I just wanted to write a quick post about some of the unplugged lessons and moments that have happened over the last couple of weeks. I will try to keep it brief.
Audio upgrade – I wanted to record my morning group and get them to listen back to an audio extract to practice some error correction and simply to promote some conversation after spending the previous lessons on listening and reading recently.
The students had previously written down some topics they wanted to discuss and some questions they wanted to ask the others. We sat down, took the first topic off the pile and began talking. The audio recorder wasn’t on at this point I just wanted the students to warm up and get into the flow. I fed in whatever vocabulary was necessary and boarded everything, making some small error correction and notes on common errors. Once the conversation came to a natural end I went to the board to highlight some small points. We started again but this time I explained that I would be recording a section of the conversation. We started the next topic and I immediately noticed the effect that having the possibility of being recorded had on the way the students spoke. They concentrated harder and their utterances became clearer and fewer errors occurred. I managed to get a good 4-5 minute chunk of the conversation. (I used audacity). Just before the end of the lesson I played the recording, asking them to pick out what they thought were common errors and we discussed them as a class.
The next lesson was after the weekend which gave me time to type up the chunk of conversation. Each student received a copy in the next lesson and we set about looking at errors and discussing ways that we could upgrade their language. How we could perhaps say what they initially said but better and clearer. The activity lasted the whole lesson and allowed me to practice some board work and led to a lot of new vocabulary and highlighted a lot of language points. A very successful and useful lesson which I think I would like to repeat in the future.
Classic recycle – I wanted to spend some time on looking at the vocabulary bank that we had built up over the last few weeks. I had written down every new word onto small pieces of blank paper. I brought them all to class and gave out five to each pair and asked them to discuss each word with their partner and then use the learner dictionaries to write a definition and the part of speech on the back. There were a lot of words so this lasted quite awhile, but just discussing these words allowed for language to emerge and make the recycling activity more memorable. Once the words had been exhausted I asked the students to try to group the vocabulary into lexical fields. Once this was completed we talked about how certain words could move in and out of different groups and this led into a discussion about collocation. Another lesson I will be repeating.
A teachable moment – I had my lesson idea all ready. I started as I always do by asking how the student’s weekend went. The usual responses followed but then one of my students started talking about her trip to Madrid and how her sister in-law’s kids had been driving her mad all weekend. Waking up early, too much energy and generally getting what they wanted by crying and shouting. I asked her if it had put her off having kids, and she said that perhaps it had made her think about waiting a little bit longer. At this point I knew that my original plan wasn’t going to take place. The conversation progressed naturally about the pros and cons of having children and then it moved onto how children these days are very different form those that we grew up with and that the cause was how parents brought up their children. I put a simple table on the board with two columns, problems of parenting now, suggestions for better parenting. By the end of the lesson the board was full.
I followed the topic up in the next lesson by finding an article in the Guardian about 21st century mothers. A quick title mix and match lead to a very relaxed reading lesson. The article was mined for new vocabulary and ideas from the previous lesson were highlighted in the article and discussed further.
Put your hands in the air, and say yeah! – This was a very simple activity but proved very effective. In my CAE class I had a 30 minute slot to fill after a pre planned activity fell very short. I asked the students to write down topics or questions they wanted to ask in the class on some post-it notes. I explained that the idea was to keep the conversation going for as long as possible and if I heard an error I would simply raise my hand. I wouldn’t correct but the student should verbally highlight their error, correct and carry on with the conversation. I would only step in if they needed help. This worked really well and after a few topics the group was split into two and one of the students became the teacher. A simple but very effective activity.