Thursday, January 21, 2010

What would you do if you won 10 billion yen?

Thursday Reading and Writing Class

Today’s lesson consisted of a reading activity, two worksheets on the conditional, a writing task using the conditional, and another sentence correction. Following last week’s model, I prepared packages and placed them on desks, asking students to sit where they saw a package. If I continue this style of lesson in the future, I will definitely have packages because it is a great time-saving device, and I really can’t say why I didn’t think of it sooner. I also tried something different which I think worked well, too – I asked students explicitly to submit work as they finished instead of waiting until the end to submit everyone at once. I chose to do this for two reasons, the first being that it freed up space on their desks, which may or may not interfere with their work, but hey, a clean desk is better, isn’t? The second reason was that towards the end I am usually looking at students’ paragraphs, so I can’t always see what’s going on, so this was a way to ensure that students did not copy from someone, although I am fairly sure no one has done it yet; let’s just consider it a preventative measure if you will, because you can never know.

The Conditional

Today’s conditional writing task asked the question, ‘What would you do if you won a billion yen?’ I got a lot of great answers such as, ‘I would save it’, or ‘I would give it to charity’, but there were some answers that I really liked such as ‘I would buy an island’, or ‘I would buy a castle’, and there was even one answer that said, ‘I would waste it’, if I remember correctly. The reason why I like these answers is not that they’re different, unique, but that those students used their imagination and broke away from such answers such as buying clothes, a house etc. Actually, I just got an idea - it may be interesting, if I have time of course, to look through the paragraphs counting the things that they said they would do and post them as a sort of top ten list of things my students would do if they won 10 billion yen. Actually, what would YOU do if you won 10 billion yen (about $109 million US, 78 million euros, $115 million CAN)? I think I would probably donate some of it, but a recording studio with lots of instruments in a nice, old castle with a well-stocked wine cellar on an island does have a nice ring to it. Anyway, getting back to the subject, the paragraphs were fairly well written, although many students thought that using would in the first sentence meant that they could just use the simple present in the remainder of the paragraph. Now that I think about it though, this could be interference from their L1, Japanese, because they don’t express the conditional with modals as we do, and often in Japanese, it would be, directly translated, ‘If…, I want to…’, which is what some of my students wrote. However, since I have the students show me their rough draft before they go on to write the final draft, I was able to point this out to them through explicit feedback. I may not have mentioned this, but for the other activities, although some will have explanations written, I only discuss the writing task with them. Of course, if students have questions about a certain task, they can ask me, but unfortunately most do not, which kind of makes me think that perhaps they hesitate asking me for some reason, despite me telling them that they could at any time ask me questions. Hmmm, maybe I should be more explicit next time.

Textbook Dilemma

As for the textbook decision, I have found a textbook that I like, but I am wondering if I really should go with it next year considering that I spent my first year building up a repertoire of materials. Actually, that reminds me, I was talking about this with my wife the other day that I tend to change books or lessons between semesters quite often. I am not sure why though. I guess the main reason is that I didn’t like the textbook for various reasons, but even the textbook is not that bad, and I’ve all these activities and materials, I still think of changing it for the next time, and often go back to the start. Interestingly enough, I also tend not to use the materials I’ve made from one semester to another, although there have been times when I have, for example with my reading and writing class, but even now, as I wrote above, I am thinking of using a book that will probably make it difficult to use those materials, or maybe it won’t? I suppose I could just modify them and that shouldn’t be difficult, now should it? Maybe I have made up my mind after all.

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