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Draw a Square
I drew a square on the board and asked the students what shape it was. They looked back blankly! I wasn’t sure whether they couldn’t think of the word, or had no idea what I’d just asked them. I said, “Remember last class? The video about Barcelona? (Click here to see the class – Level B1) The island was in the shape of…” “the Barça club shield.” they replied. Excellent! “So, what’s this shape?” I asked again. More blankness! Then one of them offered “frame” and I pointed to a picture frame. “Okay,” I said, “so this is a rectangular frame, but what’s the shape with all sides the same? “Square!” said someone. “Yes, yes. Plaza!” said another remembering a different kind of square, but finally they’d got it and we could move on.
The reason I mention all this is that if we’d used the original worksheet to practise giving directions, (see .doc here) the scaffolding used to model the target output language would have reduced the opportunities for a lot of staging and skills work involving listening to instructions, creative decision making, and freer speaking practice. As my A2 group have really been continuous false beginners for years, and are all-too-happy being spoon fed, I try to generate frequent opportunities for them to communicate authentically in English, where pair or group work is centred on coming to a joint decision or problem solving in order to complete a mini-task. I often find this part of the class to be where most learning takes place and when they do get to the main task, they are better prepared, more focused, and more motivated to do it well.
On the next page, we take the square for a walk through the village!
Street or road? and what’s a circus when there are no clowns?
Next, – we only have a square on the board at the moment! – I drew a frilly circle and put a few trees in it. “What’s that?” I asked. They were quicker to answer this one, “a park!” “That’s right” I said. Wiping away the trees, I wrote the word “park” in the space. “And what’s the square?” “A villadge!” “Very good. Sure, it’s a village.” They always find the pronunciation of ‘-age’ difficult, however much we practise it. “And what’s this?” I’d done a rather dodgy-looking box with lines which could have been pretty well anything. “A bike parking” said one of them. “Good. It’s a place for something to park.” Phew! How did they get that?, I thought. Well done!! “A train station” offered someone. “A bus station” said another. “That’s right. It’s a bus station.” I filled the rest of the square with more squarish shapes to create blocks on streets. I now asked my students to think of names for the streets. First, I wanted to check their knowledge of the different names we use to describe streets and we ended up with a nice little list you can see to the left of the square in the photo above. They even got ‘circus’. “Yes, yes, Picadilly Circus” said one. “And Oxford Circus” replied another. All good stuff!
I now divided the map in two and asked groups A and B to come up with street names for their part of the village. I gave them a good 10 minutes for this, or rather let them continue for that long, as they soon began debating the appropriacy of the names in relation to their physical locations on the map and were really getting into the activity. As they were finishing, and to speed them up a little, I started writing up their street names on the board. This also required them to pronounce the place names and I did a bit of “Sorry, can you spell that?” as they needed the practice.
On the next page, we put buildings on the streets!
“How do you say the place you go to buy medicaments?” Well, nearly!
It was now time to remember the names of places. My instruction here was at fault, because I was hoping to quickly revise different types of shops. As it was, my students came out with such places as “police station”, “post office” and “school”. We did get “Chemist’s” out though, and I truly bashed them with drilling the pronunciation. “It’s ‘k’ not ‘Ch’, I insisted”. “Yes, yes.” they echoed back. And they still said “CHemist’s”. Oh well, at least they were focused and trying. I put up their places on the board with numbers 1-10 and again in their A/B groups, asked them to write their half of the numbers on their maps, so the ‘A’s had numbers 1-5 and the ‘B’s 6-10.
Now we prepared for the role play, looking at the language of both asking for directions and giving them. This stage took a good 20 minutes, looking at question form and prepositions of movement / place. Even with all the preparation, they still needed lots of modelling and scaffolding to carry out the task. I wonder what would have happened, or rather, I shudder at the thought of the outcome had I gone in to class with the idea of using the worksheet as it was. Not only were my students ill-equipped to carry out the task without building up to it, but we would have missed out on a great opportunity to revise, practise and extend different language areas and the skills work they so desperately need to improve.
I hope you enjoyed the journey through this class and would love to hear your feedback on the noticeboard on the next page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my ideas.
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