusiastically and, with some encouragement, told us about her family coat of arms and it’s significance. Despite this, the class didn’t seem fully engaged yet, so I decided to bring the reading into play.

I asked the class if they knew what ‘Family tree’ meant. A few mumbles and then the Spanish version was shouted out. We talked about what a ‘family tree’ could tell us and whether anyone had one or would like to have one made. The interest level seemed to be rising. I told the class that I wanted to show them pictures of six different people. (Colin Jackson, Matthew Pinsent, Nigella Lawson, Davina McCall, Jodie Kidd and Kim Cattrel) In pairs I asked them to discuss who these people were and where they came from. They only knew the woman from ‘Sex and the city’ but guessed they were all from Britain. I explained that these people had taken part in a popular T.V programme on the B.B.C. I wrote the programme title on the board, ‘Who do you think you are?’. I asked the students to discuss with their partner what they thought the programme was about. After a few wild guesses, I explained what the show was all about and that I had an article about the show for them to read. The article was all jumbled up and they needed to work together to put it back in order. Once this was done I wanted them to highlight any unknown vocabulary and answer the gist question I had put on the board.                                                                      This was the first reading we had done in class so far and the students seemed to enjoy the task. Once the texts were put in the right order we discussed what clues had led them to putting it into that order. Then we discussed all of the new vocabulary that they had highlighted. This lead to me, finally, to doing some good standard pronunciation work, individual and choral drilling, which had been missing in the previous lessons. The white board was filling up, parts of speech were discussed and, a breakthrough for me, phonetics were included.

Next I talked about the fact that in a normal class I would set five or six other questions based around the text for the students to get specific information for. I told them that now they would become the teacher and it was their job to write the five questions for the other groups. But also I mentioned that the other groups would be from another class and that I would be getting feedback from them about their questions. This seemed to spur the students on and they worked really hard on the questions and finished them before the end of the class.

I was pleased with this lesson. After a quiet start the students become engaged in the subject and enjoyed the activities. Lots of new vocabulary came up and I finally did some pronunciation and improved my board work. I think the most important thing to take away from this lesson is that it is important to ask the right questions and perhaps probe a little deeper to find the right point at which to spring into the next part of the lesson. I got lucky this time, but it could have been very different. The class was language light and not for the first time. This is becoming a worry, yet the students are enjoying the classes and seem to be gaining in confidence when speaking and working together in groups.

Do the evolution!

I decided that for this lesson I would get the class moving about a bit and try to make the class a little more dynamic. I had come across this lesson from Sandy Millin,, and thought it would be a really interesting and thought-provoking lesson for the students.

I started the class by showing four large pictures of the Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Tuenti (Spanish version of facebook) and eliciting the names and ‘social networking’ from the students. I asked who used what and it seemed the whole class used at least one if not more of them. All except one. “I don’t have the time” he said. Perfect. In pairs I asked them to write down the three main reasons why they use social networking sites, and for the student who didn’t use them, three reasons why not.

Sharing photos, catching up with old friends, talking for free and gossiping were some of the main points, while simply not having the time and preferring to talk on the phone were reason enough to not use the sites. I went back to the gossiping point and asked if the students thought this was a good or bad thing. Surprisingly some of them thought it was one of the best things. I asked them to list three good and bad things about social networking. More floating about, providing vocabulary and checking spelling. The pairs then compared with another group and we did class feedback. One of the good points that came up, was that we could follow famous people by using Twitter. Now was the perfect time to use Sandy’s lesson. I mentioned that I used Twitter frequently, but not to follow famous people. I talked about how I used it to help me solve problems such as grammar points, technology in the classroom or simply asking for advice on certain issues. I quickly showed them what Twitter looked like and how the feed worked.

The idea of the lesson was to create our own twitter feed to give advice or suggestions for problems or situations. I decided to demo the idea with my own problem, which was that I keep forgetting the names of my students. I wrote this on a small piece of paper and placed it on the floor. The students could now take a piece of paper and add their suggestions. I could throw in a response to their suggestions in order to keep the feed moving and to promote further suggestions. The students loved it! Some great suggestions came up;

I can never remember the names of everyone in class. Help! (me)

You can take photos and you can put it in the wall.

