Monday, November 2, 2009

To use a textbook, or not to use a textbook, that is the question.

This was the second last class of the week of illness and pain, but really by the time I had this class, I was feeling much better although I was still taking medicine for my cold.

I started off by passing back their work and explaining once again the absentee slip system. I then asked them to clear off their desks and I gave them the review quiz. Although in my general English class, I played a game, I was expecting everyone to show up in this class, which would make it challenging to conduct such a game, so I went with a listening instead. Before we started, I used hand gestures getting them to repeat after me, the two patterns in focus for that lesson. I then read the words only once and they had to circle the correct stress pattern. I then asked them individually to give me their answer using the gestures learned. Again, they seemed to have a good grasp of the stress patterns, so I told them that we would start sentence stress next class.

Next, I dictated questions and got them to read them back to me to check their understanding. I then played the CD twice and asked for their answers individually. After that, I had them repeat after the CD. Once that was finished I got them to practice the vocabulary on the next page with a partner using the question, ‘How do you say this in English?’ I gave them about 10 minutes, but most were finished earlier, so we moved on.

What I should have done next was task 5 asking them to memorize the dialogue and after have them present, but instead, I had them do tasks 2 to 4, the first two being a listening, and the last a writing exercise using adverbs. The writing exercise was used because after the listening, there really wasn’t enough time to look at the conversation practice task. I think the writing exercise was also too easy for them, and could have been used more as a question answer type activity. I think in Monday’s class therefore, I will try to make an activity with the vocabulary and then from there head on to the final task and only come back to the listening if there is time. I noticed and perhaps a little too late that the listening was quite short, both activities were completed in under 10 minutes, so I think it would be a good idea to leave them until the end because something I am noticing is that in this class, I am not really giving them enough speaking practice, even if it only controlled, it is still better than nothing.

I have to admit that I think the further you go on in this book, the more there is to do as this unit is a good example. Having a section on frequency adverbs and likes/dislikes is quite a bit for one unit, and now that I know that it is better to make up some supplementary activities (I did not do any for this week, but will try for the next) instead of following the book directly, something which perhaps the authors want you to do, you can easily have a couple of lessons there or perhaps rather, it might be a good idea to try to have two 40 minute sections, one focused on likes and dislikes and the other focusing on adverbs. I say this now because there is only one conversation per unit and for me it would be more ideal to have a model dialogue for each section that I were intending to focus on. It could simply be then a question of choice – perhaps the authors do not intend for you to do everything and that you can pick and choose what to do. Unfortunately, there is not much written in the teacher’s guide about this so I can only speculate. However, looking carefully at the textbook, it is probably meant to go through task after task, but as I stated previously, I will try to supplement the book because despite wanting the students to use the book since they bought it, it is also important to make it interesting for them as well, and some parts of the book are just not that invigorating, and furthermore, students tend to like pair work, and that is something else lacking in this text – well, there are pair work activities, don’t get me wrong, but I think that maybe a few more would have been better. Honestly, the more I write this, the more I can’t help feel that it would be better if I made a textbook, but I’ll leave that to another post.

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