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

Posts tagged ‘1-2-1’

Diary of a beginner: seventh lesson

To see the previous lessons, click here.

In today’s 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 struggles with the /3:/ sound in bird.

I then used Cuisenaire rods to elicit the forms that we did last time. This was the result for ‘I’ (without the words!):

Cuisenaire rods grammarI then held up the ‘I’ white rod and said ‘you’ and we repeated the pattern, then did the same for he/she/it. He needed to use his piece of paper to remember the forms the first time round, so we ended up doing it twice: once with the paper, once without.

Before the lesson I had laid out a set of pictures cut from magazines:

Pictures on deskI pointed at people/things in the pictures and asked a set of simple questions, along the lines of:

Is he a teacher?

Is it a dog?

designed to elicit Yes/No short answers, referring to the Cuisenaire rods if necessary. We then switched roles so that H was asking the questions. He started to experiment more with the language, adding a few colours, this/that and my/your. I haven’t done colours with him, so I checked quickly and he knows most of the basic ones except for brown, purple and grey.

I decided to build on the possessive pronouns my/your for the rest of the lesson. He wrote another table similar to last week’s one:

Possessive pronounsI know the sentence ‘It is its cup’ is a little odd, but he was happy with the pattern, so I don’t think it matters too much.

I made a quick list of all of the things we’ve covered, plus some of the extra language he brought up in the picture activity above. It looks like this at the moment:

Vocabulary

Numbers

1-20

Time

Monday-Sunday, January-December

The Alphabet

A-Z

Colours

Knows: red, blue, black, white, green, yellow, orange, pink

Added 19/6: purple, gray, brown

Jobs

Teacher, student, fireman/firewoman, actor/actress, shop assistant, singer, sportsman/sportswoman, secretary

Pronunciation 19/6: hairdresser, waiter, journalist, nurse

Added 19/6: policeman/policewoman

Things

cup, table, chair, armchair

Animals

dog, cat, mouse

Transport

bike, car, train

 

Grammar

To be

I am, You are, He/She/It is (+ – ? yes no)

Possessives

my, your, his, her, its

I’ll try to keep the list up-to-date. H was very motivated to see all of the things we’ve managed to cover so far.

His homework is to listen to recordings of the three colours he had trouble with (he asked for them with Czech too), the jobs he had trouble pronouncing and the sentences from his grid for my/your/etc.

This could be our last face-to-face lesson as I’m leaving Brno a week today. We’re planning to try out teaching via Skype, so watch this space!

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Diary of a Beginner: Sixth Lesson

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!

Diary of a beginner: Fifth Lesson

(If you’re interested, you can read about the first, second, third and fourth lessons.)

The first 45 minutes were spent revising what we’ve covered before, and I can definitely see that he is remembering things now. He’s making progress because we had time to do some writing today.

It took 5 minutes to go through my alphabet cards in a random order and say all of them, then pick them up when I said them – this is a real improvement!

I spelled the numbers and he wrote them, predicting the last couple of letters. The only one he still had trouble with was ‘twenty’, spelling it ‘twenteen’ by analogy with Czech where the ‘tens’ are counted in multiples of ten, so twenty is like ‘two tens’. I also taught him the idea of ‘double’ for the same letter twice, i.e. ‘double E’ = ‘ee’

For the days of the week I showed him the cards and he said them. I then asked him to write them all down in order. With a little prompting he remembered ‘How do you spell…?’ but had to be reminded to use it! He still struggled with Wednesday and Friday, but especially with Thursday which he has real trouble pronouncing and confuses with Tuesday (all of which I have to keep assuring him is completely normal!)

With the months, he put the cards in order, then closed his eyes while I took one or two of them away and he remembered them.

We revised the consonant sounds that we’d done previously and added the final six sounds. Unsurprisingly, he really struggled with the two pronunciations of /th/. He realised that he’d been pronouncing ‘this’ and ‘thank’ wrong, so was trying hard to correct himself.