I don’t have a camera (me)

You can borrow a camera from a friend.

Before class you can write in the forehead of people in class his name.

I don’t think my boss will let me. (me)

You’re right (my boss)

Everyone could be named about something who describe him/her.

My name is like a flower, so it’s easy to remember. (Rosa)

It was going great. I picked up on the use of modals for giving advice and suggestions and boarded a small list, half elicited from the students and half supplied by me, that we could use in the next activity. I didn’t want to lose the pace of the lesson so I launched back into it and mentioned the wishes that the class had made in the previous lesson. We chose one of each and I asked them if they could supply suggestions to make these wishes come true. A selection of some of the best ones are below.

I wish that Santander had the AVE station.

The politicians should meet to try and find money from the banks.

Maybe it will get done if ‘Revilla’ (local politician) get chosen again.

We can’t build the AVE station, but we could invent teleporter.

I wish that the economic crisis would end.

We could steal money from other countries

Politicians could reduce their salary,

I think it should be legal to photocopy the paper money.

Lot’s of new vocabulary had come up, we had practised giving suggestions and advice and more importantly the students had really enjoyed the class. The class was a little language light and I could really have built on that, but I guess I was enjoying the flow of the lesson too much to want to break up the momentum. Something to add to the growing list of things to work on. On a more positive side I now have a stack of about 30 sentences to use for some sort of error correction exercise later in the term.

Wish list

The project was well and truly under way, so I decided that it might be a good time to dip into ‘Teaching unplugged’ (Thornbury&Meddings, 2009). I picked out two activities.  As a warm up, ‘something we did’ (pg36), and as a main activity Three wishes (pg46).

I decided to use ‘something we did’ as an alternative way of finding out about each others weekend, rather than the open class discussion which is the norm in some of my classes. I wrote out the three sentences I wanted the students to use and split the group down into pairs. The idea was to use the sentence to talk about something they did since the last class and their partner would then quiz them further to get as much information as possible. This way they could revise the Q&A session from the previous lesson.

Something you did with someone else

Something you did that you don’t usually do

Something you didn’t manage to do.

The last sentence immediately throw up the question “What does manage mean?” On the board I re-wrote the question to help with the explanation. Something you didn’t get done, something you didn’t do that you wanted to do and something that you didn’t get to do. This seemed to do the trick and we went back to it. After the first session I boarded one of the things I heard from one of the pairs.

“What have you done on Saturday?”

We talked about the difference in using the past simple and present perfect. As a class we changed the initial question into the past simple. I asked what the original answer was and boarded that too. I then asked how we could follow-up the answer with a question in the present perfect, instantly the answer came. We talked about the difference and why now was a good time to use the present perfect and then we repeated the exercise this time swapping partners and choosing another sentence.

“What did you do on Saturday?”

“I played football”

“How long have you been playing football?”

After the second round one other major point came up. I should point out that during the exercise I am correcting on the spot supplying and writing down new vocabulary. The major point was again related to one of the original sentences. A mixing up of the meaning between ‘usually’ and ‘used to’. Again to the board, using a mixture of example sentences and asking the students to offer their own interpretation of the differences, we managed to highlight the difference and iron out the problem.

I felt that the activity had run its course and worked well as a warm up, so I moved onto the main activity. On the board I had drawn 5 concentric circles and labelled them me, family, work/study, town and world. The idea was that the students had to come up with one wish for the first three labels (me, family, work/study). I demonstrated what I wanted them to do by simply reading out my own wishes and then the students started on their own. The main points that came up were;

Using ‘I want’ instead of ‘I wish’ or ‘I would like’ etc.

This for some reason was difficult for one of my students to comprehend. We talked about what it meant to make a wish and the possibility of it happening and this then lead onto the student asking,

” what about saying ‘I wish to………?”

