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You may have noticed that these blog entries are a bit out of order at times. The reason for this is that Ben is simply far more organised than I am and writes his much more quickly than I do (like, it’s not even close..). Anyway, here follows a brief summary of class 8, which ended up focusing on being made redundant and third conditionals.

All aboard the train to Belén

We started the class with the groups briefly summarising the article they’d done in class 7 about a newly inaugurated commuter train service here in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. This was to ensure some continuity between the classes, recycle related lexis, further exploit the text, help me learn more about what had been discussed in class 7 and as a means of searching for potential emergent language. The exercise went as follows

  • Tell your partner all you can remember about the article
  • Read quickly and check
  • Discuss differences/things they’d forgotten with partner
  • Put article away and make very brief notes to summarise
  • Pairs decide who will say what
  • Present summary of article to me and other groups
  • Class discussion of differences, etc.

This was quite an enjoyable exercise and the groups found the summarising part a real challenge, which they all managed very well I have to say. It reminded me of the prepare and report stages of the TBL cycle, but alas I didn’t see much language or range issues to focus the class on. And so on we went.

My dog(me) ate it, honest!

The above led to a discussion of a recent problem the Costa Rican president’s husband had when he was stopped by traffic police without a licence.  From this, the class had a laugh about the farcical nature of this story and then told me that the first man’s (that term exists, right?) excuse was that he’s forgotten his licence. They then started talking about how stupid his excuse was and what excuses they’d have made. I noticed a distinct lack of any unreal conditionals here and, when used, errors such as using the so-called 2nd conditional where the 3rd would’ve been correct and form errors such as “I would making…”. Some language had emerged.

In groups, I asked them to prepare a list of excuses that the first man would have been better using. This they did and then we used some of these to move into a presentation stage, starting with the 3rd and then comparing it with the second. Their excuses were quite good fun, along the lines of “my dog ate it”, “a bird flew in and stole it” and other more Costa Rican examples such as “offer 10,000 Colones to the police”. The sentences we got for the presentation were along the lines of

  • If I had been in the car, I’d have said a bird flew in an stole my licence
  • If I had been driving without a licence, I’d have given the police 10,000 Colones
  • I’d have said that my dog ate the licence (if I had been in his position)

I present these quite lexically, drawing attention to patterns and highlighting just the past participle really. We also marked stress, drilled the sentences focusing on connected speech and of course I kept checking meaning throughout.

To practice this, they then had to go back to all their excuses (they had about 6 each) and write a sentence about each one using the new grammar and focusing on accuracy. These were then compared and discussed and relevant areas clarified/expanded upon.

But then, I lost my job

The lesson had a sort of hiatus at this point when one of the group asked me about my former place of work. Just that very day, I had accepted a job in IH Dubai, where I will be going in a few weeks. This is because the school here is closing and the group was naturally quite interested in this, with the school being really quite famous in San José. They wanted to know what was going on, what I was doing, etc, and this led to quite an interesting discussion about being made redundant, losing your job and potential problems.

In order to bring this back round to where I was going with the grammar practice, I asked the group to imagine they were me when I’d found out at a meeting 2 days previous that I was being made redundant. I elicited some sentence stems along the lines of

  • If I’d been at the meeting…
  • If I’d just lost my job…
  • If I had been going to classes at X…

We ended up with about 8 sentence stems, which the class completed individually before comparing with a partner and discussing/justifying each one. We got some favourites out to the board and discussed these as a group, highlighting interesting lexis/collocations and going over changing the order of the clauses.

How was it for you?

For me, the most interesting aspect of this class was the way the topic changed so abruptly right in the middle of a practice of the emergent language. This happened because the group was genuinely interested in what was happening in my life and wanted to know more. However, rather than this being detrimental to the flow of the class, it actually turned out to be advantageous as it gave me another opportunity for a practice activity with a different focus, using the new topic. Losing your job is something nobody wants to experience and everyone can relate to it, meaning (I hope!) that the sentences we got at the end of the class were all the more memorable. I’ll find out today in class 12, when we recycle this…