Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.
The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.
~ Strunk & White

My ESL class actually started on the 14th of September. After 5 weeks I think we have pretty much settled down into a routine. I have 9 regular students - 6 women (3 named Maria) and 3 men (none named Maria).

My class session plan does seem to have been a bit ambitious - but only by a factor of 2. ;)

That's right - it's taking us almost 2 full weeks to get through the material that I had laid out for each week. On the plus side, I thought I had only completed my lesson plans through Christmas - but now it turns out that I'm actually done planning for the entire year! ;)

The one part of my plan that we are sticking to is the weekly homework and quiz plan. At first, no one seemed to take the vocabulary flashcards very seriously. But after that first quiz, that changed! We are up to 62 words already, and I can tell that many of the students are seriously studying their flashcards during the week.

In these first few weeks we have learned 2 songs ("What a Wonderful World" and "In the Garden") and covered the topics of:

(a) introductions (Hi! What is your name? My name is...),

(b) some basic colors, shapes and prepositions (Put the green square above the yellow circle.) and

(c) members of the family (mother, father, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, cousin, nephew, etc.)

Last week - with apologies to Strunk and White - our topic was adjectives to describe people. Instead of just providing them with a list, I thought I'd have them come up with the adjectives that were meaningful to them. So, I asked each student to think of a member of his or her family and come up with 3 adjectives to describe that person. Then I asked them to look up their adjectives in the Spanish-English dictionary and write down the English words.

To "reveal" these adjectives, I had pairs of students participate in a short dialogue in front of the class.

A: Who did you pick?

B: I picked my ___ . (Practice with topic of family members.)

A: What is your ____ 's name? (Practice with family members & introductions.)

B: [His / Her] name is ____ . (Practice with introductions & personal pronouns.)

A: What is [he / she] like?

B: [He / She] is ___ , ___ and ___ . (Reveal adjectives)

As each pair of students revealed their adjectives, I kept a master list on the board. I made it a competition - any adjective used 3 or more times was worth only 1 point, any adjective used only twice was worth 2 points and each unique adjective was worth 3 points.

We had a tie, with 2 people each coming up with 3 unique adjectives!

I was so glad that I did it this way, because my students came up with adjectives that never would have occurred to me to teach.

In addition to some of the arguably more common adjectives (like intelligent, hard working, tall, thin, young, fat, friendly, nice and beautiful), it turns out that they have relatives who are: creative, obedient, polite, spiritual and mischievous!

As a final activity, I put up a numbered list of 13 of the (supposedly) most recognizable names in the world (and there's a whole topic unto itself - you get Michael Jackson, the Pope, Cindy Crawford and Pele all hanging together!) and had each student draw a card from a deck of cards. Depending upon the value of the card the student drew, he or she had to come up with a sentence using an adjective to describe the associated person on the list.

(Bad news for Michael Jordan - the woman who drew his number did not recognize his name.)

I had been thinking of buying some fancy spinner designed just for the classroom, but it turns out that drawing from a deck of cards worked very well. I think I'll save my money... ;)

I'm trying to make each class build on the ones that came before, and it's turning out to be a good thing for many reasons! Among others, I often realize at the end of a class, that there was some aspect that I didn't do well enough. For example, it turns out that I didn't do a good enough job explaining what an "adjective" is. I kind of coasted on the assumption that, if I gave them the Spanish translation, "adjectivo" and said that adjectives were words that described people, places and things (i.e., nouns), they would know what I meant.

But it didn't work for everyone. I had people give me "adjectives" like "my daughter dances" and "my uncle is a teacher." When you get right down to it, those ARE descriptions of people. They just aren't adjectives... Sigh...

Luckily, in 2 weeks (next week we learn another song), we are doing comparisons ("my son is smarter than your son"), and so I'll have another opportunity to do a better job of defining adjectives.

So, I'm really having a blast! My students are great! I'm sure that I could be doing a better job in a million different ways, but I can tell that they are working hard and they can tell that I am working hard and we definitely have the feeling that we are all in this together! :)


Mrs. Kelley Dibble said...

And I'm having a blast reading your enjoyable, interesting and (hmm, a third adject-...) inspiring torches!

Anonymous said...

The class sounds like a blast for the students. You are a wonderful person to be doing this and should really feel good that you are making a difference.