Upgrading Tasks

I do a lesson at Entry 1 and Entry 2 on transport vocabulary. I have the students work in groups and brainstorm vocabulary to do with different forms of transport. They then pass it to the next group who check the vocab and the spellings, then add their own ideas. This goes round until every group has had a look before some sort of plenary. I’ve refined the task into people/places/things of late, so that group A do people (driver, passenger, etc.) then B do places, and C do things. At lower levels I dish out picture dictionaries, and it becomes a research task, at Entry 2 it’s more of a revision/expansion task. 

However, in my head, this is very much a low level lesson, restricted to Entry 1/Entry 2 (elementary) students. So when I did it with my Level 1/Level 2 group I very much expected it to fly by, leaving half an hour for a discussion activity. Needless to say, of course, it did quite the opposite. Sure, the obvious stuff was dealt with quite swiftly (ticket, passenger, wheel, that sort of thing) but we did have a lot of interesting things, like what do we call the person who pushes the refreshments trolley down the train, and why the automated tannoy on the train will announce “we will shortly be arriving into…” rather than “we are shortly arriving…”. My answer to the latter was about clarity, and “action in progress at a specific point in future time. Mind you, for the former I was stumped: I couldn’t think of a generic job title, although I’m sure the train company have something like “refreshments operative”. I did tell the group about “trolley-dolly” mainly because it linked into a discussion we had been having about genderised job titles (“air hostess” vs “flight attendant”) and discrimination at work, but also because it’s silly sounding. 

Whatever: this was a good reminder that with this sort of open ended activity, students tend to choose what they will take from it, rather than being reliant on teacher-dictated input, and I’ve moved away from some of those lessons of late, relying more on teacher generated and controlled input. Not that there’s anything wrong with a bit of teacher control, but opening the classroom  through activities is extremely rewarding for both me and the students. 

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