Talked about places in town

After the lesson where my students learned about London, it was time to expand their vocabulary on places in town. They already knew many items, so I decided to try a mind-mapping system with them. This was the result of the brainstorming phase:

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Mind map – Places in town (I wish I had a bigger whiteboard 🙂

They had some time to copy the mind map on their notebooks. As there were some fast-finishers I asked them to do some spelling practice, which is something they are used to doing whenever there is a vocabulary lesson. Then, they talked about their town, by using the structure “there + be”, which I had introduced in the past lesson. It wasn’t even a proper task, as I prefer to set a clear goal (e.g. comparing two towns, making a list of things there are in their town and they wish they had, and so on). Even though they tried to use “have” instead of “there + be”, I could correct them on the spot and they came up with nice sentences. We will need to further practice the structures in order to consolidate the language, though.

In a perfect world, where students would take 10 minutes to copy a mind map – instead of half and hour! – I would ask them to get in pairs and write sentences about their town and compare to another town (maybe London or somewhere they like) and share with the whole class. I would have them try to improve their friend’s sentences – this groups is really cooperative, so they would enjoy doing this.

We still have a few lessons in this unit and there are many projects coming up – something related to fish, and I know nothing about fish!

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Talking about the blog a little… Last month I was very excited to write about my lessons, but in April we had so many holidays and I had to teach so many “boring” lessons that the rhythm wasn’t as I intended. I hope in May I can stick to the schedule. I’m planning on changing things, like how I talk about my lessons, doing a more straightforward kind of posts. Let’s see how it goes. Happy Labor day!

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Wrote about their favourite books

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Today we continued our project that we started in the previous lesson. I wanted my students to write about their favourite books, focusing on the description of a character. I was quite happy with the results.

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I decided to follow a Process Writing approach with elements of Product Writing because they had a model to follow. Here it is step by step and a picture of the board with the:

  • Students had the information they needed for the text (title, author, type of book, favourite character, description);
  • I wrote a model of my text on the board, by eliciting student’s suggestions on how to phrase the information;
  • Students wrote a draft of their texts on their notebooks and gave me to correct;
  • Students wrote the final version of the project (posters) and drew their favourite character.
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I am quite proud of my board skills in this one 🙂

It was a very simple approach that required little preparation on my part. It wasn’t very open for students to produce ‘new language’, though. They had quite a fixed model to follow, but some of them did try to include some plot details, like the one who wrote about the adventures of Tin Tin, who asked me how to say ‘ the captain was a drunk’ (haha!). However, to me, they needed just to be aware of how to write about the basic details of a book and to make the connection with what we have been focusing on by describing the character. And this objective was met by all of them.

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Played Guess Who? in English

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It was time to begin a new Unit of the course book, which involves teaching students to describe people’s appearances focusing on the head (hair features, facial features, etc.).

I decided to do so through a task-based approach because I was quite sure my students had already been introduced at least to the parts of the body. First of all, I drew some faces on the board while they were getting settled for the lesson, which made them very interested in making their comments about the faces, so I asked them to do so in English.

Then, I elicited and boarded the vocabulary they were supposed to know, such as:

  • hair: long, short, curly, wavy, straight, blonde, dark, red, etc.
  • parts of the face
  • other facial features: beard, mustache, glasses, ponytail, hat, bald, etc.

Finally, I told them they were going to play Guess Who? but in English. They were very excited, but they needed to know the language for that. Therefore, I had to ask them how they play the game in L1 and how to “translate” that to L2. They gave me more or less the grammar they needed, though I had to polish it a little and drill:

  • Has he/she got _____ (hair)?
  • Is he/she wearing _____?

This is what my whiteboard looked like after all the input:

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(If there is something I learned during the Delta was that we need to always improve our board skills. Is there a board course we can do somewhere?)

They played it in small groups and used the language, even though there were some mistakes, such as:

  • Not doing the inversion for questions (She has got brown hair?)
  • Saying “Has he got bald?”

After that, we had to use the course book to do some grammar and writing exercises. I must confess it is a little bit frustrating not having enough time to work on error correction and really use what they have produced in order to teach them. We have a syllabus to cover and, unfortunately, there is still the culture that if there isn’t a course book to follow, then the school is not “serious” or “trustworthy”.

In an ideal scenario, I would have them draw a picture of a friend or family member and write a short text describing him/her to present and display in the classroom. They could also create their own Guess Who? game using cardboard to play with during the break. I would also take them to the library to get a book, read it and then describe their favourite characters, and we could even extend the language to personality adjectives, abilities and expand their language in a much more meaningful and memorable way.

However, the reality is that next week we’ve got revision, tests and more exercises to do, but nothing can stop me from squeezing in something different for the sake of my students’ learning.