We spent the last ten minutes of the lesson looking at ‘I am’, ‘You are’, ‘I am not’ and ‘You are not’ using New English File Beginner. First he looked at and spontaneously translated a dialogue, then listened to it. We then looked at the four phrases in the examples and thought about what they mean. There was a slight problem with the example sentence in the book because the dialogue used “You are late.” for ‘You are’. In Czech this would be translated as ‘You arrive late.’ without using ‘be’ at all. I showed him that this was the equivalent for ‘be’ and that this is the verb we use in this phrase in English.

He constantly surprises me with the amount of words he knows already, but they are still very isolated at the moment, with very little grammar to link them together. Highlighting to him that he knows this words is very important, especially when one of his final comments before leaving (in Czech, not English!) was “How will I communicate with people if I can’t speak?” I explained to him that he just needs time, that this was just the first time he had seen these things and that he needs 20+ times to really start to fix it in his head.

Diary of a beginner: Third and Fourth Lessons

The third lesson with my beginner student was two weeks ago.

We started by revising numbers and letters. I then tried to revise the days and the months, both of which I had sent him to practise after the second lesson. He hadn’t noticed them in his email, so didn’t know them at all. This really proved to me that the listening he does in his car is what makes him learn the words, as without it he was completely lost.

He had however recieved the third file I sent him, based on the 12 consonant phonetic sounds from the English File set introduced in lesson two. We spent a few minutes practising these and he remembered all of them without a problem.

After all of that we had about 25 minutes left (the lessons are one hour long). We used an information gap from the New English File Beginner Teacher’s Book, which I can’t reproduce here due to copyright laws. We each had the same 12 pictures. Under the pictures was either the word or a line. We asked each other “How do you spell…?” to complete our sheets. If he did not know a word, he asked “What is it?” first. I then recorded the words and the spellings for him to listen to at home. I also re-sent him the months and the days for homework, along with corresponding sets on quizlet (months, days).

We’ve just had our fourth lesson together. Even with a two-week break, he remembered everything really well. This is what we did:

  • Numbers: he put the flashcards in order, then closed his eyes while I removed 2-4 cards. Each time he had to say which numbers were missing. Then he said all of the numbers 1>20 and finally 20>1.
  • Alphabet: I placed the letters randomly on the table and he said them. Then I said a letter and he took it. No problems at all this week 🙂
  • Consonants: he remembered all of the words. I then got him to try to write them down as he only gets listening practice out of class. If he didn’t know how to spell the word he asked me. If he already knew it, he spelt it for me. This was good for practising spelling, and also to think about some common English sound-spelling relationships.
  • Days of the week: a year ago I was very happy to find a card game for children based on the popular book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In the card game, the players should put down the days of the week in the correct order (Monday, Tuesday…). When they have played all of the ‘days’, their caterpillar turns into a butterfly. The cards are really well illustrated, and I jumped at the chance to use them. I used two sets of ‘week’ cards (there are four in the pack). First he put one set in order, helped by the fact that each card also says “Day 1”, “Day 2” etc on it – especially useful for Tuesday/Thursday. I explained the story to him in a mixture of Czech and English, helped by the pictures on the cards. We then played pelmanism with both sets, with him saying the words as he turned over the cards. Despite the fact that the cards are designed for children, I think he appreciated their quality and understand the value of pelmanism for his pronunciation.
    For those of you not familiar with the story, here is a youtube version:

  • Months: he said the months, then wrote them down. As with the consonants above, he could ask me for difficult spellings.
  • Six more consonant phonetics: I introduced /h/, /n/, /m/, /l/, /r/ and /w/, the latter being the most difficult as this sound doesn’t exist in Czech. He also wrote these words down. Listening to this recording is his homework.

What do you think I should do in the next class? Should I revise everything at the beginning as a confidence booster? I’m planning to start introducing some of the most common question / answer pairs, but probably won’t have time to do a lot in class. Which would you say are the most important for a businessman in his 30s (i.e. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” etc)?

Read about the first and second lessons.

Emotions word clouds

I created these word clouds based on The Little Book of Feelings and Emotions which I received at a recent conference as promotional material from Oxford University Press.

I have been using them with my 1-2-1 post-Proficiency student, and we have two questions for you.

Which five-ten of these words/phrases would you be most likely to use?

Are there any which you would never use? Why not?

Thank you!

And as a bonus, I created a downloadable slideshow using the #eltpicsEmotions‘ set on Flickr…

Enjoy!

