Asked me the same question 100 times

'Those are interesting questions Timmy. I suggest you ask your search engine.'

Well, not everything is perfect, but the not so good lessons can teach us something, right?! Let’s see what I can take from this episode.

Like most teachers, I am not a big fan of having to explain the same thing many times. Whether it is instructions for an activity, some language feature, or the meaning of a word (we are not dictionaries!). I have been trying – since ever! – to minimize questions by using some techniques:

  • Class Menu – every lesson I write a menu of the activities we are going to do so that students know what to expect. Sometimes I even write the material they are going to need (books, notebooks, colour pencils). I also include the aim of the lesson and elicit the day of the week and date. So, whenever a student desperately needs to know if we are going to play a game in the lesson, I just point to the menu on the board and it saves time and teacher-talking-time! 🙂
  • Routines – incorporating routines is a TTT minimizer and time-saver. Students just know what to do. It takes time for them to get used to the routines and they may vary for different groups and ages. With my current students I have a routine for: how are you today? (by throwing a big dice and asking each other the questions), leaving the classroom (by saying a password, something they have learned in the lesson) and evaluating their English use.
  • Pre-teaching vocabulary – before any reading or listening activity, I try to make sure to work with some language I think may be difficult for the students. I also try to have students use their predicting skills by focusing on pictures and titles, and I teach them reading and listening strategies, so that I can remind them (remember that it helps to underline the same words in the questions and in the text…).
  • Ask your friend – last but not least, when I just don’t want to answer the same question for the 50th time, I just tell them to ask their friends.

So, today, despite using almost all of the techniques above, my students kept asking me how to say ‘great-grandmother’, what the meaning of ‘loudest’ was, and so on. It was very frustrating, but, looking back, I believe I could have used a simple miming game for them to practice the adjectives before having to use them in the writing activity. However, students were especially misbehaved today, so I am not entirely to blame.

'I find the best way to stop students from always talking to each other in class, is to keep asking questions. Then they have nothing to say.'

Advertisements

Told me they liked my lessons

If there’s one thing I have learned during almost ten years teaching young and very young learners is that they are going to show you when they like or don’t like your lessons. They can do that through naughty behaviour, cooperative actions, by hugging you or they will just simply say “I don’t like this lesson”.

When they don’t like your lessons, there’s always the option of developing an action plan in order to ask them what they want (games! songs!) and what they specifically don’t like doing. They usually have strong opinions on those matters and will (hopefully) help you.

When they tell you they like your lessons, it means you’re on the right path. However, as much as teachers enjoy hearing that, it may makes us wonder “what if I don’t live up to their expectations anymore?” or “are they going to enjoy my lessons forever?” or even “when are they going to stop liking my lessons?” :O

It’s been two months since the beginning of the year and things are going well so far. Because this unit’s main topic was describing people, I was able to bring many different games for my students, such as Guess Who?, describe and draw, and guess the thief. Also, thanks to the course book, there were chants to work on pronunciation and a really nice song about a thief who gets away. Therefore, I can say that lessons have been quite fun, and students highly motivated, which makes me want to prepare even better lessons.

However, as I have mentioned, how do I keep my students motivated? I have read a few things on motivation in the ELT classroom, but there always seem to be the consensus of “whatever suits your students”. You can’t always please them because they need to do some things that, even if they do not like them, we know they are important and will bring good results in the future. We also need to ensure students can see their progress, even if it is in the form of “what have I learned today?” by the end of the lesson.

Anyway, I just hope they keep their motivation high and come to class with a smile on their faces because that’s what I am here for: to see them happy to learn! 🙂

Practiced describing a person

Today it was one of those days where nothing very special happens, but yet students did produce much more than they normally do in my lessons. We played a simple back to the board game where students had to describe the features of a face that was projected on the board for the others to draw. Then, we voted on who drew it more similar to the original drawing. It was a lot of fun!

Regarding language production, they did try to use L1 and they did try not to speak and use gestures instead (and take their friend’s pencil of their hands to draw it themselves). However, the sentences they could produce were appropriate and there was a lot of new vocabulary that I wrote on the board (e.g. eyebrows, lips, eyelashes, fringe, etc.).

Then, it was time for Movers exercises. I love working with Fun for Movers and the activities are very well thought of for children, the book is colorful and so on. The only thing is that students find it boring. I don’t know why – they couldn’t say specifically what made it boring – so I can only guess. Maybe the activities are done at random, sometimes they have no connection with the main course book, so it may be hard for the students to make the connection. However, I always try to do the Movers activities on Mondays, so there is at least the time difference between the usage of books. It is something I would like to investigate more with the students, to see if I can improve the way we use this course book.

Finally, for the following lesson, we are going to continue describing people. Hopefully, we will be able to finish the Unit on Thursday because I think they are tired of describing faces (if they aren’t, I am!). I plan on doing some writing production because we have had many speaking exercises, but for writing there were only grammar activities.

Made a list of what they love about their school

When we start a new year, it is always important to reflect about the school and why it is important to go there and learn things. After reviewing school subjects, telling the time and school materials, it was time to go beyond language learning and get to a deeper reflection. As I love making lists, I asked my students to list 10 reasons why they liked their school. We had a few example sentences on the board and they went home to create their sentences.

Today, I boarded one sentence from each student and they helped me correct them. Then they did some self and peer correction to go through the other sentences. So far so good, focusing on the language is always important.

However, when I sat down after the lesson to reflect on their production, I realized they only wrote about concrete things. Here are a few examples:

  • I like my school because there is a soccer field.
  • I like my school because we watch films.
  • I like my school because it has a big playground.
  • I like my school because we have got music lessons.

The language is fine for their level, they are beginners. What bothers me is the content of the sentences. because, even though they are nine years old, I believe they should be able to say more. For instance, to say that they learn things, that they can play with their friends in the big playground and that in the music lessons they listen to songs in English.

I believe there are two reasons why they failed to do what I expected. First, I did not scaffold enough and should have asked them more questions to help them think deeper. So I blame myself, of course. Second, maybe they are not able to understand why they are at school, what they are doing there. In other words, they are not conscious of their roles as citizens of the world.

I want these sentences to become a poster with the “10 reasons why I love my school” to be displayed in the hallway. If the students were excited about the project, they could even film it to put on the school’s website.

9912455-tiempo-para-volver-a-antecedentes-de-ilustracion-vectorial-de-escolares-composicion-de-fachada-de-bu

Anyway, I believe my students can do better than what they have produced. Therefore, next class I will bring their sentences back on slips of paper, and reflect on each idea. For example, what do you do at the soccer field? What kinds of things can you learn when watching a film? What games do you play in the playground? I will write their answers on the slips and leave some space for them to try to improve the sentences. There will be a few examples because they need language input.

I hope they can produce better sentences with that activity. We shall see that on Monday 🙂