About the Lesson: Elementary Vocabulary
This was the third group lesson that I have taught with live students (not simulations with trainees on the Celta course.) The transition to 100% online teaching had a few sharp learning curves, but by now I had learned a bit more about setting up activities and what could go wrong.
This lesson was inspired by an activity from “Elementary Communication Games” by Jill Hadfield called “Wallpaper.” Basically it’s about asking who’s at a party and finding out their names. It’s an information gap activity where Student A gets an image of a party with some names of people and Student B gets the same image, but with different names. Students A and B must speak and describe the people to find out who the people are.
I identified the vocabulary needed for the activity and I gave the students a short test. They had to look at a series of pictures and describe their physical characteristics and clothes. I followed this up with some language clarification and then got the students doing an adaptation of the information gap that I described above.
Of course the instructions were a bit long-winded . I still need to work on setting up pair/group work where two different sets of materials are involved. That’s because it can be difficult to indicate who is “Student A” and who is “Student B.” In a f2f class you can just point to people and say a letter. Online you have to call them out (or show them) and then check that they know. Then make sure they get the correct handout. I did find out that if you share the screen during the instruction deliver and show them how you are arranging the breakout rooms it helps them understand a lot better.
With the handouts it’s a bit of a problem sometimes. Sending it to the WeChat group and they view it on their phones is a solution, but what if “Student A” looks at “Student B’s” material?
Setting up the breakout rooms and remember who goes where can be tricky. In this class I noted down names on a note pad and carefully chose the pairings. Once it happened that a student was alone with the observing teachers.
The stages of the lesson
The overall sequence of the lesson was:
- Lead-in: Show them a picture taken of my family and ask if they know they are (they need to describe them in order to do it).
- Test: I sent the students to breakout rooms to look at an image (a PPT slide converted into a photo) with many smaller pictures of different people. They had to describe the people. This so that I could see what they know. I could hear them say the words. Depending on the picture and what they say, I can get a sense of what they know. I can hear them use the words I’m planning to teach. I can hear what they want to say. I took notes of all of this and responded to them in feedback.
- Teach: I had a list of pre-selected items I wanted to cover. I tried my best to do MPF in a particular sequence and cover what I felt was essential. Maybe time dragged on a bit. I’ve noticed that drilling online gets kind of ragged. I think I’ll have everyone mute their microphones next time when we do choral drilling, then unmute the microphones when we want to do individual drilling.
- Practice 1: I sent them back to breakout rooms to practice using some phrases from the “Wallpaper” activity. They used the same images from the “Test” stage, but this time the pictures had names and question marks. They had to find out the names of the people with question markes. Here is the language they used with the vocabulary:
- “Who is the man/woman with the…”
- “Which one?”
- “The one with the…”
- Practice 2: They used their own photos and they asked each other about their photos. I had them send photos to the WeChat group before class.
Final feedback was a bit long because I went into “teach mode” a bit too much. At least this was in response to what they wanted to say. I was enjoying the process so I just let it continue even though this was all supposed to be a 60 minute lesson. In the end it was 90 minutes.