Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, January 09, 2006

Piecing Things Together

by AJ

Slowly piecing together a daily routine with my intensive English students. I underestimated how different this setting is from what I was doing at the University. With bigger classes, bigger rooms, and a shorter time..... I tended to use a fast and intense pace at Uni.

But the intensive program requires adjustments. Small classes. Tiny room. Long time each day... all add up to a much different kind of pacing... which I am slowly figuring out.

As it stands now, here is my "typical" (4 hour) day:

* Chit-Chat & Warm up.
Since students always wander in late (and its very disruptive if I start a highly structured activity), I usually chat with students for the first 20 minutes or so.

* Review/Practice Vocab with TPRS
For the next couple of hours, we use TPRS to practice vocab and grammar. My goal is for students to acquire 10+ new words per day. Usually these come from articles read the previous day. I write the new vocab on the board.... and we use it for TPR Storytelling the next day.

Still playing with the technique to maximize it. But all in all seems to work well and helps students cement the vocab in their brains!

* Textbook
No, I dont like textbooks... but its a job requirement (and frankly, an easy hour to plan for me). So we work through the book for about one hour each day. The book, as textbooks go, is not bad. Its a grammar book... but stays very simple, with only one major "grammar point" per chapter.

* Authentic Article
I think of authentic articles as "vocabulary growth protein".... as they are typically rich in new words and contexts. First the students read the (short) article silently. Then I read it out loud so they can hear my pronunciation. Then we discuss the new vocab. And then we discuss the article itself.

Thats it. This routine is going fairly well... but needs some tweaking. For one, Id like to add more interactive/social/speaking activities... give the students more chances to chat and share with each other.

But I must find a way around the drawbacks of pair and group work: students often sit and do nothing, or speak their native language, or do the bare minimum, or chit-chat with small talk only. Thats fine, but not of much help for language acquisition. One idea is to institute the book/film clubs I used at TU successfully... these seemed to stimulate discussion in a meaningful and interesting way.

Any other suggestions? How do you get students to interact in meaningful and energetic ways that are helpful to their language growth?