Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Unplugged weather

I have been trying to come to terms with teaching unplugged. To start with I set off with a hiss and a roar, and thought that it was the best thing I had discovered since I started teaching. In reality my lessons had taken a 'semi' unplugged approach ever since that fateful 3hr class with no materials (see my previous posts). However, after a couple of months I began to find that it was actually becoming more difficult, not easier, to stimulate conversation and find that idea to build on and develop. And my lessons went back to being semi-unplugged.

Last week I was teaching my most difficult class of the week and we had a beautiful class with no materials - something I had not achieved with these students before. I have a father and his 15yr old daughter together for two hours - and while I have protested to this set-up on many occasions they insist on continuing. The levels aren't terribly different in terms of grammar (intermediate students), but the father has the listening skills of an elementary student while the daughter has the listening and comprehension of an upper intermediate. The father is a colonel in the army and doesn't seem to listen even when people speak to him in Spanish, but maybe I am getting carried away with myself and I am sure that warrents and entirely different post!

I began class with my standard 'how was your weekend', and the father began to tell me about how he had travelled to the south to look at a piece of land. And it was 'dense' the entire time he was there. Dense? The daughter quickly corrected him with 'rain', which he corrected with 'sometimes rain, but not wet'. Ahhh, fog? Mist? Bingo - here is my lesson!

Image courtesy of: englishsubjectarea.blogspot.com

After getting them to draw and describe the weather for the entire weekend (luckily it is incredibly changeable in the south) we moved onto a word map for describing weather. I had never thought about how many different ways we can describe rain! As reinforcement I had them brainstorm all the features of those large weather reports that you see in the Saturday newspaper. Each of them then went on to draw in symbols the forecast for the next five days, including tides, humidity, UV index, sunrise and sunset, probablility of rain as well as temperature and weather conditions. They then read them out like a newsreader on the TV (using all their new vocabulary) while the other furiously wrote down the forecast. Feedback was a summary of the other person's weather report. The father had problems at this point but with the use of his notes, and the daughter's pictures, he was able to complete the exercise.

We finished the class by going online and looking at some real weather reports for places around the world.

This was a very successful lesson and there is very little I would change for next time. There was a lot of new vocabulary, and a revision of the use of adjectives and adverbs, all of which will need to be revisited in the future.