Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless,
but planning is indispensable.
~ Dwight David Eisenhower




I began planning for my ESL class early this summer - months before a single student would show up in the classroom.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while - say 2 weeks or so - have probably guessed that I'm a big fan of structure and patterns. ;)

So, just as I have a prescribed pattern for my weekly blog posts, I set up a pattern for each class session. At a high level, my plan looked like this:

10 minutes for a quiz on the previous week's homework
30 minutes to cover the topic of the week
10 minutes to practice English phonetics
30 minutes for our regular translation activity
10 minutes to go over a set of cognates
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total: 90 minutes

For the weekly homework assignment, I made flashcards of the 300 most commonly used words in English, and ask my students to learn about a dozen new ones each week. By the end of the year they will have learned all 300.

Actually, I didn't make the flashcards for everyone - I printed the English words & their Spanish translations onto sticky labels and gave each student a set of those labels and a package of index cards. They are "assembling" their own flashcards. ;)

For the topic of the week, I am following the "presentation-practice-production" pyramid model. First, I do a short presentation of the vocabulary and/or grammar associated with the topic. Then we spend a little bit more time doing some exercises together as a class to practice the new information. Finally I break the class into small groups and assign an activity that requires them to use the new vocabulary when producing their own English language. This last bit is allocated the most amount of classroom time.

Some of the topics are: Colors, family members (mother, uncle, sister, etc.), parts of the body, the calendar, telling time, clothes, food, the house (rooms & furniture), etc.

For the phonetics part, just like Sesame Street, each class will be "brought to you by the letter...". I'll pick one sound, we'll practice saying it in different words, and then I'll give them practice recognizing it, with an exercise where I say words and they have to determine if that sound is in each word or not.

The translation activity - this is kind of my baby. I got many of the ideas for the previous sections from reading books about how to teach ESL. But it was my own idea to make music a major part of our curriculum. So, I thought we'd learn a new song each week. First, I'll pass out the lyrics in English. Then, we'll break into small groups and work on translating the song into Spanish. This will involve (a) looking up many of the words in their dictionaries and then (b) figuring out a reasonable sentence in Spanish given that word-by-word translation. I think these are both important skills that get better with practice.

Then, once everyone understands the words of the song in Spanish, we'll switch to English and practice pronouncing the lyrics and finally sing along with a CD. I selected 14 songs and made CDs for everyone, so that they can listen to them and sing along whenever they want - at home, in the car, etc. My hope is that most people will enjoy this, that it will be a good way to practice translating skills and that it will be an easy way to learn vocabulary.

Finally - the cognates. These are words that have (basically) the same meaning and sound very similar in English and in Spanish (for example, attention and atención.) I set up sets of 5 cognates & 1 false cognate for each week. I see this as a quick vocabulary builder and a chance to become familiar with the differences in pronunciation between English and Spanish.

So, that was my general plan! Of course, how well it will work out in the real world, is another story, as General Eisenhower has found in battle... ;)

5 comments:

meredithp said...

My gosh, you are completely awesome! And I am without (intelligent) words. 'Cept I learned a new one "cognates". :-)

Best wishes on this endeavor. Looking forward to hearing how the classes go.

CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

Good luck with your class Gwen :)

Kelley said...

I've taught ESL in Manila, and I think your plan is spot-on. Best wishes to a capable instructor. It is so rewarding!

SunnyQ said...

Gwen IS awesome!! :)

Becky said...

Love the song lyrics idea! I hope it works out well for you. :)