Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Best Laid Schemes ...

Just a quick update between classes: my "schemes" about using activities to reinforce language and family trees went right out the window in today's class!
cute mouse from http://www.free-extras.com
I made an announcement at the beginning of class about a project that our institution does annually: we publish a book of student (and staff) writing.  I wanted students to begin thinking about making a contribution.  To generate interest, I passed around three copies of last year's edition.  I forgot just how interesting these books are, so before I knew it  two-thirds of the lesson had passed.  Students browsed through the books, selected interesting readings, read them aloud and discussed.  We read two poems (lots of colorful language like "in the gutter") and a factual account of the earthquake in Haiti, which was followed by our Dominican student standing at the board pointing to a hand-sketched map of Hispaniola and explaining Dominican and Haitian relations in response to questions from his classmates.  I spent a good part of this time sitting in a chair to the side, trying to aid with communication (but actually, I felt that my help wasn't needed as much as I thought it was!).

As this all subsided, students realized that one of the group had brought in a laptop to share his family pictures.  He stood at the front and narrated the whole show, answering questions about his family and friends from the group.  Again, I felt that people were doing fine with less help from me than I would have thought.  Since he's an Orthodox monk, when the question arose about his wife and children (none), he ended up diagramming his Church's hierarchy on the board and taking questions (with a bit of vocabulary assistance from me).

At one point in the photo-sharing, the student struggled to find the word "cousin".  He said, "my mother's sister's daughter".  Ding! Ding! Ding!  A natural segue to family trees!  When he was entirely finished with his impromptu presentation and sitting down (to applause, I might add), I stood up and drew out a segment of the family tree for "my mother's sisters daughter" and elicited the vocabulary.  I then changed perspective (pointed to the mother and elicited the language for "her son", etc.).  With the last half-hour of class, I made my family tree and changed perspective a few times (language that emerged: in-laws, half-brother, stepson).  Student homework was to make their own family trees at home but leave the space for their name blank.

I saw the need for reinforcement of the language that emerged last time (for which I had planned activities), so I'll do it next time.

I need to capture in my notes what emerged today.  Not sure of an efficient way to do this (especially keeping track of three different classes with different things emerging!).  I'm also not sure: do I need to follow up on ALL of it?  I'm sensing that I go with the things that seem to be most relevant to ongoing language use ... hmmmm ...


  1. Thanks for taking a peek! I agree with you (from your blog) about the Tao Te Ching being a perspective-changing book.