I’ve been teaching an intensive English course this term. It works out (online) at about 8 hours per week, would have been a lot more had we not been back in lockdown. Seven students, Japanese, between 12 and 14 years old. All were supposed to be ‘low level’ (like, A2 or below I guess), although I’m sure you’re aware of the nature of these things. Once they got a bit of speaking and listening confidence, well, there’s far more language there than they’d realised.
To be honest, it’s been an absolute pleasure so far. There was a public holiday last week, and by lunchtime I was missing them! I just haven’t had students like this for a while. Awesome.
Every week, I set them a presentation task. I thought it would be quite challenging for them at first, but they seem to love it.
I mentioned this before actually. We started off with a Pecha Kucha intros task. I can’t share my example as it includes me talking about my pet tortoise and I get too emotional.
After that, we did a presentation on comparing two things. So… this seemed like a (grammar) area of development for most students, so I focused on it. Target language in mind for this one, here was my model. I like the Google search tabs that are open there, haha…
Went really well. Very random topics – types of piano, two very specific types of sushi, members of Black Pink, etc. The second task was a tipping point, I realised I was aiming low.
We moved on to do a film vlog, admittedly a bit of a place holder and just based on their interests. Used an existing video as my example this time so none of my rambles. Again, they really got into it and this one was closer to an ‘authentic’ task rather than just my grammar-trapping stuff.
Since then, I’ve started to up things a bit. They’re clearly capable and I needed to aim a bit higher I think. I opted for a freer kinda anecdotal task – Lockdown in Pictures. Why? Finally – some input from the students! I keep asking them what they want/need to do/learn and explore this topic in various ways. But there was very much a ‘default to the teacher as boss’ feel. Until one time when I asked them for ideas for the next presentation and one of them was clearly like ‘I want to talk about lockdown!’ (yet with me deciding how that happened). So… this.
Okay, important to mention that from ‘Lockdown’ onwards I actually stopped aiming at certain language points. I had an idea of, say, certain phrases that might pop up, but I took a different approach to the model video. One take (occasionally two!), make it natural, don’t stress about the language as the visuals would support it, just be myself. With the expectation that they’ll do the same and hopefully make it their own!
So, that was lockdown in pictures. You will not believe how many times I say ‘Okay’ in that video. Please don’t count.
What a shame that, given safeguarding etc, I can’t show you their examples! When I set these tasks, I usually draw out a bank of useful phrases used in the vids to help them, or have guided tasks for them to notice that stuff. Such is life, they would pick up on other phrases that I had no idea they’d noticed. In a previous task I introduced things as ‘So I’m gonna talk about blah blah today. LET’S GET STARTED!’ I ended up with most of the lockdown vids having a ‘LET’S GET STARTED!’ Sounding eerily like me. Freaked me out. But they picked up on whatever they liked I guess!
Aside. The same thing the other day with agreeing/disagreeing. I used ‘I’m with Kira’ (student’s name btw) to agree informally. Now they all keep using this ‘I’m with…’ They learn what they want, hey.
After week 5, I was like ‘Right, I’m upping this. Still aiming too low’. So, I hit them with a ‘Global Issues’ task. Lots of input about Sustainable Development Goals, model vid on palm oil production (including me not explaining stuff about sanctions very well at all), problem and solution format.
Like, I didn’t really grade what I was saying much – and yeah, these aren’t just a case of ‘he’s a model, do this’. We do lots of activities around them. Anyhow, the content they produced was suspiciously good.
I asked a student about it, and they said they’d done something similar at their Japanese bilingual school. So, I’d thought I was aiming high while also helping them with content for their Geography classes. Turns out (hard to tell having not known these kids before) that this was more in their comfort zone. So…
History highlights…Why did I go for this? Two main reasons. They all seemed well into History, and the quietest kid LOVED History. I knew he’d go nuts for this one. That’s literally it, I based my planning mostly on one kid.
Worked well! My example this time was a bit crap. I give a ‘state the bleeding obvious’ definition of the South Pole at one point and I’m highly subjective at the end. Oh, and the igloo bit.
With this one, it’s more about the model and the passion for the topic (my fav) – they totally ran with it. I’ve loads of interesting vids on Japanese history now – learnt tons from the learners (Jomon Period? Hadn’t heard of it).
Countdowns came next. So, things were getting a bit heavy in other classes, what with assessments coming up, so I went for a lighter challenge. Basically, clickbait vids on ‘We’re counting down the Top 10 XYZ…’. Sorry, the first link was more interesting, it was on the Top 10 most expensive countries in the world. I can’t find it, so I’ll include the second example, ‘Japanese Players in the Premier League ranked!’ that I did in the style of Football Daily. Apologies btw if the pronunciation of names is shocking.
I cheated for the text here, just taken straight from givemesport.com. I wasn’t interested in the language for this task really, I just wanted the format. Short, snappy, bit of surprise, under 5 mins, bam! Don’t tell Football Daily I used their logo – EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES!
This week? Well, we’re going down the Youtube vid path as they are so familiar with them. I’m considering a vid in the style of proper vloggers, like a ‘my routines’ thing and getting them to add product placement and stuff, could be funny and they’d probs buy into it. I wanna go for a more ‘VSauce’, ‘Thoughty2’ micro-explainer first though, see how that works. I took the New Scientist Last Word approach for it (text directly from here, images various – can you tell I’m getting busier at the end of term>?!), let’s see…
So, how are these actually working out…
- They’re doing it! Researching and presenting in English. Every week, minimum 5 min vids. Cool.
- They ask questions about it. And they watch and respond to each others’ vids. They create conversation! Loom helps 😊
- I knew the learners would plan what to say, then read from it. As time’s gone on… less so! YES!
- What am I teaching? Well, I’m teaching confidence. I’m there if they need more, and a lot goes on during the week as part of the project. But mainly, I’m getting my learners to speak up – and they are!
- More independence. Most time in Week 1 lesson was dedicated to doing presentations. By Week 7, it’s become a ‘this is your independent task’, and they run with it. Just check in if needed. Awesome.
So, that’s my teaching at the moment. Fun!
I should point out – all images in these vids just for used for educational purposes. I deffo should have referenced these more. Things just get busy and I guess the referencing gets left. Bad form. Any complaints, I can totes remove the vid.