I worked this lesson plan twice, one with elementary school students, once with middle school students. It went fairly well with both. It brings together a lot of the things I have been reading about recently: an unplugged approach, some live reading and allowing the students to have more control over the direction of their learning. For both camps, the lessons were carried out over three mornings. The overall aim was to review three tenses, understand the story of a Christmas Carol, and write a play based on a similar story.
I enjoy teaching tenses, probably because Headway was my introduction to ESL teaching. I also feel like my confidence with languages increases when I have a grasp of at least one past, present and future aspect. With this in mind, I thought I would make the camp a tense review. I wanted to move away from too much grammar instruction though, and see if we could simply form some patterns and link them to time adverbials, without overtly stressing the concept of past, present and future, at least not at the start of the lesson.
Clearly the ESL fashion for 2010 was for Dogme teaching, and while I don't subscribe so readily to this methodology (it's difficult to have a conversation driven lesson with kids who don't really talk) I have been influenced by some of the ideas that drive it, particularly students creating their own materials. The main exercise in this lesson was to create a gap fill for another group, based on true statements about what they were/are/will be doing at each time. I encouraged them to try to use new words, either from the dictionary or by asking one or other of us teachers to translate, in the hope of producing some interesting new language. Interestingly, I found that they had trouble removing the entire verb phrase, and would leave the auxillaries in place. I hope correcting these errors helped them to understand a little more how the language structure worked.
The lesson plan for today is below, along with the video mentioned in the clip. The photo can be found here.
One of the most interesting things I've seen on a blog recently is Jason Renshaw's (at least I assume it's his) live reading concept. I think this is something that works particularly well for young learners, as they can create an understandable text for themselves, while learning a little bit of new language. It can also help them to understand the story of a more complex text - in this case A Christmas Carol (Richard Williams' animated version). We watched the video together, and I encouraged listening, with the proviso that it was extremely difficult, and the students not be disheartened. We also did some very specific listening during the video, picking out the names of the ghosts.
I came up with the questions below for a slightly edited version of the film. The middle school students produced the story to the right of the questions. I didn't do too much with the story. Just the act of creating it, and dicovering new words like fiance (the concept of which doesn't really exist in Korea) was enough. I then printed it to serve as an aide memoire for the next stage of the lesson, and had students read it out loud. The act of writing the story in simple terms was not only a lot of fun, and revised some of the grammar points from day 1, but also helped the students to work effectively with a very complex text.Reading Questions and Story
Working out Scrooge's characteristics at the start and end was fun. One middle-schooler suggested "dirty little b*st*rd". I told her that that kind of language had no place in my classroom, but "dirty old b*st*rd" was just fine. We then talked about what the ghosts showed him, how it explained his character, and how it changed his character. Then it was time to work on our own versions. We made a list of bad characteristics, once again with lots of dictionary work encouraged. My favourite egative characteristic was "dirty", so I worked through an example on the board of a boy who is punished by his parents by being made to clean out the pig sty (shown by the ghost of the past). The ghost of the present showed his worried parents, and the ghost of the future showed him turned into a pig. Finally, I set the students up to plan their own play based on a similar progression of character caused by the visits of past, present and future ghosts. The aim was by the start of day 3, to have a plan completed.
One surprise on day 3 was that one group, unprompted, had drawn a plan for their play. I thought this was a great idea, and if I did this lesson again I would probably insist on it, as it made translating a lot easier. The day was half writing, a quarter directing and a quarter acting and reviewing. The plays were a nice way of generating some new language, particularly where relationships with parents were concerned. "You'd better not..." made an appearance, along with "I wish you weren't my mother". Sometimes I wonder whether I'm an entirely responsible teacher.
The only thing left to say was the plays were a great success. I wish I could post the videos but it's against the rules. Afterwards we talked about what we liked and didn't like, and then held a mini Oscars ceremony, in which we voted for best Actor, Director, Set design, costumes etc.
All in all, a very enjoyable camp. If you want to use the idea, please feel free, but let me know how it goes, and any improvements you'd make.