Well, in my eagerness to get the project rolling, I made a seriously rookie mistake: I scheduled a class at the start of Easter week. If you’ve ever taught in Costa Rica, you’ll know not to ever expect students during big football matches or Catholic holidays (even if students promise they’re coming). Still, four people did show up, so it could have been worse…
Not surprisingly, we started class with a discussion of the lack of attendance, Easter plans, and Costa Ricans’ aversion to ever saying no. Some useful phrases came up including have to do sth, and be able to do sth.
At the end of last lesson students had created vocab cards from the lexis that had emerged. We used these cards today to play back-to-the-board. As new students, the learners had never played the game and thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully it wasn’t just the game-like element, but also the fact that we were using their own created materials and recycling language from last week (I can hope, can’t I?)
Last week to help with our research, learners had completed questionnaires about previous learning experiences. This class we had one more questionnaire to help us out, this time about motivations and preferences. As a lead-in I set up a ranking speaking activity; to start, the students each wrote down the three most common reasons that Costa Ricans learn English. Then together they had to discuss and try to narrow their combined lists down to three. A lot of negotiation and justifying ensued with very little prompting – music to my ears.
After looking at some lexis that came up, the learners completed their questionnaires individually and compared their answers as a group. Some common points that came up included the importance of being able to use their English outside of the classroom, the need to be confident and not be shy when speaking, and the naturalness of making errors as part of the learning process. I couldn’t agree more!
Last class one learner had said that he would like it if I could bring in articles on current events to discuss. While I would prefer that the students bring their own articles, for this first time I thought I would do it, just to get the ball rolling.
By this point we had four learners, so in pairs they answered some simple discussion questions about their reading habits and then gave feedback to the class about their partners.
Nothing fancy but all that was needed it seemed.
Next I showed them the Tico Times I had brought with me (the national English language newspaper) and had them predict possible stories for the day. Then I gave out half the paper to each pair and they had to check their predictions.
Following on from this, each pair chose the article they found most interesting and gave a report to the class. The rest of the students then asked ‘the experts’ more specific questions.
Emergent language – ed / ing adjectives
By this point I had a wealth of notes as well as a lot of useful lexis on the board. However, we only had about 30min left so I decided not to delve into any language point that I thought would take too long to deal with effectively. Instead I chose to look at adjective pairs like bored and boring which the learners had been confusing throughout the lesson.
To be honest, I had no great ideas for how to present the language so I just wrote up the learners’ sentences with blanks and added a couple of my own creation (to expand range as well as deal with accuracy). Then I elicited the first pair, interesting/interested, and went through the usual CCQ’s, drilling, etc. Then the learners went through the other sentences and came up with…
*new words I added
Then to add a little practice, in pairs the learners wrote short summaries of their articles, trying to include at least three of the new adjectives. Finally, to finish off, the summaries were read out and we did a bit of delayed feedback.
We also set up a rota so that a different student each week will bring in an article to discuss with the class. I’m not sure yet exactly how this will work, but I do have a week to think about it and to get ideas from my peers/PLN.
Apart from the obvious attendance issue, I was generally pleased with how everything went, especially the skills work and mini task cycle involving the newspaper. I also liked that the lessons already have a bit of structure including recycling at the start and students bringing in texts. Without a coursebook or syllabus I find this helps me (and maybe the students too?)
Where the lesson could have been better I feel was in the presentation and practice of the language focus. How could I have made the practice more challenging and student-centred, especially the controlled element? Will I run out of practice ideas a few weeks into the course? A bit of reflection coming up methinks…