by John Phelps
Momentum is the most important element to a good hour of learning at Super English. From the moment I walk into the classroom, I strive to keep the students focusing by sparking them with questions, entertaining them with educational games, and otherwise overloading their senses with a buckshot of English. If the kids are having fun, they will listen and learn. When I see that interest is diminishing, I usually have a good-hearted kid or myself do something ridiculous. Compared to my classes at Thidamaepra School, the Super kids are able to take in much more material in a shorter period of time. At Super, if I see that about half the kids have command of a target, I move on to something a little more difficult. If they are not challenged, they get bored and tune out.
Almost always, the most fun comes from spontaneous twists to the plan. But for me, a pretty solid plan still has to be there. What follows is a lesson that went well. However, as we all know, sometimes the best laid plans don’t …. hmm… hatch, I suppose. I have often had the same lesson plan go off like firecrackers with one class and fall flat with another. Sometimes I am trying to get the energy level of the students up, other times I just have to channel it in the right direction.
The primary conversation targets are: “Are you (verb)ing?” “Yes, I am./ No, I’m not.” That is the meat of the lesson, to which I will slowly build up. The kids have to primed and focus to grasp something new, so I build them up with some review targets. We start off by transforming two students at a time into a theatre company. I bring them behind the whiteboard and tell them what locations they will illustrate with their acting finesse. As they come out from behind the board, I announce the actors names with “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tin and Bank!” The review target is “Where are they?” I wait for the class to get the answer, occasionally guiding the actors. After a few moments, a student responds with “They are in the police station!” After uncuffing one of the students, we move on to another set of actors and play a few more minutes.
I take a quick moment to get the students to fill out a worksheet. These are a necessary evil, as the parents see the worksheets as a measure of the students’ progress. I try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. I walk around the room and help with the worksheets. I give a bit of extra writing to the faster kids so that they finish around the same time as the slower ones.
Now I begin to move towards the target by asking “What can you do?” and writing the verbs on the board. This is an easy question for this level, and they easily come up with and act out ten to twelve verbs in a couple minutes. I grab one student and start spinning him in the middle of the room. While he is spinning, I write “What are you doing?” on the board. He is still spinning. I tack the “ing” onto the verb on the board. He is dizzy by now. I prompt him to say “I am spinning” by pointing to the words on the board. I demonstrate that “ing” on a verb means that the action is in progress by having kids do actions for a moment then stop. >> Then comes the “verb-a-thon.” I erase the verbs from the board and ask five volunteers to come forward. As I ask each one “What are you doing?” they must reply “I am (verb)ing” (no repeat answers). After a few minutes, students are eliminated until we have a champion. Now that the kids have bought into the lesson, I have them all focused as I write the target on the whiteboard. I hop around the room and demonstrate, impersonating a few of the students to make them laugh. Then it’s time for another game.
This one is like musical chairs meets Family Feud. I put a ball on a table at the front of the classroom and write ten verbs on the board. Five students walk around the table, acting out the verbs as I say “Are you jumping/eating/sleeping/moonwalking?” They chant “Yes, I am!” Unless, of course, I am pointing to “No, I’m not!” on the board. They are out if they act out a verb that I say while pointing at “No, I’m not!” When I say “Are you stealing?”, the first student to grab the ball on the table gets to pick a student to eliminate. Pretty soon, another champion is born.
By now, we have about fifteen minutes or less left in the hour, so I have them sit to have their tongues twisted. This evening is brought to them by the letter “G.” “Good guys get great gorilla girlfriends.” Students move from “Gud guys ged gleat go-le-la gill-flens” to an astoundingly crisp pronunciation of the benevolent letter “G.” I give them the phonics handout to complete and a few sentences to write. At last confident in the knowledge that they will all one day take primates to the malt shoppe, I send them home.