I recently put together a new lesson inspired by my flatmate, who’s also an EFL teacher. It was for my pre-intermediate General English class to review and practise question forms, with plenty of speaking.
I started with three photographs of different people, and asked them a series of questions to get them using their imaginations and creating background stories. With a fourth photo I asked them to answer the questions in their heads, without speaking aloud, before putting them in groups of three to ‘hot-seat’, with one student as the man in the photo and the other asking questions. By now the students were very engaged in the activity and it was great to see them using their imaginations and having fun, with their questions as much as their answers.
Next I confessed, “actually, I know this man and he’s a friend of mine” … and without my even prompting students began speculating as to my relationship to him. I asked them in pairs to write 2 questions each about the man and wrote their questions up on the whiteboard to look at the form and encourage them to correct their errors. Only once the questions were correct and we’d practised the form and pronunciation did I actually answer.
We then went on to practise forms with a task sheet in which students had to write questions for ten given answers. After feedback on this I had originally planned for students to then mingle and ask the question’s they had written to each other. Unfortunately though, a fire drill was scheduled for that morning, effectively shortening the lesson by 15 minutes and this was the stage I chose to skip.
When students worked on the ‘ten answers’ activity I noticed that some of their questions were very specific, so wouldn’t necessarily have been appropriate to ask their classmates. I’ve given this some thought and next time will try just getting them to write the first one or two question words. After feedback they can then use those words to write full questions, tailored to other students in the class (one for each) which they can then ask and answer in the mingle stage.
To round the lesson off, I told the class that the man in the photo was called Adrian (it surprised me that whilst they wanted to know a lot about him, none of them had thought to ask his name!) and that I would be speaking to him on Skype that evening. The group then (excitedly) wrote a list of questions for me to ask Adrian. The follow on to this lesson was a listening task in which students had to match Adrian’s answers to their original questions.
Given that this was the first time I’ve tried out this idea, I felt the lesson was successful in that students were motivated and engaged, and using the language effectively. As part of our peer observation programme, another teacher was observing and in her feedback wrote that the level of engagement was very high. She also commented positively on the clarity of my instructions, noting that I use a repertoire of gestures that students acted on instantly. She observed that there wasn’t a more active stage to the lesson which involved movement (75 minutes is a long time for students to sit still and focus) and retrospectively I wondered whether rather than skipping the mingle stage of the lesson I should have reduced some of the time allocated for earlier stages. Overall though, I was pleased with how it went and look forward to trying it out with another group and a few improvements.
I love it when a plan comes together. :)