Story Prompts with #eltpics

In April 2010 I attended a talk by Laura Patsko at the IH Prague Conference about storytelling in an adult classroom. This week I finally got round to adapting it to make use of some #eltpics (pictures for teachers by teachers which can be used under a Creative Commons licence) and thought I would share the presentation and the lesson plan with you. Feel free to use it however you like. (My context was an Advanced group, but it could be used with other levels)

I showed them the first slide of the presentation and told them we were going to look at six pictures and talk about the ideas in the word cloud. I copied the cloud onto each picture so that they would have some ideas.

Once they had talked about each picture and I had given them any extra vocabulary they needed, they voted on the most interesting picture. I copied and pasted it onto the final slide, right-clicked on it and chose ‘send to back’. We were revising narrative tenses, used to and would, hence the orange box, but you could change it or delete it entirely.

I told the class to imagine that this picture was an image taken from the midpoint of a film. They were going to create the story of the film. Half of the class worked on the story leading up to the picture, the rest worked on the story after the picture. They were allowed to take a few notes, but could not write out the whole story.

After about fifteen minutes I then reorganised the groups. Each new group had one ‘beginning’ student and one ‘ending’ student. They then had to put their halves together to create one logical complete story.

The final step in the process was for each pair to tell their story to the group. I recorded it using Audacity and emailed it to the students after class. Next week we will focus on their use of narrative tenses, used to and would based on the recordings.

One-to-one variation

I also (unintentionally) taught the same lesson 1-2-1 when only one student turned up from a class of five! We followed the same process, but got through it much faster, finishing all of these steps in about 30 minutes. Once we’d recorded the story, the student then typed out what she had said. We then went through a series of drafts, each time focussing on one or two changes, for example tenses, punctuation and choice of vocabulary. This is the document we produced based on the picture of the two girls at the castle door:

What worked

  • The students found the pictures interesting and were motivated to discuss them.

  • They enjoyed being able to create their own stories.
  • They used their English in a natural way, so it recording their stories really showed the areas which they need to focus on.
  • In the 1-2-1 lesson, the student was given an intensive personalised focus on her errors. She also learned about punctuation in a relevant way, particularly the punctuation of speech (which I personally find can be difficult to teach/learn)
What I should change
  • At the beginning of the lesson I should have introduced the idea of storytelling in more detail. We could have talked about why we like stories and what a good story requires.
  • With more time we could have created more detailed stories, adding in information about the characters, using more adverbs etc.

If you choose to use this lesson (and even if you don’t!) please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions to improve it.
Enjoy!

Planning Evolution

I read Cecilia Coelho’s most recent post with interest, wondering what prompted her to begin her adventure as a blog challenger, having been a sucker for any challenge that came her way. Being just as much of a sucker myself , here is my response to What’s your plan?

Having only started full-time teaching three years ago, I actually have copies of lesson plans on my computer from virtually every lesson I’ve taught at IH Brno. I had done some summer school teaching and a year of pre-CELTA, where my planning largely consisted of opening the book for 10-15 minutes and trying to work out if I knew the grammar (my poor students!) already, but when it got serious, I decided my plans should too.

The first format that I came up with was based on the CELTA plans I’d done, as I think many fresh teachers’ plans are. This is the plan for the first ever lesson I taught in Brno:

1st plan

If you look closely you’ll see I still had an aims column on there. By the end of October, I stopped writing the aims, and a couple of weeks lately I deleted the column from the lesson plan. One thing you can see on the plan is where I’ve edited it after the lesson – this shows any changes I made, things we didn’t get through, ideas on how to improve the lesson if I teach something similar again and more.

It just so happens that this 1-2-1 student is the only one who I have taught for the entire time I’ve been in Brno, so here is a plan for the first lesson I taught with him in my second year in Brno:

2nd plan

Again, you can see where I’ve edited the plan after the lesson – this is a great way of reflecting on the lesson for me. I used highlighting in my plans when there is something I really didn’t want to forget, although this is gradually disappearing now as I settle in to my teaching and planning. Another feature is a list of notes at the bottom of the plan; these are things which have come up in discussion and could be potential themes for future lessons. I copy and paste them from plan to plan, adding and taking away from them as things are covered.

