October 26, 2010 § 13 Comments
Shelly at her Teacher Reboot Camp, Mike Harrison, David, where he offers his Reflections of a Teacher and Learner, and Emma Herrod have some great stories and illuminating photos of their boards too, while at Sabrina’s Weblog, we get to hear about her lesson that involved extensive boardwork.
The challenge gets you to unplug your teaching and see the whiteboard both as a way of scaffolding learning, and as a product in its own right. The challenge fits in nicely with two other recent posts, by Andrew at Idle EFL Thoughts and Ceri in Close up. Both describe wonderful spontaneous lessons based around just one word, lessons made possible by having a sophisticated understanding of language, what it is and how it works, all the different aspects that one can draw on and pass on using a myriad of activities from the TEFL pool. Nick takes this a step further in Turklish TEFL, outlining things to consider when putting together your own curriculum.
I’m imaging the lesson, what could very well happen and probably has in one of my classes. I’m imagining the learner, a teenage boy, sporty and friendly, with a ready smile. He’s wearing a T-shirt and long baggy shorts. I like him. I think he’d prefer, at a push, to be actually playing sport rather than just talking about it, but he finds it an acceptable compromise. I read out what he’s written.
“Sport is the best.”
“Not school?” I confirm.
He lets slip a slight snigger.
“No.” He sniggers again.
I can’t imagine him having ever heard this in English, but I assume he’ll understand.
There’s some eye contact. It’s his lack of words rather than desire that is hindering his communication.
“Is it better than…what other subjects are there?”. I open it up for others.
We get “astronomy” and “science” amongst others and look at their roots.
We continue with the theme and he offers an alternative: “Sport is the greatest.” I write it down. Interesting. Both “best” and “greatest” end in “est”. Although we always think of “best” as irregular, it’s only the beginning, not the end, I realise. Worth showing. I need a tissue to clean the board. I’m a guest teacher and I forgot the board rubber. I get offered three. None of the boys has one.
Sport is indeed his life. It’s what he lives for. It’s what he’d die for!
“Really? You love sport so much, you would die for it?”
“I would die for it,” he learns to say.
There are lots of affordances, as Willy outlines in Authentic Teaching, chances for error-strewn language practice, errors which I let pass or occasionally reformulate for them to repeat if they choose to.
He’s always playing sport. He talks about how he plays after school and at the weekend. This description hangs onto phrases I think are worth learning by heart. In fact, I say to him:
“When you’re not playing sport, you’re talking about it.
And when you’re not talking about it, …”
I hesitate, giving someone the opportunity to finish it off for me. One of the girls does:
“…you’re playing it.”
We practise those sentences, and mix them around, trying different combinations of “sport” and “it”.
Meddings and Thornbury say: “learning can be mediated through talk, especially talk that is shaped and supported, (i.e. scaffolded) by the teacher.”
Nick Ellis says: “language must be scrutinised, manipulated, personalised and practised”.
Using the language plant that’s been growing on the board as a visual reference, I think we’re squeezing in quite a few of these verbs.
Henrick has been Doing Some Thinking about how a beginner guitar player will model the hand positions of an expert guitarist. Learning by watching. It is a tenet of NLP, and it’s what I have planned.
I stand up, raise a finger and work towards my dramatic crescendo, referring to the board throughout.
“Sport is the best.
Sport is the greatest.
It is my life.
When I’m not playing sport,
I’m talking about it.
And when I’m not talking about it,
I’m playing it.
Sport is what I live for;
it is what I’d die for.”
My hand is clasped to my heart.
“Your go.” I say to him. He’s reluctant at first, but gets into it. Others have a go too, all versions slightly different, and there’s much laughter.
It’s another learners’ turn now, a teenage girl, the tissue giver in fact.
“I need music in my life – all the time.” She writes.
“Wow, lovely.” I enthuse. “I hear music in my heart – all the time.”