I met the first two of the 6 groups of 9th graders that I’ll have this year. I knew 4 of the learners from last year class and 2 are new to me in Group B and in Group F all 3 were new to me.
Group B profile:
L1 in his fifth semester of studying in our school. I have the opportunity to be his first teacher in the first two semesters in the afternoon. The students who enroll in the our language course in the afternoon have extra hours of English learning opportunities in the morning in groups according to the age, not their level. In the afternoon, we follow a coursebook and learners are arranged according to their linguistic knowledge. He loves music and perfoming magic tricks. I used to give him a space in our class to perform for us. The girls used to love it.
L2 is in her fifth semester too. She is really into English. She loves music, films and anything that is in English. Not a book reader though. She can carry out conversations with us in English but does not make the effort to communicate with her classmates in English. She is talkative and can distract others. But once she is working on English, she is really participative.
L3 is in her third semester. She loves listening to music and reading lyrics. She tries to practice English outside the classroom with a course mate and they often study music together. I had known her from seeing her around, but we never talked. So we met each other really yesterday.
L4 is in her third semester too. I met her last semester when she was in 8th grade group. She doesn’t really do anything in English outside the class and is not very interested in it, but even though she feels this way she is not willing to give up yet! This is what matters to me. I was very happy to see her here this year!
L5 is in her second semester, but her receptive English knowledge is really good for her level. In fact, she studies songs and watches TV shows outside the classroom which really shows by the way she is able to follow the class in English. But she is still shy to speak. Let’s give her time!
For L6 is his first semester. He likes video game and music. But he just listens to it and play video game in Portuguese if changing language is available. He already told me that he is there because his mom wants to. But he is nice and is a friend of L1. L1 was assigned to support him then, and L2 also volunteered for that.
A mixed level group really needs this kind of supportive environment that only can come from students. If we can set a community of learning spirit from the beginning things tend to go smoothly. What a great group to meet right in the beginning of the week!
L1 in her fifth semester of study. Listens to music in English and reported that she can understand it, but when she doesn’t she studies the lyrics. She watches movies in English with subtitles in Portuguese. She is participative and collaborates really nicely.
L2 has never taken an English course before. He really likes English and learned it through video games. He listens to music (noticed that he likes the classics like the Beatles for example) and watches movies/TV series with the audio and the subtitles in English. He was the only one to use English in class today. Not afraid to take risk! Learn from every opportunity given to him and is talkative. He was placed in book 3.
L3 hasn’t taken a placement test yet, but also has never attend an English school. He is quieter than L2 but seems to understand spoken English without much problem. He also watches movies, plays games and listen to English music.
BREAKING THE ICE, SETTING GOALS
I like starting with a conversation. It’s important for me to set things straight with learners and watch/listen to how they react to it. Some of the things are related to:
- Use of L1 and L2 in class: when should be ok to use L1 and why, the higher the level less need to use L1. L1 X L2 debate occurs everywhere and even students have their own ideas about it. It’s a mixed level group and surely I’ll use English as much as possible and that is why the strategy of inviting another learner to support total beginners is helpful, beginners still feel the pressure of having to speak like others in the higher levels. I have tried different ways to tackle this issue and the best thing so far is to have an honest conversation about what it is like to be in a group like this and what the expectations are. I also write on the board the instructions of the activity or I dictate it for extra practice with the language. This helps beginners to increase their knowledge of the language as they listen/read/write. I also model the activity afterwards to make sure that everyone understand what to do and again beginners have another opportunity to hear what to do and see it in action.
- Sharing the floor with them. From class one, I want them to know they have a say on how the things go and I briefly tell them about the notebook and how we will be using it in our classes. The notebook is not just for language work but also for talking about learning.
- Suggest at least one song that contains in the title a word that starts with the first letter of your name (the word can be in the beginning, middle or end of the title).
- On the board I wrote all the titles and who sings it.
- Listen to about 30′ of each song and rate it ( from 1 to 5 stars)
- On the board, we calculated the average rate for each song.
I came up with this ice breaker simply because I wanted to find out what their music tastes are. It’s always more fun by doing something that seems more natural. By natural I mean that it’s common to have rating system all over the internet. We rate apps, movies on stream services like Netflix, websites, books, etc. Rating has something to do also with preferences and it’s subjective but also values the person’s opinion about something. It goes without saying, that through it I’m also introducing to them the idea of group by looking at each other’s tastes, perceptions and thoughts as different yet important in their own right.
What did they say about this activity so far?
- Learned more songs
- Learned about what others like to listen to
- Learned to assess our own musical taste
- Learned to like new songs
- During the activity, we learned new things (L2 said 4 comma 5 instead of point for 4.5%; L1 mentioned how to talk about math operations in English while we were calculating the average rate)
- Used English when searching for the songs (thinking of a word and searching for songs that contained that word)
WHAT ARE THE GOALS?
Use English as much as possible.
Be participative and collaborative
With the 9th graders, I don’t use coursebooks, but in the afternoon I do . And as classes in the afternoon is beginning only next week, I don’t know yet whether I’ll have the same student in the Project (that is how we call it in the morning) and in the language course in the afternoon. That sometimes happen. 🙂