One of the best things about staying with the same company and at the same campus, is the possibility of teaching the same lesson to different students, thereby cutting out a lot of planning time. Such is the case this Sunday, when I shall re-teach a lesson I previously planned in March.
However, this is will be my last class with this group; I have a new work schedule and my manager has kindly, not to say humanely, insisted that I have at least ONE day free. She also brings me tea when I am ill (a constant threat in Vietnam where the weather switches from unbearable hot to torrential tempests … and back again. Furthermore, the corridors can be over 30 degrees, while the classrooms are cold enough to store ice cream. I tell the powers that be to turn UP the room temperature (the students also sit there shivering or wearing jackets) to 28 … I tell them every lesson … every lesson … to quote Kurt Cobain, “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”
But now, without further ado, the lesson plan. Let’s kick off with:
What can you see ? This tests the ability to form a basic “I can see a …..” sentence.
Next up, ‘When the band comes marching in ‘, a kinetic exercise and also a way to introduce new vocabulary; here it will be musical instruments:
We can use this for musical statues. The class size is very large, (20 students) the space limited, but the march tone will suit the limitations.
Moving on, back to seats, and I will teach them ‘I spy’
I look around the room and see something that they have learnt in a previous lesson (such as classroom accessories or animals), and say, “I spy, with my little eye … something beginning with …. ‘c’ “
The students then have to think of all the vocabulary they know (at this stage, somewhat limited), so the words will be ‘chair’, ‘table’, ‘pen’, ‘book’, ‘bag’, ‘teacher’, ‘student,’ and then pictures of animals that have been previously taped around the room.
Leading on from that, and time for more movement (or madness depending on your point of view), a flash card hunt. I will have various pictures of creatures taped to the wall, behind desks, under chairs … then ask, “What has eight legs … ?” then, “Six legs, four legs and a shell, four green legs and jumps ?” In twos, the students have to find said card.
Then it’s Grammar time. I drill and conjugate the verb ‘to have’
First I practice with my TA, then select some of the top students to model. They will be given a flash card and say, for example:
I have a cat
You have a dog
He has a frog
She has a spider
They have a monkey
We have a card.
By giving cards to groups of six, all the students can participate at once.
Some students can come to the front and hold their cards. I will ask, “What does he have ?” and expect the answer in a sentence, “He has a ….” and not just shouting out the single-word noun.
Moving on up, it’s time for the a /an distinction. I’ll simply board the vowels and elicit words that begin with each one. Then I’ll show the grammar, ‘It is a cat, it is an elephant.’ I’ll board ten or so words and the class must shout out whether the article is ‘a’ or ‘an’ AND say the answer as a full sentence.
Next up, a quick writing game. In small groups, the students have to write words that they have recently learnt. These will be:
bike / kite / rope / ant / bear / frog / spider / turtle
Finally, a chance to boost their use of adjectives. I’ll ask for them to describe animals, miming to help them, until we have basic words such as ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’ and then introduce some more: ‘tiny’, ‘scary’ and ‘massive’. They have to write down the new words in their notebooks.
I will then ask them to describe an ant, an elephant, a spider, a cheetah
Furthermore, I want them to start using the common adverb ‘very’ – a spider is very small and very scary !
We then have our school’s spelling contest, student book work, workbooks and worksheets for the quick-finishers.
And then … lesson over and I say goodbye to this class. They can be VERY noisy … but also a lot of fun.
This is the plan for my early morning class on Saturday. To set the scene, there are about 19 students, aged around 7 or 8. It’s a standard classroom; chairs with built-in desktops, and there’s not a lot of space for movement or activities. The students, therefore, are mostly confined to their seats for the two-hour session, not conducive to a productive lesson. Add to that loud students, slow students and the (seemingly obligatory) special-needs student(s), and we have a potential catastrophe … but there are ways to mitigate these issues …
Firstly, the assignment of a class captain. I choose the loudest, toughest boy and he becomes proxy teacher. Usually, they love the responsibility, while I’ve turned a problem into an asset.
Secondly, the ‘montage of attractions’, lots of different but related activities to prevent boredom as well as promoting as much participation as possible. To this end, I try to vary the lesson plan (the first hour is activities, the second, devoted to book work where I can also check students individually).
Thirdly, I really want to break the teacher – student dynamic; I want the students talking to each other in English. Sometimes I have the top students act as teacher, ‘Thay’, and address the class, but today I want everyone speaking to their partner in English. To do this, I’ve prepared a short series of questions they have to ask and answer. But first, a review about ‘what can you see ?’ and prepositions.
