Well, we’re now almost two weeks into the new term. It’s taken a bit of adjusting, but so far, so good.
Not all of the students are yet attending. Some seem not to start back at the academy until they start back at school – and as I understand it, some kids only went back to school yesterday (even if their teachers have been there all week with different groups). Others seem to opt out of September completely and start in October. It doesn’t make my life particularly easy – I had a Movers class with one young student on his own on Wednesday and suspect I might have just one student in my Flyers class this afternoon – but in a way it has made for a more relaxed start to the year.
We were advised to focus on games and fun activities for the first two weeks, rather than launching straight into the course books, so that’s just what I’ve done.
In week one I played variations of two games with most of my groups – Find Someone Who Bingo (using bingo cards from this fabulous website) – and Battleships.
At first I was a bit dubious as to how Battleships could be used as an English language practice activity, but my friend Thom explained how he’d used it and then the more I thought about it, the more ideas I had.
For the youngest learners, I got them to hide vocab items in a grid. Their partner had to find the words (as per regular battleships) and then each time they found a word they were asked to spell it for an additional point.
I used Thom’s version with the pre-intermediate kids – they wrote subject pronouns / names along the top of the grid and verbs down the side, so instead of using grid references like A1 or C4, they made sentences, like ‘I ride an elephant’ or ‘my mum bakes chocolate cookies’. (Thanks Thom!)
As for the intermediate (B1) students, I asked them to hide (carefully chosen) verbs in their grids and when they found a verb, they had to give the past participle. With some groups, I got really ambitious and combined the game with Minesweeper – so if they gave the correct past participle, their opponent had to tell them how many other verbs were hidden in the surrounding cells. (This was a little harder for the learners to grasp at first but really sped things up!)
The only group that didn’t play either game was my B2 speaking group. They were my guinea pigs for an End of the World decision-making exercise (for which I have to thank my friend Jess). This went so well I’ve repeated it with all of my B1 groups this week!
This week’s activities have been a little more varied. In addition to the End of the World scenario, I’ve had my B1 students drawing pictures described to them by their partners and playing ‘Who’s Telling the Truth’ (essentially ‘Would I Lie to You’ but adapted according to the number of students), which has been quite revealing! And the younger kids have played games, sung songs and watched short video stories. There have been hiccups and technical blips, but all in all, it seems to have gone well.
Next week, it’s back to the book. Although the games etc. have been a lot of fun – and have hopefully helped to build rapport in the classes – I am looking forward to getting back to more ‘normal’ classes. That isn’t to say that I follow the book blindly, but it is useful to provide some structure. The good news is that I’ve taught two of my current five levels before, so I have a head-start on planning for them, and I’ve discovered some useful websites with resources for my speaking class.
As for getting back to normal in terms of Covid, I don’t see that happening any time soon. It is weird teaching the whole time with a mask on, and weird having all of my students wear masks too. It is surprising how much harder it makes it for us to understand each other, but we do what we must.
It’s also strange to have to clean all of the desks and chairs between lessons, but it doesn’t take long and if it helps protect me and my students, that has to be a good thing. What’s harder is ensuring that nothing gets passed between students without coming via me for disinfecting first. I complained that teaching online required you to be alert all the time – well, multiply that by ten!
The problem is that the youngest students just don’t have any concept of why they shouldn’t leave their seat to show their friend something or lend him a pencil or rubber. I’m sure the older students have a better understanding of what we’re asking of them and why, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inclined to comply, or that they don’t just hand each other things without thinking. But we’ll get there.
In other news, I have (finally!) received the first proof copy of my book! It is very exciting and more than a little strange to have a copy of my book in my hand. It’s not quite the first time I’ve seen my writing in print because I have submitted work to anthologies previously, but this is the first time I’ve seen my name on the cover and the first time the whole book has been mine.
There are a couple of minor changes to be made (if I weren’t such a perfectionist I’d almost be tempted to approve it as it is, but I’m resisting the temptation). I’m planning to submit the revised file and order a second proof this weekend. And then – hopefully – I just have to wait for that to arrive before approving its release. I’m still hoping to have it out for the end of September, but if it takes a week or two longer – or even a month – so be it.
It’s been a long road to get the book to this point. It’s hard to believe I’m so nearly there. And then I need to put it behind me and move on to the next. Hopefully it won’t take 8 years this time.