The plan from my first lesson from my third year in Brno, is essentially the same:

3rd plan

What you’ll probably notice though, is that the plans are getting shorter and shorter. This is because there are fewer and fewer reminders which I need during a lesson. The main one here is for before the lesson: something I need to remember to copy is in red.

This year I’ve made one more change to my plans: originally I would print them to take into class, but since the end of October 2010 or so, I’ve started taking my computer everywhere with me, so it seemed a bit of a waste to print plans as well. This means that I can edit lesson plans as they are happening – it’s easy enough to move lines up or down as I decide to change something. It also means that anything unfinished can be copied to the following week. (Of course, I only do this when the students are busy and don’t need my help – the rapport is good enough that they know they can call on me whenever they need me).

This is my latest plan, from  last Monday’s lesson:

4th plan

The biggest thing here is the amount of empty space – I’ve become more and more comfortable with the lesson taking the course required by the student, rather than imposing my own will on it. This is especially true in this class, where I’ve got to know the learner very well.

The one thing that has remained constant throughout all of my planning is the materials column. This is the most important part of any plan for me – I can check it just before the lesson and make sure I have everything I need quickly and easily. I also copy and paste file names of specific worksheets I’ve made in there, so that I can just search for something on my computer and all of the lesson plans featuring that sheet / activity appear so I can see how I’ve used it in the past. This works in reverse too: for example, if I think “I had a great activity for second conditional, but I don’t know what I called it”, I can search for “second conditional” on my computer, and see which lesson plans come up. I was very careful right from the start to give every file as clear a name as possible, and thus far it seems to be working!

Many of my colleagues would ask me if I was being observed when they first saw me planning like this, but they have gradually become used to it. I type much faster than I write (although I still write often), so plans don’t take long to produce. I have a database of all of the lessons I’ve ever taught, ready at hand on my computer whenever I need / want to consult it, and as soon as I see a plan, I can almost always remember exactly what happened in the lesson when I taught it. Best of all, I don’t have reams of paper all over the place.

So, these are my plans. Thank you to Cecilia for prompting me to write this post!

Enjoy!

One little email

I came into school at 7:15 this morning, having woken up an hour before my alarm at 5:15. I wasn’t in the best of moods, and although I knew I would be fine once I was in the classroom, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to my longest teaching day of the week.

Then, I checked my email, and found this message:

Hi Sandy,

You are a best super special teacher! You are stir to me learning!  (I thing that is bad order, but, you are teacher I understand my English attempt.)

Today I was a proudly to your teachers achievements. Your pupil (I) had today meeting with European RND (detail network development). This gentleman are British, and spoke nice British English. Wonderful! I spoke more than one hour, and he underwood me. I underwood too, but 50 – 70%, not all.

Again, you are a good teacher and I bad pupil, but but but….. I am in progress.

Many thanks

(if I read this, I thing, we‘ll must training writing, Word order, tenses, spelling, atd………………………

Regards,

K

I went into class with a huge smile on my face 🙂

K was the first person I ever taught in Brno, and I have now taught him once a week since September 2007. He’s a businessman in his early fifties who owns a car showroom. When I first started teaching him, I was newly-qualified and often felt like tearing my hair out. I regularly got very frustrated (after class, not in it!) and felt like we really weren’t making any progress. He had been studying for two years, and had managed to get through one and a half books without really remembering any of the grammar.

It took a lot of learner training to get him to the stage where he would do an exercise without looking at me for approval after every question. It took at least four months to persuade him to open his book between classes, much less do homework. By the end of the first year, after revising the first half of the book, we’d managed to get through 2 more units, and I’d just about got used to teaching him.

Since then, I’ve started to really look forward to my lessons with K. We chat about all kinds of things, and he now works really hard. He’s just started an Intermediate-level book, and the amount of progress I’ve seen over the last 2.5 years has been amazing. He often calls me a ‘brutal’ teacher, but always in a jokey way. Knowing what kind of activities he enjoys and hates means my plans have become much more suited to his style and the amount of laughter has increased exponentially.

Feedback like this really encapsulates why I love my job. Thank you K!

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