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!

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.

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.

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.

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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 🙂