Again further discussion about it being a more formal way of saying that you want something. The student seemed perplexed so I wrote up the wishes I had read out at the beginning of the activity and highlighted the language I had used to formulate my wishes. After this he seemed content and set about rewriting his sentences.

“I wish that I is pay better”

Some of the students weren’t back shifting the tense. I put the above sentence on the board and changed it so that it was correct. I highlighted the past simple tense. I asked for some examples from the other students who had used it correctly, wrote up their sentences and again highlighted the use of the past simple.

With all of these points covered, I wanted to consolidate the language, so I put the class into three groups and asked them to work together to write out a wish each for both their town and the world. The students managed to write the wishes and the idea was to vote for the best wish of the three for each town and world. Unfortunately we didn’t get to the final part. Below are the wishes.

I wish there were more activities in Santander.                                                                I wish the economy was better.

I wish that Santander had the AVE station                                                                         I wish that the economic crisis would end.

I wish that there were more concerts here.                                                                       I would like people in the world to not be poor.

I enjoyed the class and the students seem to be settling into the idea of the project and a different way of teaching. I’m feeling more confident and less nervous than before and I think this showed in the lesson. Both activities worked well and I will be using them again in other classes. I hope that breaking the lesson down this way and actually including the language used in class is useful. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to include everything but as time goes by I hope to get as much in as possible.

Q & A

So the first lesson had come and gone. The seed had been planted and now it was time to get down to basics and begin teaching. The first lesson was dominated by me and delivering the idea of the project. Now it was time for the students to get to know each other and their teacher.

For this lesson and some future lessons my D.o.S, Emily Bell, (!/emilyvbell) joined me in the classroom, to observe, teach and generally oversee the project.

The aim of the lesson was simply for the students to get to know each other through a simple Q&A session and to gather enough information to write a profile on their partner. To warm up, the students would interview Emily and myself. Their aim was to write five questions that would prompt the teacher to give the most interesting answer. The group with the most interesting answer would win.

We split the groups in half and monitored the question writing stage. Offering suggestions, helping with question construction, error correction and pron work. Thinking that the students would write their questions with the teacher who was helping their group in mind, I decided to swap with Emily so that we would get questions from the opposite group. Below are some of the questions;

What do you think about climate change?

How many tattoos do you have?

What has been/is your biggest challenge?

What was your most embarrassing moment?

The students wrote down our answers and when the two groups were finished we shared the questions as a whole class and boarded the answers in two lists. The eventual winner was my answer to the most embarrassing moment question, which saw me describing the day I managed to knock my self unconscious, while trying to climb through a window after locking myself out of my house.(worthy of a blog post in itself)

Now it was the students turn to interview each other. Again five questions and again writing down the answers of their partner. We monitored as before, noting errors and using the board to highlight language points. The interviews began and we encouraged the students to follow-up their initial questions with others to try to find out even more information to build a better picture of their partner. With the lesson nearing an end we did a whole class feedback asking each group to tell the class the most interesting thing they found out from their partner. Their homework was to use their questions and answers to write a small description of their partner.

Lesson reflections

A livelier lesson with a lot more talking from the students. A very simple idea lasted for a full hour and a half and produced a lot of language points for future lessons. Below are the main points that Emily and I noticed would need further work and that caused the students problems throughout the lesson.

  • Pronunciation (this area requires a lot of attention)
  • Tense endings and confusion between simple past and present perfect.
  • Conditionals
  • Wishes and regrets
  • Reported speech

Personal reflections

I enjoyed this lesson and really appreciated having Emily in the classroom to help out. It added another dynamic to the class and allowed me to spend some time to really work with the students on a more one to one basis. More importantly it gave me the opportunity to get immediate feedback on the lesson and see where things could be improved and also to hear what I was getting right or wrong.

I’m looking forward to teaching the class on my own and sitting back to try and tune into the whole class rather than working with one half of the students at a time. I think this will give me a more balanced idea of the areas to correct and work on.

Early days but some positive comments. Lots of areas to improve and work on.