The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 6

Today’s boardwork – You know the routine by now, don’t you?

Boardwork 1
Boardwork 2

As the weather forecast had predicted, it was cold and rainy this morning, and my student was quick to point that out to me as I walked into the class. I replied by saying that we were lucky to have a sunny afternoon yesterday when the rain cleared and asked if they got up to anything special.

One student said he went to the British Museum and that seemed to spark the interest of a couple of his classmates. They wanted to know what he thought of it and he said, ‘I like it.’

I gestured for him to put the sentence in the past tense, and he looked at me, puzzled, and said, ‘But I did. The past tense of “like” sounds like the present.’

So, I wrote,

I like it.

/kit/

I liked it.

/dit/

and highlighted how the initial vowel of the following word meant that the last letter got transferred phonologically, meaning that the /d/ was pronounced a lot more clearly.

After a bit of drilling, I asked him, ‘So how did you find the British Museum?

He hesitated, and then said, ‘I look at the map, and then…

So, I quickly jumped in and elicited that ‘How did you find ~?’ often means ‘What did you think of your experience with ~?

The conversation then moved on to students talking about the wildlife in the neighbourhood they lived in, the different museums and galleries they had been to in London, how it was best not to cover the whole of the British museum at one go or it may get overwhelming, and the fact that the Tate Modern used to be a power plant. I took this opportunity to feed in the phrase ‘~ is well worth + -ing’, knowing fully well that later, the students were going to do mini-presentations about their countries.

(How did I know that? Well, you obviously haven’t read yesterday’s post! Click here for a quick catch-up)

As we had covered quite a fair bit of lexis and structures in the last two days, I decided to put students in their pairs to do a recall of those two days for about 5-10 minutes, and conducted a 30-minute long Back-to-Board of those language items.

(I wanted to spare you TEFL teachers of an explanation of Back-to-Board, but for the benefit of those not in the know, here goes:

Students are put into groups, in this case, 2 groups. Each group sends out a representative who would sit on a chair with their back facing the board. The teacher, in this case, moi, writes a word, phrase, or sentence on the board. The rest of the group describes or explains what is on the board to their representative without saying the words on the board or spelling them out. The first representative to shout out the correct answer wins a point for their group.)

One team, who called themselves Team Asia (because they comprised of students from the Far East) started to struggle in the middle of the game as their group members were used to thinking carefully before speaking and not speaking for the sake of filling silences. Their opposing team was clearly coming up far in front and their confidence started to lag.

After the game, I thought the need to explain that the purpose of the activity was not only to help them revise the language items, but to give them practice in paraphrasing and describing what they mean because there would be plenty of times in real life where this would be a useful skill.

The students nodded readily, and I’m hoping this might mean that the next time we do a Back-to-Board, Team Asia would jump into the deep end a little more and be adventurous with their use of language, as much as it might initially go against their cultural instincts.

After the revision session, I had students form groups with classmates from their own countries, and share the research they had done as homework about their countries in preparation for the presentation they would give after the break. I offered my help with any emergent language and suggested that they should feel free to use the computer and the IWB if needed.

Although some students chatted away in the corner, the class was generally faced with a lull.

And this was something I was not used to.

I know the theory and all:

  • Students need silent moments too – preparation time, absorption time, and thinking time.
  • Students from certain cultures have different discourse strategies, and are more comfortable with preparing what they are going to say thoroughly, and less likely to blabber away.
  • A need to fill classroom time with chatter is sometimes a sign of a teacher’s need to control and an inability to let go.

Yet, it was something I was not used to, and had to remind myself to leave the students to their own devices and let them get on with the task in their own way, even if it meant a classroom that was not filled with talk.

After the break, we all settled in our seats and got ready for the first student to present. He had clearly done his homework and spoke to his Brazilian classmates about the Portuguese loan words used in Japanese (see Boardwork 1).

Seeing the level of interest in the classroom at this point and the potential for expansion, I wrote the words ‘karaoke’, ‘entrepreneur’, and ‘latte’ on the board after his presentation, and told the following stories.

Karaoke’ originated in Japan, and ‘kara’, as in ‘karate’, meant ‘empty’. ‘Oke’ was short for ‘orchestra’. Therefore, karaoke really means ‘empty orchestra’.

Entrepreneur’ originated in France and refers to a businessman, one that takes risks in the spirit of business. George Bush has been known for saying, ‘The French don’t know how to take risks. They clearly don’t have a word for “entrepreneur” in their dictionary.’

Latte’ originated in Italy and means milk in Italian. However, in English, its meaning has changed to refer to a type of coffee made with a lot of milk, and this definition is now found in English dictionaries.

I then asked students to think of 3 English loan words in their language and see if their meanings have changed from the original English word.

Here are some of the words that came up. See if you can figure out what they mean (some of them have retained their original meanings).

  • Rajicase    (Japanese)
  • Pasocon    (Japanese)
  • Salaryman    (Japanese)
  • Office Lady    (Japanese)
  • Face Pass    (Japanese)
  • Skinship    (Korean)
  • Fighting!    (Korean)
  • Show off    (Persian/Farsi)
  • Site    (Brazilian Portuguese)

(Answers in tomorrow’s blogpost)

Next up were two Korean students, the first of whom had carefully prepared a speech about the Korean writing system and the popular places to visit in Korea. The second student had prepared some wonderful pictures to demonstrate Korean pop culture and Korean food, and had the whole class salivating and looking forward to lunch.

The two Brazilians were on right after, and spoke about the importance of the coffee trade in their country. While I fed in some words about the economics of demand and supply, the rest of the class (including myself) were fascinated to see photos of the coffee plant and fresh coffee beans. I don’t think I had ever seen coffee beans that weren’t roasted!

The lesson that day ended with an energetic discussion about the rare and expensive coffee beans that had passed through the digestive tracts of a bird, and the Brazilian students reacted to their classmates enthusiasm by showing them a Youtube clip of said bird.

Lots of language and fluency practice resulted from the presentations (which needs to continued tomorrow) and the energy of the students rode high as they left the class…

I could only laugh at myself and my inability to let go.

I should have trusted the silence.

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