I had an idea. I didn’t have any notes. I knew what I was looking for, or listening for. I had no back up plan.
Thanks to Spain’s random holidays, I only got to see my project group once this week. So I had plenty of time to come up with an idea for this class. I had spent the weekend reading through their diaries, which you can see on another page of this blog. They enjoyed talking, wanted to talk more and seemed to enjoy the class more when they got the opportunity to do this.
We started the class by looking at the re-drafted versions of their collaborative stories, from the previous lesson. I had emailed them the story, with suggestions and corrections. The majority of the students brought a corrected version back, so I posted them around the room and we walked around reading each others work and noting the small changes each individual had made. I noted one error that everyone had made, highlighted it on the board, checked for meaning, gave a further example and praised them for their work.
I paired up the students and asked them to talk about what had happened in the last lesson, what we did and what we talked about. After they would report back to me on what they had discussed. It was slow going, but eventually they started talking, a few hints and they soon remembered. When reporting back I asked one person from each pair to report back on what the other person had said. Articles were missing, the tenses were all over the place and everyone seemed a little out of sorts. I asked them to swap partners. Get them moving, wake them up. I asked them to talk to their partner about the best and worst thing that happened to them since they last saw each other. The talking started in earnest, I let it run, listening in and supplying vocabulary when it was required. Again I asked them to report back, again the control of tenses was lacking. I walked up to the board and wrote down –
He/she said (that)
He/she told me (that)
I started to talk about reported speech, but didn’t mention it directly. In fact I didn’t need to. One of my students exclaimed loudly, “ah reported speech”. Yes, reported speech. I talked about back shifting the tenses, one of the students mentioned the ‘that clause’, I added it to the board and gave an example. I swapped the pairs again and asked them to do the same activity, and when they reported back they should try to use the language on the board and think about the tense shift. They talked and then they reported back. There was a marked difference in their accuracy, in fact a huge leap in accuracy. I could see them concentrating, working harder to get their utterances correct, self-correcting, re-formulating. Someone had watched five films in a row, that was the best thing since the last class, so we talked about films briefly. I swapped the pairs and asked them to talk about the films they like and dislike with their partner. They maintained the level of accuracy afterwards and this continued when we started talking about superheroes and super powers.
After trying so hard recently to get my students talking and worrying about having a real structure to my lesson, it turns out that this simple piece of grammar produced the best, most relaxed and productive lesson since we started. For the first time after a lesson with this class, I didn’t feel the need to agonise over my teaching and analyse the lesson from start to finish. It seems so clear now, but over the last few weeks I think I have been looking too hard, trying too hard, even thinking too hard.
hit/strike pay dirt