This year I’m on maternity leave, well not officially, since in Italy mothers are requested to re-enter their jobs 3-4 months after their child’s birth, but let’s say, I’ve become a freelance mummy-teacher. What does that mean? In the morning, I started running an English home-nursery, while in the afternoon, I started teaching kids. On Wednesdays, I have lessons with my Mini Heroes, 6-7 year old boys (only boys). Obviously, my lesson planning is completely different from my good old lessons to adults and I usually need a shower after a lesson with them, but being their hero-teacher is the best price on Earth. It’s not a traditional classroom course. We do our lessons in our playroom in my home, using my kids’ toys. But most of the activities I tried with remarkable success and/or results are simply to be introduced even in a classroom.
Let me start with explaining how I plan a lesson for my YL group.
The very first thing was to set up my long-term plan. I sell 6-8 week packages to my clients, so parents don’t feel the stress to commit themselves for the whole school years (which they might do anyway, only step by step) and it also gives me different entry points for new students. I asked my students’ mothers what book(s) they children use in their school(s), took a look at their syllabus and considered their age (6-7) and the exams that might be available for them. I don’t really cherish Trinity for different reasons (they never let you observe an exam which makes you think that they do whatever they want), but so far I have had positive experience with Cambridge YLE. The first exam for 7-12 year old kids is Cambridge YLE Starters. To have good results (not only a reward) in this exam, kids need a decent vocabulary (colours, every day items, clothes, animals, furniture, action verbs, etc.) and use simple grammar (present simple and continuous, have got, prepositions).
I crosschecked the two and picked 3-4 vocabulary topics and 3-4 grammar points to teach and revise (theoretically 2 lessons for each).
And here is the thing: kids learn for years, for example, the colors, but they put it after the subject (This is a lion big – Italian interference) or they know present continuous, but always forget to use the auxiliary (He sitting on the bed). They very probably know the difference between a and an, but say a elephant etc. So my aim is not to teach them grammar (I only clarify the rule in one minute, often in Italian and skip automatic copied exercises, so called closed practice). I want to make them use what they have already known.
So as a second step, I set up a rough plan for each lesson: two lessons are supposed to deal with the same vocabulary field and grammar structure. In every lesson, we also revise in one or two activities what has been done previously in the course (the closer to the end of the course, the longer this phase). So every lesson is given a target language and the lexis that needs to be recycled or grammar that needs to be reactivated. Even better if these are expressed in functions: to be able to describe their families, etc.
The third step is the most important: I list all the games that can be done practising the given target language (see examples below).
The fourth step is to look for extra materials (a worksheet if necessary, pictures to describe, stories for the dictation race, etc.), mostly online.
The fifth step is to decide about the order of the exercises. I have a routine:
– We start to set up our puzzle carpet, a five-minute activity that helps the boys to ‘arrive’ and get into ‘English mood’.
– Then we quickly repeat our main class rules, pointing at the correct behavior in pairs of pictures (e.g. playing with toys vs destroying toys).
– We say then our Starter, that starts with a greeting, then we ask each other how we are, finally we clarify what the day and the date is. Later also the weather is going to be added to the list.
– We move onto our main part which also involves revision phases and finally
– We finish with a free game session.
(to be continued)