As it should be

Now this is what I like to see (and hear) in an ESL class: students working and talking and navigating the language together.

Talking about the future

Talking about the future

We’ve been practicing the future tense, specifically the “going to” form.  In this activity, I asked the students to answer on an index card these three questions: What are you going to do after class?  tonight? and this weekend?  They then gave me their cards, which I mixed up and redistributed to all the students.  

With a card in hand, each student had to circulate and ask the same questions to find the person who wrote the card.  Then, because these guys and gals are advanced, I made them take it a step further with a little interview to get more details about the person’s plans.  Then they wrote up the information and presented a little “portrait” of their interviewee to the class.

I hope this activity hit on a few cylinders: writing and speaking about the future in natural, casual English (I find it so stilted and unnatural when students speak only with “will” in the future tense.  How many native English speakers do that?).  I also hope the extension of the exercise gave them some awareness and practice with the concept of details.

But, most of all, I’m just so glad it got them talking.

Board (Hopefully not bored) Work

Rhina is the narrator, Norma is the scribe

In my classroom, students do a lot of work at the board.  I make them write on the board whenever it fits the lesson, which is often.  In the photo above, Rhina and Norma are writing the results of some group work — Rhina is reading their group’s paragraph while Norma writes.

At the beginning, when I tell students that they are going to write on the board, they groan and agonize.  When the first brave soul comes up and gingerly puts her sentence or paragraph up, I tell the class, “Watch _____ write on the board.  She is still breathing.  It didn’t kill her.  She didn’t have a heart attack.  Writing on the board is safe, I promise you!”

Luckily, all of my students eventually come around and get comfortable, no matter how scared they were at the beginning.  I’m glad it works out for us, because this is one sure way I can see their writing progress on a regular basis.  Also, beyond the benefit this writing practice gives to their language development, the shared misery of writing on the board really builds camaraderie and a feeling of togetherness among my students.  Our standard practice is whoever just wrote on the board chooses the next person to write by handing him or her the marker; thus, each student has the power to make the next assignment.  It frequently results in laughs and smiles as the recipient of the marker (in other words, the next victim) groans and tries to wriggle away from it.  But most importantly, it gives the students the power and control in the classroom.

Biscuit, Biscuit

Today we had a great laugh in the Beginning class.  Wirarat, who is from Thailand, is trying to learn a little Spanish along with English.  She’s entertaining everyone with her attempts to pronounce Spanish words and phrases, but she has a pretty good Spanish accent.

Wira also told us today about her new job at a local restaurant.  We asked, “Where is it?”  She kept answering “Kroger and Biscuit!”  What?  “Biscuit, Biscuit!”  she repeated.  Finally, she drew a map on the board for us — the restaurant is located near a Kroger store and a Bojangles restaurant.  Biscuit = Bonjangles.