Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Last weekend, H and I had our sixth lesson. He led this lesson, starting off with a little card he’d written with 5 sentences on it:

  • I am a teacher.
  • You are a student.
  • He is an actor.
  • She is an actress.
  • It is a dog.

Because he’d had so much trouble in the previous lesson with the idea of ‘I am’, ‘You are’, ‘I am not’, ‘You are not’ and the question forms, I decided we would write out these sentences in the different forms. These were the results:

Positive and negative forms (I, you, he, she, it + be)Question and short forms (I, you, he, she, it + be)As you can see, we did various things to highlight forms. The arrow shows that ‘not’ is how we make a very negative’ – in Czech ‘ne’ is used to say ‘no’ and is added to a verb to make it negative. I used an orange pen to show how the apostrophe in a contraction replaces missing letters. I also drew a line under the phrases to show how the contractions correspond to the longer versions.

This was a real lesson in how to teach beginners for me – there are so many things we take for granted with our students, and we ended up having a lot of discussions in Czech to help H understand various concepts – I dread to think how he would have felt if we couldn’t have done this. I know native speakers who don’t speak the learners L1 can teach beginners, but I can see how much easier it is using a mix of both languages. For example, even the concept of different word order for a statement and a question was very difficult for H to grasp, since in Czech this doesn’t change.

Other problems with L1 became apparent here too: there are no articles in Czech, so he couldn’t understand why he needed one in English even though his original sentences had them already. In the end I showed him the contents page of New English File Beginner and told him not to worry about them – they would be covered in unit 2A and we’re in 1B. The existence of contractions is another thing which Czech lacks – all words are equally stressed, so he found it hard to see why there might be more than one form of these phrases.

The last problem with L1 interference was with ‘dog’ – in Czech ‘pes’ is a masculine noun as it ends in a consonant. Therefore it is always replaced by the subject ‘he’. I extended the idea to ‘It is a bag’/’It is a table’ etc to show other ways to use ‘it’, but H decided to keep his original example sentence.

All of these discussions just from five ‘simple’ sentences!

Once we’d created these tables, we practised the I/you forms using the grammar bank activities in NEF Beginner. Here again we had a couple of problems. Although the two-line dialogues were accompanied by pictures, it wasn’t always clear who was speaking. In the end, we labelled the people in the pictures as A and B to make it a bit easier. H also can’t understand why we say ‘You ARE late’ instead of ‘You ARRIVE late’ like in Czech. I said to him that I can’t understand why they say ‘You ARRIVE late’ and pointed out that that’s why you have to learn other languages 😉 I recorded the conversations so that H could listen to them at home.

After all of that, we only had five minutes left, so I decided to introduce the five long vowel sounds from the English File pronunciation chart. I also gave him these to listen to at home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t rush him with all of these sounds, but we only have three more weeks in which to have lessons, so he asked me to try to do all of them before I leave.

In the end, it was a very educational lesson for both of us!

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Comments on: "Diary of a Beginner: Sixth Lesson" (6)

  1. Must be a real challenge teaching a complete beginner! I don’t envy you. I think L1 does help, especially to explain certain intricacies of the language. Whether we like it or not, a learner will always fall back on his L1 to help him understand. So, what will he do when you leave?

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    • We’re thinking about experimenting with Skype – I’ve never taught online and we’re not sure how payment would work yet. If it doesn’t work then the teacher whose flat I live in now is returning in August, so she will take over.
      I’m really enjoying the challenge, especially because my lowest-level students this year are intermediate, and most are advanced. I enjoy the variety!

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  2. Hi, I agree with you on using both langages especially when explaining grammer!

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  3. Brilliant!!! I like the way you narrate and illustrate all your “hard” work!! I use to teach one-to-one lessons and must say it’s very hard indeed, especially when dealing with complete beginners.

    I’d like to know if you’re carrying out any type of assessment with him; what kind of progress have you both recorded if any?

    Cheers Sandy!!

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    • Hi Dara,
      Thanks for the comments 😉 I haven’t done any assessment with him at all – I think it’s too early for that yet, but I might consider it later. It depends on how easy it is to continue the classes once I get back to the UK.
      Watch this space…
      Sandy

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  4. […] lesson we started off with a quick revision of the long vowel sounds covered at the end of the last lesson because H said he hadn’t listened to them at all. He remembered almost all of them, but […]

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