Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: Teaching Unplugged Activity - "Up and Down"

Every week, I have two conversation courses with different groups at the same company. The groups are about the same level and they use the same material, but due to a Holiday-Monday heavy month, the Thursday group is about 2 weeks ahead of the Monday group. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but there is a possibility that the courses will be combined because of attendance issues, so it's important to get them both on the same track.

For this reason, I've had a little leeway lately with the Thursday group, and I tried out an activity based on the “Up and Down” activity on page 40 of Teaching Unplugged. Basically, it's an activity where the students draw a chart depicting the high-points and low-point of their weeks. I did mine first on the board, in front of the class to model it. Then, the students generated their own, and one-by-one, came to the front of the class to plot their lines on the same chart as mine.

The activity went over way better than I thought it would. I encouraged the students to ask questions, but they really were interested in each other, and they asked more and more questions. They also started making jokes....about me. One of the low points of my week was that I burnt a pot of lentil beans on Tuesday. (I don't know if any of you have burnt lentils before, but burning lentils smell really really strongly of weed, and this is a smell that makes me start to dry heave). So, for the rest of Tuesday, my entire apartment smelled like marijuana. I shared this information with my students, and they made jokes about how the rest of my week went up from there, and was I sure that they were lentil beans? They also suggested to the other students that they should have burned lentil beans at the low points in their week.

Anyway. The activity also gave the students a chance to vent about some of the more difficult parts of their work (nothing is going right this week, too much overtime) and to share some outside information with us (for example, I learned that one of my students has a chicken farm, and that another one fishes and sells his catch to a local shop). I found it to be a very enlightening activity, and the students really enjoyed talking about themselves and sharing with the others.