I’ll show this landscape and then attach various animal flashcards, asking ‘Can you see a frog ? Where is it ?’ and so on …
Now for the speaking interaction: with all speaking exercises, it’s good to model first. The questions I’ve chosen represent language they have already learnt and should be able to use. I’ll show the following questions, then drill an appropriate reply:
To prepare, I just need to stick some flashcards around the room (food, animals).
Can you see a tiger ? IF there is a tiger picture the answer is Yes, I can, if there is no picture then No, I can’t.
Do you like pizza ? / Yes, I do or No, I don’t.
What are these ? (showing flash card of toes) These are my toes.
How many marbles are there ? (showing picture of marbles) There are seven marbles.
How old are you ? / I’m …..
What can an elephant do ? An elephant can walk and swim and run.
I will then hand out a short questionnaire and, with the invaluable aid of my TA, monitor the class, making note of those who will not or are not taking part. The questions will be:
Can you see a zebra ?
Do you like cake ?
How many puzzles are there ?
How old are you ?
What can a bear do ?
When the first partner has finished, the second will have these questions:
Can you see an ant ?
Do you like rice ?
How old are you ?
How many games are there ?
What can a zebra do ?
The next activity is a ‘run ‘n’ write’. The class is split into teams and have to run to the board and write a word that has appeared in a previous lesson:
When the band… This could be used as a background to a musical statues game, but the names of the instruments will be highlighted. They then have to identify them:
Again, Thay Student time: a top student will ask the class:
Can you play …. trumpet ? … piano ? … guitar ?
Now a miming game. I will tell a student an instrument, and they will mime playing it. The opposite team has to guess, getting points for correct answers. Any kind of game or competition can really raise energy and motivation levels.
I want to move the lesson closer towards today’s subject (science, specifically parts of the body), so will select six students, giving each a flashcard from last week’s class. Very quickly, they will show their card to the class. Then I will ask ask which student has which card, but using the verb ‘to have’, i.e. “He has toe”, “She has arm.”
Finally, and if time allows because this already could be too long (no problem with that … a plan should be overlong in case any activity falls flat and a Plan B, C & D is needed), more ‘Thay Students’. They will review questions from last week, namely:
What are these ? These are my arms
What are these ? These are my toes
What are these ? These are my fingers
But, to stop them getting too complacent, some good old British irregularities:
I’m getting a head start on my weekend class planning, and here’s the projected plan for my early morning class of nineteen young learners (13th April). It’s a mixed bag; I have some ideal students, some good but hyper-active students, some ultra-shy students, some recalcitrant students, some who are learning nothing, some who want to learn nothing, and some special-needs students. Thankfully my TA is amazing, but we both end up with vocal chords ripped to shreds, and questioning the meaning of life, or at least the meaning of doing this job. And after, we have two other classes.
One technique is to use one student as class captain, usually the meanest and noisiest. The responsibility can make that student an asset in the un-winable war on noise. I also have recourse to employ John Bercow, Speaker of the House in the UK Parliament for assistance:
And so, without further ado, the plan (and the best laid plans of mice and men …)
In small teams, the students have to write the name of an animal that can fly, one that can swim, then jump, then hiss. This will help review names of animals and give writing and spelling practice.
For this, we pass out small, wipeable boards and marker pens. We also make sure that a different team member writes each time. I know some students will NOT participate, so I will make a note of their names and pass the information onto to Student Support.
Following this, I want to see if the students can use the prepositions ‘on, in, under’. We have 14 flashcards of animals. I’ll ask one student per team to put a flashcard in a certain place e.g. ‘Put the elephant on the board’, or ‘Put the turtle in the bag.’
After I have given one or two instructions, I’ll use the best students to act as ‘thay’ and they can continue giving instructions.
I also want to revise ‘Do you like ?’ and the response, ‘Yes, I do’, or ‘No, I don’t.’ In pairs, the students can ask each other this question, relating to various flashcards that I hand them. Again, I’m sure some students will refuse to open their mouths, and again, their names will be taken. Hopefully, once the parents are informed, the students will start to work in the class.
Next it’s back to old-school grammar drill, and we’re still on the verb ‘to have’. I’ll choose four students and hand them an animal flashcard. I shall model first:
I have a tiger, you have a monkey, he has a turtle, she has a lion.
The students repeat the pattern, while the cards get changed. This helps them learn animal names and the subject-verb agreement.
Finally, before the book work, a chance to practice ‘Can you see .. ?’
I shall model one question: Can you see the rhino ? Where is it ?
After, the students can come up and ask. I’m looking for the students to answer in sentences with correct prepositions.
