It’s pretty amazing to me…

I now have one week of my new classes behind me, so I can begin to think about and evaluate how it’s going. And I have to say, I think it is going well.

I teach a beginner class in the mornings and a mixed level class in the evenings.  The beginner class is actually mostly high beginner, maybe low intermediate.  The evening class is mostly high intermediate.  I am using the same basic plan with both groups, but the resulting classes are very different.

As I said before, I am using English Banana’s You Are the Course Book idea as the basis for these classes.  It is a lot of fun.  I feel like I am really teaching, and the students comment on how quickly the time passes.

This week I began both classes doing the 6-word memoir idea that Hana wrote about, adapted for my students after my near-fiasco trying it out in my summer class.  I chose words from these to use as our vocabulary words.  I really like the fact that we spent time not only talking about the meanings of the words but also syllables and stress.  I had students use rubber bands to practice stress.  That worked so well with the beginners that they get out their rubber bands on their own to practice syllables and stress for other words that come up during class!

The next step, then, was for the students to write a story using the vocabulary words.  I had students dictate the sentences to me, and I wrote them on the board.  The two classes came up with very different stories, in part because they had different vocabulary and in part because of their different abilities and knowledge of English.  These stories served as the basis for our work the rest of the week.  We revised the stories together and, in the intermediate class, as individuals.  I took sentences from the stories to talk about sentence structure and third person singular -s.  We used them for speaking and sentence stress practice.  We wrote questions about them and then answered the questions orally.  Long before the six hours of class for the week were over, the students had memorized the story they had written as a class and could talk about it easily.

The two classes both got what they needed out of the lesson.  The lesson was at the level the students needed it to be because they, not I and not some textbook designer, wrote the materials.  I had pre-selected some grammar points I thought might come up in their stories, so I was prepared to present those points if they came up.  If something else had come up, I had time to prepare to present it, too.

Except for about 30 minutes when students were working on a listening activity on the computers, we worked with the texts the students wrote all week.  The students weren’t bored at all.  As I said, they were surprised at how quickly the time passed.  I couldn’t have been happier!

Next week we will be following up on this, but I will be using what Purland calls “Mode 2” in his You are the Course Book.  We will be using some materials from the MN Literacy Council on poetry.  Since we are describing people, I thought a couple I Am poems would be appropriate.  Because I am giving them a text, I am prepared to talk about the grammar and vocabulary.  We will still go through the stages of Purland’s lesson, and I am confident that it will work well.

I have really seen how much more engaged my students are in these classes than my summer students were.  And I think, as Purland says, it is in large part because I am more engaged. I am truly excited about going to class and seeing what my students come up with.  And that is pretty amazing!


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