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When I was asked to take on a new four-hour CAE preparation class on Saturdays, my first reaction was, “No way!” Worse, when I was told what the offer was, I thought, “This is madness.”

Yet, came Saturday, there I was, after spending a good couple of days pondering and planning, after a night of wasting time on a PowerPoint presentation I was quite sure I would use very little of, if at all, partly because after several hours of planning, I figured I only had an hour’s worth of lesson! Digression was what my mind craved. I’m mad.

So, I’d hardly arrived when two students walked in. Eager and early! A short while later, all 6 of them were seated, plus my “boss”.

The first thing I did was to ask them if they liked the seating arrangement.

Image by Chiew Pang; available for request to licence

For a second, they were stunned into silence, unsure how to react – I don’t think they’d experienced a teacher asking them that before! I told them I didn’t and asked them to surprise me. Eventually, this was what we came up with.

Image by Chiew Pang; available for request to licence

Now, this was more like it – a work station, bringing the students a little closer together. Maybe it could be further improved upon, but there were many tables for a room that isn’t too big. Perhaps next class.

Warmer: 2 truths one lie. I elicited guesses individually, which gave me a rough idea as to what their oral level was. Then, they went straight into pair work to see who was good at lying. Playing in the background for most part of the class was The Modern Jazz Quartet – Django.

Feedback, and again into more PW – they had to mill about and find something in common with at least two people. Looking back, I might have made a mistake and told them to find two things in common instead of two people! It didn’t matter as the objective was for them to get to know each other.

Then, more PW. I’d prepared a needs analysis of 13 questions, so I asked them to interview each other with those questions, to take notes, and at home, to fill in the profile of their partner in a Google Doc, which was to be used as the class notebook.

ELT students speaking in pairs

Image by Chiew Pang; available for request to licence

It was really gratifying to see that they were all very talkative and discussed beyond the questions. This activity went on for quite some time – it didn’t occur to me to keep track of how long they took. I knew it was going to take some time when, after fifteen minutes, they were only at number 3 on the list! What a magnificent bunch!

After each activity, I tried to do some feedback including, wherever necessary, corrections. More group work followed when I asked them to discuss these issues before reporting back to me:

What do you expect from the class?
How do you see the role of the teacher?
What do you require from the teacher?
What can the teacher expect from you?

Again they were stumped at first, especially at the second question. “No teacher has asked us that before!” So, we discussed how they see me and how I see myself, why I decided to take the class, what they expect from me and I from them…

But before starting the discussion, I asked if they wanted a break, and one of them asked, “But we can carry on talking in English, no?” Can you beat that? This was when the boss offered to make coffee! In the end, we didn’t have the break as we continued the discussion albeit over a cup of coffee.

Aula 10 Triana

Image by Chiew Pang; available for request to licence

From there, the discussion went on to the exam, where I showed them the PowerPoint I’d prepared, but I ran through it very briefly, highlighting the different parts of the exam.

Before I knew it, we’d done three-and-a-half hours! Exams, strengths and weaknesses eventually led to pronunciation when I decided to guide them on the journey of the sounds of English à la Underhill.

That wrapped the lesson up nicely. They know what I expect from them, and one of these is for them to answer feedback questions I ask on the Google Doc. And it’s up to me to live up to their expectations of their teacher.