Then we hit the books and do a project. Fast-finishers can do a work sheet learning new vocabulary and doing a word search. This gives me a chance to hear as many of the students as possible read a few lines from their work books and assess how they are improving, or otherwise.
This weekend, I have a break until 13.00 … and no doubt I shall need it.
These are the notes for my new Level 1 class, early Saturday morning (16th March)
For this lesson, I’d like to try something ‘new’, an idea to really drill grammar at an early age so that it, hopefully, sticks and stays with the students. So first, the lesson objectives:
Theme: parks and nature vocabulary.
What can you see ? I see a flower (singular) I see flowers (plural)
Grammar: the verb ‘to have’
Warm up: Students normally arrive up to fifteen minutes late, so the first ten minutes of a lesson are spent on simple activities that will not be affected by the constant interruptions. At this level, two easy games are ‘Teacher says’ and ‘Musical Statues’.
Class rules: This is my first time with these students, and I need to make a balance between a happy learning environment and a controlled working classroom. Easier said than done ! My experience in Vietnam tells me that this is a long-term goal. That notwithstanding, some basic rules, which the students will hear and repeat are:
Listen to teacher and to others when they speak
Raise your hand if you want to speak, leave the room, drink water
Sit nicely in your chair
Revision games: After the rules, I’ll do some games with the purpose of reinforcing vocabulary from previous lessons. They have learnt some food words, and to say ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like.’ I’ll put some flash cards of food around the room, ask for two students, then make them search for a certain card e.g.
“Where is … chicken ?”
They must find the card, then bring it to me, saying:
“Here you are,” to which I reply, “Thank you.”
One activity I like is to make the students ask each other questions in English. Thus, a student can hold up a card and ask, “What is it ?” (Normally the students, who shout their sweet little heads off in Vietnamese, can only manage a hint of a whisper in English). The answer has to be in the form of “It’s a …” and not just the single noun word shouted out, so “It’s a fish,” and not just “Fish !”
The students have to place the card on the whiteboard in one of two columns, either ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it,’ then say it out loud. As you can see, making the students speak in English as much as possible is the aim.
I then need to asses their command of the alphabet. I expect that most will not be able to recite the whole ABC, so we’ll have a run and write game. Depending on the class size, I’ll have two or three teams running to the board and writing a different letter. For example Team one will write ‘A’, Team two ‘B’, Team three ‘C’, then Team one write ‘D’ and so on. this should be a fast game, and every member of the class will have to take part at least once. And then, onto grammar.
Over the decades, English teaching has moved away from grammar-based learning (conjugating verbs ad nauseam) to minimal grammar and more speaking. I’ve noticed that so many students, even after studying for years, STILL make basic mistakes with grammar. Therefore, I’m going old school:
With the TAs help, I’ll drill the verb ‘to have’:
I have you have he has she has we have they have
Tôi có / bạn có / anh ấy có / Cô bé có / chúng ta có / họ có
The verb ‘to have’ is one of the most useful, and after the drilling, we will put it into practice. The class have learnt (and hopefully remembered) some classroom items (ruler, pen, pencil, etc). I’ll give cards to some students and they must say, “I have a ruler, you have a pen.” After, I’ll ask some students to the front. They will hold cards and I will ask, “What does he have ?” and I will drill and repeat until the class is comfortable with “He has a …’ or ‘She has a ….”
The TA here will need to translate the verb ‘does’ as they may not have learnt it. However, by repeating the verb in a short simple question, they should acquire the meaning.
Then onto the book work. There are six words to learn:
flower, tree, rock, river, lake and hill.
After the students have seen the flash cards and repeated them, we need to see if they can name them correctly. After the drilling, a kinetic activity is a good idea, to get them up from their chairs and be lively. Team games are always good. Here, I can board the six flash cards and students have to throw a sticky ball and try to hit the picture. To make it more of a learning experience, the opposing team has to say what picture to hit. Thus, the students are speaking to each other, repeating the key vocabulary and acquiring new verbs (throw, aim) and expressions (well done, bad luck, excellent).
Now it’s the lesson and some culture. Our theme is ‘The Park’ and here is a very famous painting:
We can use this to illustrate plurals. In the painting there are two dogs. I will then stress the key question in this lesson:
What can you see ?
I see a monkey. I see dogs or even I see two dogs. How many boats, how many umbrellas, how many trees, how many lakes ?
And then, as in days of yore, back to grammar and conjugating the verb ‘to have’.
This could be seen as old-fashioned, will probably be seen as boring but, if it works, if students automatically say the correct verb, it will be worth it. We shall see.