Umami: first lesson reflection of the academic year

Call me cynical, but I don’t reckon this’ll be a big read. You see, the last few days I’ve been back in the classroom and although the time has been dominated by induction and diagnostic assessment, today I squeezed in a little bit of a lesson.

I’m blogging it because there was something pleasingly neat about the whole thing. It started as a reading lesson using an ancient but updated text about a guy and his personal details. It’s from Skills Workshop, I think; if you’ve taught Entry 1, you’ve probably used it. Anyway, the students read the text, then answered some questions on it, in a pretty average kind of way. The next stage of the lesson involved transferring the details from the text into a form for personal details (name, age, marital status, free time, etc.). I then had the students interview their partner with the same form and then use the information on the form to write a paragraph about their partner. We’d recapped, briefly , 3rd person singular and personal questions, so this linked into the task as well.
It wasn’t “real life” so beloved of certain drab corners of the ESOL teaching profession, nor particularly authentic as a set of processes, but it provided some good writing practice and a chance to revisit and discuss some grammar that is famously difficult to pick up. Whatever it the sense of satisfaction was that it did feel very whole: the cyclical going from text to form, then back again gave a pleasing sense of shape to the lesson. The end of the lesson felt that the whole process had reached some sort of natural logical conclusion.
I suppose the next question is whether the students felt that way, of course, and sadly I didn’t get chance to ask them: it was only when the lesson had finished that the cyclical nature of the process really dawned on me. The issue of whether anything was learned absolutely is beset with uncertainty, and, as anyone honest in education can tell you, impossible to say at this stage: within a single lesson, we can only rely on observable proxies and a bit of educated guessing. I would say that would say that there were “aha!” moments from some of the students around third person singular which appeared to show learning, and the final texts produced at the end appeared to act as a proxy for an understanding of the concept of third person singular, and of the students’ ability to ask, reply to and understand the answers to questions. So I would say that insofar as it is possible to say it, then yes, it was a successful lesson in those terms.
The sense of satisfaction though is hard to beat. Some lessons are sweet, like when a student comes up and says they enjoyed your lesson. Some lessons are salty, like exam practice: hard work, and you wouldn’t to do it lots, but ultimately essential. Very occasionally there are sour and bitter lessons, when it all goes wrong and you simply can’t pull it back. However, the closure and the neatness of the lesson was a little like umami,  a meaty, brothy, cheese-y lesson, if you like, and I, for one, came outn of it feeling good.
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