No room to maneuvre

I did English Corner recently. That is never really much fun, because we have to stay behind after our classes are over to do extra. It is also in the main teaching building, where we do not teach, and the building is terrible. For a start, there are fixed seats, which means that students cannot easily get in or out. In our classrooms, we have desks and chairs, which means students can get out (relatively) easily, if they need to. It also means I can access all groups of students, not just those at the ends of the row.

No room to maneuvre.

The second is that the board is very small, if the screen is down. Again, in the building we usually teach in, you have far more board space, and I use the board a lot. After last time’s brave attempt at teaching about the Tudors, which failed spectacularly, I thought I should remain on firmer ground by using (and adapting slightly) a lesson I did with my normal classes last semester. There was one student there who had done this already, but it was sufficiently different that they were able to get involved. This is a lesson I know works and works well, having used it not only here but also a couple of times at RDFZ (in fact, I was observed once, when I taught this lesson there, and it was really popular with the students).

The lists are from each group; the numbers are the number of people who voted for it at the end. After each group told the class their plans, we took a vote to see which was most successful. The picture is one group’s attempt at explaining how they would survive attack by insects (it is the second group of items on the list; the one that includes ‘tent’).

It’s a fairly common lesson, or variations of it, among ESL teachers I think. The lesson involves establishing the scenario of a plane crash on a desert island. I usually give a list of items which survived the crash – random items, such as homework, mobile phone, teddy bear etc – and in groups they need to pick four and say how these four items would help them survive. I would then usually give each group a different situation (e.g. you get attacked by giant insects) and they need to come up with a plan using their four items and how they would survive. Most of the items can be useful in one of the situations given (there is insect repellent) but the students do not know what the situations are, nor which they will be given, until after they have chosen their items. In the English Corner, I changed it so that, instead of given them items, individually they had to think of any five items they could have with them on the island. Then they had to work with a partner and negotiate which five they would keep from both their lists. Usually I make them then join with another group and negotiate which five they would keep again, but I didn’t do this. Simply, with their five items, each pair got a different situation and had to come up with a plan to deal with the situation. I then got them into a bigger group and had them think about roles and responsibilities as a group – who was leader, what they would do for punishment etc – before finally giving them some story cards about holidays to follow. These are cards which form a story, but the group has to all agree and decide on the course of the story. For example, the first card might establish the situation and then if they decide on one course, they turn to card two, and another turn to card three, and so on.

Overall it went pretty well, a big improvement on last time. One of my colleague’s does what she tends to do in many of her adult classes (and what she told me it should be about; free talk). That’s all well and good, but it can be difficult to stimulate these students in getting them to do free talk. Maybe she does it well; I don’t. So, for me, having an activity-based session works.

I saw this on my way to the English Corner. I think they mean to say ‘Psychology’ and not ‘Phychology’. No idea what that is!

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