After mentioning that I’m focusing a lot of energy on a single group (nicknamed, perhaps unfairly, the trouble group) I thought I’d bring things up to speed.
The situation now
It took a bit of courage on my part to change the lesson organization away from ‘free’ conversation back towards more controlled conversations, but on the second lesson after the break we started using more of the conversation drills I’d planned.
That was a big step forward. Combined with my goal of packing the lesson with as many activities as possible (a different student leads the group in a game of hangman between the conversation and vocab review/grammar parts, for example), I think I’ve managed to increase the pace, while maximizing the students’ production of properly formed sentences.
Sticking with a topic
Because we’ve abandoned the book (rather than going back by a whole book), we don’t have the level of structure that other groups have. In the past, that has meant that we had a different topic each week.
Now, I’ve stuck with the topic of professions, while doing things like brainstorming what professions we have in our families, or what professions we have worked before. Instead of one exhaustive list on one day, we’ve used different ways to approach the professions I can imagine students wanting to talk about (as opposed to knowing all professions) while changing the questions. (“Do you have children?” – “Do they work?” – “What is the boy’s profession?”)
I didn’t sit down and make a detailed plan. Maybe I should have.
Still, even without a plan, I’ve been able to do things like matching professions to verbs and practicing questions with do and did. (“Does a zookeeper answer the phone?”).
My goal now is for the lessons to include more ‘invisible repetition,’ which is to say that we can focus on forming the same kinds of sentences with basically the same vocabulary for as long as possible without participants thinking “I don’t need to go to the English lesson. We’re just going to do the same thing as last week.”
I don’t know if I’ve reached the goal.
It comes at a cost
I’m pleased with how the lessons are going. And, I think that students will see that they’ve made an improvement around Christmas time. But, that improvement comes at a cost. We laugh less than we used to (and I think that’s important — at 7:30 in the evening, you need to want to go to the English lesson) and I worry about that.
For now, I’m accepting the cost, but I know that the next thing on my horizon is going to be finding more activities that I can throw in periodically which will add a bit of levity to the lesson.
I’ll check in again before long and tell you if I’m still as happy with the plan in the near future as I am now.
Do you have any suggestions? Tips? Experiences you’d like to share?