Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Worn Out

by AJ

Id forgotten how much energy it takes to teach a beginners class. Ive grown lazy with my Thammasat students... who usually understand well if I slow down and explain only the most difficult vocabulary.

But today I taught an outside adults class.. for beginners. I taught two three hour classes back to back and I am worn out! Damn.....

Of course, Im not content to sit there and read out of a damn textbook. Instead, I used TPRS (TPR Storytelling).... the "language point" (how I detest that phrase) today was supposed to be giving directions. So I first ran through the basics with drawings and TPR... ie. "Turn left. Turn right. Go straight. Intersection. etc. etc. "

Once the students understood the vocab, I launched into a two part story. I am (very) slowly getting better at TPRS.. (progress is slow because I rarely use it with my TU students). I used to just make up a story myself, then tell it to them (more or less) word for word. Id act it out, and retell it several times.

This time, I did a much better job. I asked lots and lots of questions to a)repeat the key vocab alot, and b) let the students shape the story. This way is more effective and its easier too... as I didnt need to think of a story ahead of time. I just set a scene and see where we go with it.

I set the scene as follows: "There is a guy. His name is AJ. He is riding a motorcycle on the street......"

I then ask questions to repeat the vocab/grammar in different contexts. For example:
"Is there a girl?" (Students shout-- "No). "Is there a guy"... "Yes!". "Is the guy named Bill?" (No). "Is his name Jim?" (No). What is his name? (AJ)

Is he riding a bike (No). Is he driving a car? (no). Is he riding a motorcycle? (Yes)..... etc,.....

Notice that I try to start with Yes/No questions.. which are the easiest.... then work up to more open ended questions (such as "What is his name?").

Then I ask questions to move the story ahead:
"Is he driving fast or slow?" (a student yells, "slow"). OK, AJ is riding a motorcycle slow. Where is he riding it? (On a road). Is he riding on Ratchadamnern Rd? (NO!). Is he riding on Samsen Rd? (NO!). What road is he riding on? (On Nut Rd!, someone shouts). OK, AJ is riding a motorcycle slowly on On Nut Rd.

And on and on. In this story, students described my route to a bank (He turns left, he goes straight, etc....). I then broke into it and robbed it. Police came and I pulled an M16 on them. But I got scared and ran. Students then described my getaway route (He runs straight. He goes through the intersection. He goes to EGV. He goes up the stairs... ). In the end I jump off the roof and break my legs and arms. But a beautiful Japanese nurse mends me back to health.

In addition to constantly asking questions.... I act out the action. In classic TPRS the students act out the story. But Ive found that most Asian students are too embarrassed to do this... it seems to work much better if I do it.

This was a long story, so we told it in two parts. After we finished part one (with me, the macho American, pulling out my M16)... I retold it several times (constantly asking questions to prompt them for what happens next). Then I had the students tell the story to each other. Then they elected two "star students" to retell the story in front of the class (sometimes with their own embellishments and variations). After all this, we moved on to Part II to conclude the story.. and repeated the whole process again.

And so they practiced "giving directions".. but never had to resort to "repeat after me" drills, or reading from a textbook, or other asinine and boring routines.

And the thing is, I had a better time too. I love creating and acting out the stories with them. I love running, jumping, shouting, and hamming it up.

The only "downside".. if you could call it that... is that its damn hard to sustain this for six hours in a row. Luckily my normal teaching schedule is much lighter!

Now please excuse me... I need a nap.