If you are anything like me, I love to get my fix of reality TV shows in the UK – “Strictly Come Dine With Me”, “I’m A Celebrity” or, I hasten to add, “X Factor”. This got me thinking about a lesson plan to prepare for my Pre-Intermediate learners and I decided to share my lesson with my readers. The lesson is aimed for a good Pre-Intermediate group of older teenager or adult learners and it fits nicely with a lesson related to television viewing habits or alike. Coincidentally, we were focusing on television and there is a good reading activity in Straightforward Pre-Intermediate on Chapter 9. Anyhow, more about the lesson.
This afternoon, I was planning to teach a pair of learners (one female Brazilian and a male Spanish learner) for an hour and a half. The coursebook for this afternoon class that I decided to refer to as “Outcomes Intermediate” and decided to start a new chapter for a new week. The teacher from the previous week had got up to Unit 9, so it made sense to start on Unit 10. Chapter 10 is called “Going Out” and as you can guess is all about making plans, giving directions and talking about the previous night, so the plan for the lesson was to talk about the previous weekend with the students: what they did, where they went, etc. However, one of the students did not turn up and I was left with a learner who I had not taught only once before – the male adult learner.
When I entered the classroom, we both said hello to each other and we sat down. I started the conversation naturally by asking the learner what he had got up to over the weekend. He told me for some extended period of time that he had been to London and visit all the sights and sounds of the city. During the five minutes, I was making notes to scaffold language, improve pronunciation issues or correct any errors. For the next few minutes, we looked at some language to improve the learner’s fluency and I made some notes of popular tourist sights in London. After the discussion of the weekend, the conversation naturally turned to speaking about plans for this coming weekend. Again the learner was keen to head back to London again and I made a mental note of this, so that I could exploit this in due course.
Before the lesson, I printed out a webpage from Trip Advisor about my local area, Eastbourne, so that we could discuss this. We looked at some of the recommendations and spoke about whether the student had visited any of the attractions. Funnily enough, the learner hadn’t visited any of the attractions so, on the spot, I asked the learner to think about where he may decide to visit in the future over a weekend. He was quite keen to visit the Cuckmere River, which is between Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as Rottingdean, which is very close to Brighton. This point during the interaction led me to mention to the student that I used to visit Rottingdean every week to play at a jazz workshop and the conversation took another lead. The student then spoke about the concerts he had been to in the past and how he spent sometime in London shopping for CDs and bought various “compact discs” of “Pink Floyd” and another rock group which I forget. The conversation then went back to concerts in Madrid and other places in Spain. So, I decided to see where this conversation would lead and mentioned the best places in London to see a concert – the O2 Arena or The Royal Albert Hall. I mentioned to the learner that my very first concert I went to was in Huddlesfield to see “The Eagles”. The learner shared his experiences and we scaffolded some music related language (band leader, guitarist, etc).
Nearer the last 30 minutes of the lesson, I finally got to the coursebook and we started the unit. We looked at vocabulary related to artists, museums, and music – determine the odd one out activity – and then we looked at question and answer links. The learner managed to complete the activity. We decided to pass the discussion activity due to the extensive conversation which took place earlier so we decided to agree some homework for the week. We both jotted down some ideas and I reminded myself what the learner had mentioned nearer the start of the lesson, that he was planning to visit London this coming weekend. So, I told the learner to visit the Trip Advisor website and plan their own weekend using this site. The learner agreed and then I said, to enhance this try to write down your plans by hand or computer and then give it to me in a few days. Again the learner agreed. The learner then said that he wanted to present his “Weekend Plans” to practice his speaking activity. I said that this was a wonderful idea. We packed our things up and I finally asked the learner whether they would like to focus more on the coursebook, do much of the same today or do something different the following day. The student said that he was happy to practice speaking and was content with his grammar but would also like to focus on listening and he tried to explain a Spanish joke in English and wrote down it on the whiteboard: “I have a brick in my ear“. I am incredibly pleased the learner was keen to share some humour but I would have taught him the expression “speaking to a brick wall“, but I had no time left – something to consider for tomorrow.
It seems to me that Dogme-esque moments are more common and practical when teaching one-to-one and teachers are able to react, focus on a point or save for a later time. I found myself during the lesson noting down language, sharing experiences, grasping threads of conversation to exploit and scaffolding language on the whiteboard. It was wonderful experience and it was so nice to be able to guide the conversation where I wanted it to go. I have been thinking more and more about recording my classroom interaction with the learners to share with readers and perhaps see the moments that I am able to exploit situations so that the teaching can be guided down to another area. What do you think? Would you like to see more language teaching clips on ELT Experiences? Have you ever recorded your learners with a video recorder? Would you give me any advice?
This is a blog post for complementary material to accompany the talk given at the English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference in London on 9 November 2013. I have included a PDF of my handout, a slideshow of my presentation as well as a YouTube tutorial about using Google Drive for online research in ELT. I hope this is useful and thanks for either attending my talk or reviewing the material on this topic.
