This week I had my first lessons with students for this academic year.
On Monday and Wednesday I was the cover teacher the first two lessons of a fully online course. There were 5 students, all A2.1 teens, one of whom I taught in the level below last year.
They were very quiet in the first lesson, but came out of their shells more in the second. I think it might take longer for a fully online group to bond than one which has previously met in a classroom.
One activity which worked nicely was an email with some words displayed only as first letters e.g. I’ve g a b. I like g t t forest. Students worked together to figure out what the full email said. They then wrote a similar email to me for homework, introducing themselves. I sent them the text and the homework instructions after the lesson. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever had 100% success with teen writing homework!
On Thursday I met my own group for the first time. I have four beginner teens, two of whom I met last year when covering the group before their teacher arrived. They found things challenging and the move online didn’t help, so they’re repeating the year with the same book. Part of my challenge this year will be to keep them engaged with material they’ve seen before but didn’t fully understand, and balance that for the two students who are new to the level, one of whom was very shy and needed a lot of encouragement to participate.
We’ll have odd-numbered classes in the socially distanced classroom for as long as possible, and even-numbered classes online.
With only four students it was a bit of a challenge to vary interaction patterns, especially in a typical first beginner lesson where you focus on greetings and asking for memes. One dialogue which worked in a really fun way was:
No, no, no, my name isn’t Fred. It’s Bob.
This also already introduced isn’t ready for later lessons.
We also worked on What’s his/ her name? including students sharing pictures from their phones.
The other group I taught was our Polish beginners class for teachers. We’d decided to run it online to demonstrate various techniques and give the teachers a student perspective on online lessons. Normally in the first lesson I’d focus on names and How are you?, but this time I worked on greetings, ways of saying goodbye, and a couple of other useful bits of functional language. I also highlighted various spelling/pronunciation features.
A chain drill that worked well was gradually introducing two-line dialogues through the lesson, then asking one person to say the first line of any dialogue and choose who should respond, e.g.
Bob, dzień dobry.
Dzień dobry. / Przepraszam, Fred.
Nic nie szkodzi. / Do widzenia, Jim.
(Yes, it was an all-male group – my first I think. No, these aren’t their names!) I did intensive correction, and I suspect that the group won’t forget those phrases for a while! There’s a Quizlet set for homework if they need it.
Overall it was great to be back in a physical classroom with real people in front of me, but I enjoyed the online lessons just as much.