In the meantime, I've had the opportunity to work with a different group dynamic. We definitely can't break up into small groups and even pair work is limited. I don't use a lot of materials anyway (thanks, unplugged mentors!) but what there is is easier to produce. I always try to sit when I can, because I feel that it equalizes and informalizes. Now, with only three or four learners, we all sit at one small table for almost the whole lesson. (I recommend keeping a lap board, marker and eraser right there at the table.) I have the impression that eye contact is more frequent and of longer duration, and it seems that discussions take off more easily. I do think lessons are a bit more intense. Three hours is a long time with only three or four learners!
I'm also sensing the learners shifting with the dynamic. I think everyone feels more responsibility for helping to keep things going, so people step up and take initiative more often. One learner opened up her smart phone and, to my delighted surprise, began asking a series of questions about language. I had encouraged the group some time ago to notice the language they hear around them, to take notes, and to ask about them in class. Apparently, she had been jotting them into her phone for several weeks. I guess she felt more free to ask about them in our smaller, more intimate group.
She asked (effectively), I know there are some verbs which can be followed by a gerund (stop eating), some verbs which can be followed by the infinitive (need to eat) and some verbs which can be followed by either (love to eat/love eating). I heard this sentence and it doesn't seem to fit the rule: I look forward to meeting you.
After some discussion and clarification, one of the learners hit upon phrasal verbs. We found "look forward to" in a reference book, confirming that it is indeed a phrasal verb. The conclusion was, then, that "to" is not actually part of an infinitive construction ... and this phrasal verb can be added to the list that takes gerunds. That's all explicit grammar and it's OK, but I especially enjoyed seeing that the noticing bug, which had already infected one learner, was beginning to spread. As we went about other activities, verbs followed by gerunds seemed to pop up quite regularly!
Of course, it was just that we were now sensitized to that structure. (When hubby bought a Prius recently, we started seeing them all over the place!) I would call that incidental noticing. Except for the one learner who is now taking notes, I think it will fade quickly ... or will it?
|courtesy of YST aka kryptos5|
we can use the ringing of our telephone, the local church bells, the cry of a baby, or even the sound of fire engines and ambulances as our bells of mindfulness (from the Plum Village website)
When I pause the lesson to pay attention to language, maybe it's ringing a bell of language-mindfulness. One learner has joined me. Since this group is so small, I think there's a good chance that the rest will pick it up too ... when new learners begin in a couple of weeks, maybe we'll already have a language-practice going!
By the way, I used verbs followed by gerunds seven times above. Read again: do they pop out? :-)