Tuesday, December 25, 2012

An Inspired Bit of Teaching

I have to admit: with my growing responsibilities in the classroom, and now with a gaggle of girls under age 10 to educate at the Lil’Uns school, I’m starting to wonder where I’m going to get ideas from. And if I do get an idea, how I’m going to put it into practice. Especially with the group that I’ve had for 3 semesters, with whom I can’t recycle previously done activities, I’m really stressing.

This is nothing unusual. Since I’ve begun teaching I’ve experienced this ‘how many more rabbits are in my hat’ type of anxiety, and it usually manifests itself around this time, every semester.

I like to have my lessons planned out a week in advance, that way I can mentally rehearse them at lull times, say when I’m riding a bus or cleaning house. I do not like stepping in front of the class without knowing my material cold. I like even less not feeling inspired, cleaving onto something I’ve found in one of the online ESL workshops and trying to adapt it to my groups. Which is exactly what I did last week, when I was drawing a blank come lesson preparation time. I made myself swallow that bilious lump. We were going to do __________, and that was all there was to it and that would just have to be good enough.

See? The idea was so awful I don’t even remember what it was. I’m too lazy to get up and walk across my office to look at my teacher’s journal, so please just take my word for it that it was not up to my usual standard of material I like to present. With a churning stomach I slid into Sunday evening.     

Just before going to bed the idea hit me: Let’s write a story! I would provide the first sentence. Each student would provide the subsequent line, building onto what the previous student had written. It would challenge their creativity, test their ability to understand and use English and…

My friends, it did everything I wanted it to and more. These kids LOVED it! Come each student’s turn, he/she ran to the blackboard to write their one sentence. I had no idea they were so… twisted! But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself.

SOPHOMORE 1 GROUP (the ones I’ve had for 3 semesters):

Mary came in, put down her bag and took off her coat. She went to her bedroom to pick out some beautiful clothes. Today is her birthday. She dressed herself, and then left the house. Going to her best friend Lucy’s house, she invited Lucy to go preparing for her birthday party. What a nice day!

Suddenly the phone rang: it was her boyfriend. He told her he had an accident. He said he will love her forever but he was dying. He said he wants to see her one last time before dying. Sobbing, she set out to the hospital. Unfortunately, another accident! As a result, they lay in the hospital together. When they woke up they found they were in a palace. Then they found they had switched bodies. Further, they had forgotten each other. (At this point, I wondered where the story would go! Read on to find out.)

Suddenly she woke up and found it was just a dream. She came back to life but her boyfriend did not. The doctor said he had become a plant man (clarification: ‘vegetative state’… but I had to leave ‘plant man’ in. That is just too cute an expression!). She was very worried about him, at the same time Lucy told Mary she was in love with him too. Lucy wanted to marry him and take care of him. Mary said she would bless them. The man woke up suddenly, then he knows everything, but said he loves a man named Nicholas more.

I only have 3 ‘boys’ in this group: Bryant, Nicholas and Bruce. That last sentence was written by my more mischievous ‘boy’ student, Bryant. You can imagine how we roared! Again I wondered: where are they going to go from here?  

The next student approaches the board…

The actress looked at the play script and couldn’t help laughing: it was really a complex story! The actress loves the writer; she thinks the man is so fascinating! Finally the angel appeared (? I’m not really sure what they meant with this sentence). Lucy married Nicholas. Mary married her boyfriend. The actress married the writer. All ended well. What a complex story!

And there you have it: 28 sentences of raw imagination, each building upon the other, with only the first sentence provided by me. I’m definitely going to repeat this exercise in class!  

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