If only our favourite "go-to" lessons actually entitled us to $200 salary each time we put them to use in our classrooms! Image: Brian Talbot
Chaotic start to this morning (thanks, kids!) and arrival at work a few scant minutes before the morning's first lesson was about to start. Not a great way to start a three-hour teaching session...
Thank goodness for my favourite "go-to" lesson application! Wizard English Grids already printed up a-plenty, I dash to the classroom (slowing down just before I reach the doorway, so I can wander in looking relaxed and nonchalant...).
Using Wizard English Grids for "Finding Out" is my tried and true, non-prep (other than some photocopying en masse in advance) activity that has never let me down. Not for more than a decade now.
Here's how it worked today:
1. After some initial chat with the class, have them suggest questions we can ask to find out more about other classmates. Elicit and negotiate and edit as the suggestions emerge and generate a list of about a dozen questions on the whiteboard.
2. Hand out blank copies of the Wizard English Grid, and ask the learners to turn it so that it is horizontal (or in "landscape" mode). Instruct learners that they need to write down three questions to ask classmates using three of the boxes to the far left of the paper (I put a version up on the IWB so that I could illustrate for learners exactly). They can choose questions from the list we have already generated as a class, or construct new questions of their own.
3. Have the learners write "Name 1" to "Name 4" in the top four boxes of the sheet (excepting the column on the far left, which is already dedicated to the three questions they have selected and written down).
4. Ask students to ask their selected questions to four other students in the class, writing those students' names at the top of the four dedicated columns. They write responses to their questions in the grid provided, using just simple notes rather than full sentences. Encourage them to work horizontally across the grid (so that they swap between students and complete the same question four times, rather than ask three different questions to the same person -- I find the latter tends to bog them down a bit too much in pairs, with some students left stranded waiting for a chance to talk to someone).
5. As the teacher, do the same activity on the same worksheet yourself. You become a participant, and any doubtful students get a natural model to follow in terms of how to apply the activity.
By the end of those five steps, here is what my own Wizard English Grid looked like today:
Basically, three questions I liked from the list generated by the class, applied to four "classmates", with their responses indicated in simple note form.
Right, so having finished Stage A, we are going to move on to Stage B, which involves using this information in the "Finding Out" activity to compose a simple written report. We're going to use the three central questions to generate body paragraphs, and add a simple introduction and conclusion to create a basic 5-paragraph report.
For this version of the Wizard English Grid, I already have a lined writing page copied onto the reverse side of the initial "Finding Out" sheet.
Having finished the "Finding Out" stage well before most other students, and this being a somewhat lower level class, I went ahead and wrote my own report while they were all still asking and answering questions and taking notes.
I then walked around the class and showed each student what I had produced:
Using their own grids, I asked them to try and produce something similar, explaining the idea of paragraphs, a basic introduction and a basic finish-up.
While they got to work on their written reports, I dashed off to the office and photocopied both sides of my own paper. I got back in time to wander around and give some tips and feedback and corrections as they were all writing.
Once they were all done, I handed out the copies of my own report and had them get into small groups to compare the style and language of my report to their own. They were free to edit and change anything with their own reports if they discovered anything from my own example to apply to their own work.
Right, so "Finding Out" done, written report in five basic paragraphs done. Time now for an oral report!
Selecting students in a random sequence, in turn, I took away their written reports and invited them to give an oral summary to the best of their ability based on the reports they'd written.
While they spoke, I followed along on their reports in front of me, helping with prompts or hints where necessary to help them recall, correcting pronunciation here and there, inviting the students referred to in the report to confirm or correct what was being said about them, but simultaneously locating and correcting any major language mistakes in the written report. Teacher multi-tasking at its best!
End of class results:
- A list of questions generated by the class on the whiteboard
- An interactive Q&A session that seamlessly integrates speaking, listening, writing and reading
- A simple 5-paragraph written report, compared alongside a proficient language user's version, with written corrections from the teacher
- A small speech/report drawing on memory of details collecting while communicating and reporting in writing, with some feedback/help from both teacher and other students.
As I said, this never fails me. And it requires no specific preparation, with no need for teachers to take anything home for correction duties.
And a decade on, I still love using this activity and sequence. Never gets old, never fails to get students productive and busy with the language across all major skill areas.
That's my "go-to" lesson plan for chaotic mornings like the one I experienced today (but also a good many regular days as well).
What's your "go-to" plan of action for ELT?