It has been a wonderful year so far at ELT Experiences with the addition of two new authors and the number of teacher interviews providing such a unique and interesting spin on English Language Teaching throughout the world. This month we have a special interview from a teacher who is based in Poland. Anthony Ash (@Ashowski) read German and Spanish at Northumbria University and graduated in the summer of 2010. He did his CELTA at IH Wroclaw. His first teaching job was in Dresden, Germany, where he worked for one year. He then worked for 2 years in Poznan, Poland, while completing his MA in English Linguistics. He is currently working as the Senior Teacher at IH Torun, Poland.
- Could you please tell our readers know how you got into English teaching.
During my school days, we were often encouraged to consider our future. I always saw myself going into teaching, namely state school teaching. I even did work experience and practicals in British state schools. However, as I reached the mid-point of my degree, I felt the time had come to take a gap year. One day, I found myself in Madrid and decided to stay but I quickly realised my money wouldn’t last forever. Suddenly, it dawned on me to offer English lessons. From there on in I was hooked…
- What advice would you give teachers who are planning to teach in Poland?
My main advice depends on why you’ve gone into teaching. If you teach because you need money while travelling, you’ll do fine in Poland. However, if you’re serious about ELT, then you have two choices. You could find an IATEFL-approved school which will encourage your continued professional development. Alternatively, you could end up at a ‘mickey-mouse’ school where the word CELTA means nothing, however, you can still continue your professional development by reflecting on your lessons, your teaching, and doing a little reading.
- Could you tell us about a lesson that didn’t work or failed with learners? What did you learn from this experience?
I’ve had many lessons or parts of lessons which haven’t worked as I expected. Although it hurts initially as you see it failing before your eyes, I must admit these situations are a blessing in disguise, as they quickly show you how to do things differently next time. For example, I once put together an activity which was designed to get my teenagers talking about their written work. I put 10 strips of paper around the room with sentences from their written work. In pairs, they were to walk around the room, write down the original and discuss how to improve it. What they actually did was walk around the room individually, write down all the originals, sit down at their seats, chose which they thought were wrong and correct them individually and then peer-check. Not at all what I wanted. Why didn’t it work? My instructions were not clear and I didn’t model the task.
- Tell us about a learner who has inspired you.
I walked into a marketing business in Poznan. It was the first day of the course. All the learners were very enthusiastic, apart from one, who approached me and said in Polish that they hadn’t even studied English before and won’t be any good in class. She made the biggest effort during the course and I stood in awe at watching her go from False beginner to Intermediate in 6 months. She was a contentious learner, forcing herself to learn outside the classroom. Her determination was simply inspiring.
- Do you have any plans for 2014?
I’ll continue working at IH Torun for the rest of the school year and then I’ll go on holiday – the plan is to tour Italy for 2 weeks with my best friend. I’ll spend most of the summer of 2014 teaching English for Academic Purposes at Newcastle University.
I would like to do the IH Young Learners Certificate in September 2014 and then go off to do DELTA Module 2 – I’ve just begun DELTA Module 1 this year. I’m not sure how I’m going to fit that into teaching but there’s a DELTA course at IH Buenos Aires I’d like to attend. Maybe 2014/2015 will see me flying off to another continent?
- How would you describe the role of the teacher and learner outside of the classroom?
Outside the classroom I don’t think there is much connection between the teacher and the learner – we’re not their friends – however, I think the teacher is someone who should be helping learners to become more independent learners outside the classroom.
- Do you feel there is more pressure these days with learners having to perform in reference to modern communicative approaches to teaching?
Absolutely! When we look back at previous methods and approaches, such as the Direct Method or the Grammar-Translation method, learners were very passive in lessons. It’s unfortunate that such methods continue to be used in the 21st century around the world. Even in Poland I have spoken to learners (quite recently) who had attended courses which were so Teacher-Centered that the learners didn’t even have to say a word in the lessons!
- What are your opinions of video in the language classroom?
I am very supportive of using technology in the classroom in general – I often use my iPad when presenting new images to my Young Learners and I sometimes let them play language games on it when they have finished early. I think video, unlike an iPad, is much more universally applicable – there isn’t a learner out there who is afraid of videos. I think it’s important when planning lessons to consider the ‘fun factor’ – learning doesn’t have to be a contentious effort, we can learn just as well (if not better) unconsciously, applying language while having fun. Videos can do precisely that – learners become engaged in the content of the video while unwittingly practising their language.
- What advice would you give to budding language teachers on the CELTA Course?
CELTA is the hard part – it’s all down hill when you finish! CELTA for me was incredibly difficult, full of long nights working on plans and assignments. Full-time teaching isn’t at all like that, it’s a pleasure and great fun.
- Finally, does a messy board equal a messy teacher?
It depends really. You could have a messy board and a well-organised teacher. Vice-versa is also possible. However, what is probably more realistic is that all teacher sometimes have messy/chaotic work and other times not – it depends on the lesson.