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Today, we eased into the lesson by talking about their Christmas (the Spanish have their family get-together over dinner on 24th, called “Noche Buena” (Good Night). Normally, a lot of the speaking activities are done among themselves, but, this time, I decided to participate and act as the ‘host’, so to speak. Out of this came structures such as the passive construction of get/have something done

  • I had to have my car fixed on Christmas Eve because the exhaust pipe just fell off

and lexis such as

  • wonky
  • greed (n), greedy (adj)
  • glutton (the person), gluttony (the habit)
  • rehearse (v), rehearsal (n)
  • exhaust pipe.

As the conversation started to die a natural death, I asked them to remind me of what we’d been doing the past couple of lessons, and this was basically adjectives and tenses.

Tenses, shown graphically

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Since there were five today, I went around the table, going 1-2-3…; I had 12 sentences, which meant the first two students would have 3 numbers, which was quite all right since the first two sentences would be the most basic. I told them to remember their numbers, ICQd them, and beamed the above graphics.

First, I explained that the dots were meant to represent points in time, the double-headed arrows represent something happening during that period and the arcs show that the two points are somehow connected. I wasn’t sure how this would work out, but the important thing for me is for them to understand the concept of each tense shown. I must confess the idea of the graphics isn’t entirely my own; I adapted them from Useful Charts.

The idea was for me to beam up a sentence one at a time, and the student whose number corresponds to that on the WB, comes up and mark the number of the sentence on the chart. Note also that I meant this chart to be used to “test” rather than to “teach”. They’d previously worked on the past tenses, but not the future tenses; I threw in a couple of them anyway. Most of you will know that the practical usage of English tenses (especially the future) is not straightforward, and this chart paints a broad picture, but, at the same time, I consider it to be useful. These were the sentences:

  1. I have breakfast every morning.
  2. I ate breakfast at 7am this morning.
  3. I will have lunch later.
  4. I am studying.
  5. I was studying when you rang me.
  6. I will be studying again in the evening.
  7. I’ve just had breakfast.
  8. I’d already had breakfast when you brought the “churros”.
  9. I will have already eaten by the time you come home.
  10. I’d been studying for four hours when you rang me.
  11. I’ve been studying all morning.
  12. I’ll have been studying for three hours by the time you go out.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. They did it perfectly, coincided with my own answers except for one, which was interchangeable, anyway. To make sure, I CCQd them on some of the sentences, and all their answers were spot on. Examples:

  • Referring to #8: if you brought the “churros” at dot no. 2, which dot can represent your having breakfast?
  • Referring to #9: which happened earlier – your coming home or my having eaten?
  • Referring to #12: if you’re going out at midnight, what time will I start studying?
Testing student on tenses, graphically

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Having fun with tenses, graphically

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

For the free practice stage, I used a circular writing activity inspired by Nik Peachey, a valued member of most of our PLN. You can read about it here. Nik, if you’re reading this, the published date there can’t be right! 😉

I had them write a sentence each, the stories circulated until they had their own story back. At this point, I had them write a last line, and stopped the activity. This sort of gave them a chance to bring the story back to their own vision of it. Here’s an uncorrected example.

<<The non-sense story

“It was a dark and stormy night and Daniel was watching a famous horror film in his living room. His mother had been shopping all day and she hadn’t got home yet. When, suddenly, he received an unexpected phone call that rang twice. Deep in his heart he knew that something terrible was going to happen. Daniel came out his house and discovered that somebody had stolen his new car. It was a Ferrari! He was praying all the time, waiting for good news, but instead of good news he received the worst in his whole life.
His brother had stolen his car and he had escape with Daniel’s girlfriend. He needed an explanation to understand why that happened, so he decided to phone Carol, his girlfriend. Nobody answered and he started to get impatient. Life went on and he never had news about them. That’s why this sensitive, kind, friendly and happy man became to a helpless, stubborn and sad one.”>>

While they were writing, I monitored and corrected individually. When I stopped the activity, they all read the stories again, we talked about it and I asked which they liked the best.

At this point, there was just about enough time to squeeze in a listening activity. One of the students had requested some listenings with difficult/different accents. I decided to try this one on them. It was a BBC recording of a group of bakers from Lancashire discussing expressions they used when they got angry. Before this, we discussed what made them angry, what expressions they’d use, etc.

As I’d expected, they found it extremely challenging, but here are some of the lexis which came out of it.

  • annoyed
  • angry
  • mad – hopping mad
  • losing it
  • put out
  • cheesed off
  • livid
  • cross
  • blew me (my) top

I told them I use ‘fed up’ and ‘(f….ing) pissed off’ a lot.

On that note, we ended the lesson… with New Year greetings so no-one went home angry!