This post series is trying to help YL teachers by giving some ideas how to prepare a lesson for kids and also by listing enjoyable games and exercises to practise grammar or vocabulary. In the first part, I talked you through the steps of my lesson preparation. Let me continue with some further ideas about what to consider when planning a lesson.
Revision is important. We tend to remember words for a short period of time, so in order to maintain new lexical items in the long-term memory, these need to be repeated at least 7 times on different occasions and in different contexts. So every lesson needs to include revision. However, we don’t always start with the revision session. These (since we have more than one) are usually built in the lesson. So after every new syllabus point, there can be a short game or exercise that aims at reactivating previously learnt vocabulary. The same with grammar points. A word snake or a memo game between two exercises with a new structure can also help to relax for a second and get motivation for the next challenge.
Each lesson is around one idea. For example:
– In one lesson we started to write the names of the continents onto sticky notes and stick these onto a big blind map. Then we drew the logo of our favorite superhero and these flew from one continent to another and did exercises (dice game to revise numbers in Las Vegas, revision of food items by making our favourite pizza on a paper plate in Neaples). Finally, we finished with a true-false exercise answering to questions like: Can Superman fly? Can Flash jump high? etc. Boys had to jump up with their right hand up if it was true and jump up with their left hand if it was false.
– In another lesson we picked one country, Denmark, and after a dictation race (see below), we did exercises with LEGO, which was invented in Denmark. The homework was to read about LEGO on the internet.
Important detail that we also have a reward chart where the boys collect points to get a final big reward. Not after every exercise, but 2-3 times in every lesson, we organize a race and choose the winner who then gets rewarded with a point. At the moment we have a tie!
Another important element in my lesson is the art-break. Around the middle of the lesson, I give the boys a task, in which they need to sit down and draw or colour. This is a kind of break for them, they often change into Italian and chat for a couple of minutes, which doesn’t disturb me, since they often ask about English (how you say this or what is the difference between this and that). What they make, is usually an important part of my next exercise. For example, in my last lesson (vocabulary: body parts, grammar: have got), I asked them to create their own monster, which they did with a lot of enthusiasm. The exercise afterwards was to describe this monster in first person singular: Hi, my name is Spider-Face. I have got eight legs, etc.
One common problem with energy-bomb kids is that they tend to fiddle: they never sit still and keep moving, they play with their pens and destroy their notebooks while listening or answering to a question. One of my colleagues gave me an excellent tip: give them playdough they can play with, while they listen to their class mates or to you; it will help working out their extra energy through their hands. And it works.
Another fantastic thing I discovered is a toy for toddlers: a colouring book that works with a water-pen. The pen doesn’t write onto other things only onto the notepad and reveals hidden pictures. But then it dries and can be reused. An excellent investment which can replace playdough. The thing is that boys don’t like looking into your eyes, while answering to questions, so they can hide into these coloring books, guess what is coming out at the end and still listen to your question.
The keyword is moving, moving, moving. I make them sit for 5 minutes, but they cannot handle more (in an afternoon lesson, after 6 morning lessons and the homework session, it’s nearly impossible).
I also insist on using English. They can have a glass of water if they ask for it in English, they must say What does … mean?, I won’t react to ‘come si dice …?’, etc.
Needless to say, a 90-minute lesson is long and really tiring, but it’s also very good to ‘hide’ a lesson into a series of games.
(to be continued)