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To start off with, this week saw a drop in activity in the Doc. Slightly worrying. Why is it – and I’m sure I’m not alone – when something like this happens, we immediately look in the mirror and ask, “What have I done wrong? Am I asking too much? Is my class boring? How can I make it better? Do I not motivate them?” And so on.

So, why weren’t the activities I requested of them not done? Had I not explained them properly? Should I have asked them more ICQs than were asked? Did they think it not useful?

Or was it that they were just too busy?

All this was in my mind as I spent a few days putting together a lesson on the CAE speaking test especially for Alejandro, who was going to take the exam on 1st Dec. I had been planning to do a PACS based on their output for last week’s activities, but since the production was somewhat on the low end, I didn’t have much to go on.

I arrived at the class early as usual, but not as early as I’d wanted. Now, this is a one-room academy, just starting out. I like start-ups, as the motivation spurs me on, but the downside is the things that one takes for granted on older establishments, such as a decent photocopier/printer. Since I come here only on Saturdays, I have to print my stuff on the very same day, and, fortunately, I’m not a fan of handouts!

I had problems getting the laptop going. Then when I started printing, it was so slow, I’d barely done the first handout when students started walking in. And, the ink ran dry. Haha. No replacement for toner either. All part of the excitement! Dogme, baby!

OK, students. The good news was that we have a new student, Mariano. A judge, no less. A young one. I’m just not used to seeing young judges. I expect judges to be old and creaky… lol… but I’m known to be open-minded 😉

The bad news? There were only four students! Mmm, again, the self-doubts set in…

Ceci was ill. Alejandro, for whom this lesson had been planned for, didn’t turn up. Nor did Santiago. That’s the problem with small groups. When you have a couple of absentees, the difference is impactful, to put it mildly.

Last week, I asked for a volunteer to report on the lesson and post it on the Doc. Ceci did it, and I thought it was a great effort. It’s not only a good way to practise writing but also to reflect on the class, and also to provide the others, absent or otherwise, a summary of what was done. So, I asked for another volunteer, and Bea did. Well done!

Since we had a new student, and also because it was related to my speaking test plan, I asked the group to ask each other getting-to-know-you questions. This they did, and more. They took advantage of the fact that he’s a judge to question him of his opinions on the new tax laws. Fab stuff!

I subtly lead the discussion to the ages of judges, the pros and cons of younger and older judges, and the differences between British judges and the rest of Europe. This, somehow, led to male/female-dominated professions, discrimination and feminism. Apparently it is now more polite to address ladies as “señoras” since “señoritas” may lend you in politically-incorrect waters! That was news to me!

Partly because of my aforementioned worry regarding productivity in the Doc, I started a discussion on this. It was also a way of introducing it to Mariano. Generally, they like it and they find it useful, and they agree with my correction methods. Perhaps José was still unconvinced and lean towards one document per lesson system.

I explained how the Doc has been reorganised to make it easier to get to the required point quicker. This is by making use of headings and an index. I told them how to do it. I also explained how to read my corrections as they were looking at the comments first rather than the highlighted parts of their texts.

We had a PACS, and then I gave them a handout with some bubbles of answers. They had to guess the questions. They conferred. They watched a video recording of a CAE Part One speaking test, compared the questions with their own. They turned the worksheet over, where the original questions are printed, and re-checked their answers.

CAE, watching video by Chiew Pang

We discussed which were strong and which were weak answers. What makes a strong answer? After discussion, I provided them with Cambridge’s criteria.

In the next stage, in pairs, they wrote 5 questions. I gave one group the topic of future plans, and the other group, travel and holidays. They then role-played examiner/candidates, based on these questions.

CAE speaking, pairwork by Chiew Pang

They watched a different video of another pair doing the Part one speaking test, this time with commentaries from the examiners themselves. We discussed the questions asked and what were considered strong answers.

We summarised the lesson, I ICQ’d the homework activities, from which came a suggestion from Paula that they could record themselves practising the answers for the speaking test. Again, I was glad this came from them rather than from me. I suggested using Sound Cloud. Other audio recording websites can be found on this useful resources page.

My feelings:

Mariano bonded well with the group. Positive feedback on the Doc, generally. Doubts regarding the corrections were cleared. Lesson, I thought, went well, perhaps not as fun as the previous two. My mood affected it, maybe, but the planned content was more of a ‘serious’ nature anyway. But mood affects the planned content in the first place, no? LOL. Chicken and egg.

What do you think? How much does your personal mood affect your lesson?