Last lesson at FELLOW: from cradle to grave…

It’s Saturday! Nearly the end of a very busy week – and an emotional one, too. I know that there are still two weeks of February to go, but personally I’ll be quite glad when it’s over! Roll on March (and spring!).

And now for another post about FELLOW. I know you love them!

My FELLOW lesson this week kicked off with Mike Harrison’s activity ‘Pizza slices of my life’ to get everyone in the mood for two hours of English. This was on my small list of activities to try in 2016, and I was really excited to try it out. Due to time constraints, I reduced the number of slices in my pizza to four (I’ve got a big mouth), but there was still plenty of conversation fodder that kept learners engaged and chatting for thirty minutes. In FELLOW terms, that’s just enough time for all our latecomers to arrive and grab chairs from the cupboard.

Pro tip: the worse you are at drawing, the more entertaining your students are likely to find Mike’s activity.

Student A: Caroline, is that… sushi? It looks like toilets.

Student B: Yes, yes, definitely toilet.

Group warmer over, our teaching team split up and I took the higher group (nominally B1/B2). I’ve focused a lot on grammar with these learners recently – to varying degrees of success – so I decided that I’d mix things up and teach a vocabulary lesson instead. Our topic was ‘stages of life’, and we used a mixture of activities from Solutions Upper-Intermediate (I had a copy of the first edition knocking around) and activities from my own head.

All good ‘stages of life’ lessons – in my opinion – begin with a timeline, so I drew one on the board and elicited the word ‘childhood’ from the learners. I gave learners a list of childhood memories (from ‘your first day at school’ to ‘visiting your grandparents’) and asked them to share stories in pairs for a few minutes. This worked a treat: everyone loved reminiscing, and the activity was even more interesting because the learners’ background were so diverse. We shared a few stories as a group, including an Afghan man’s tale of walking five hours to and from school every day, and a Venezuelan learner’s tales of car journeys with her parents and seven siblings (all crammed into one car!).

I then returned everyone’s attention to the timeline, and elicited (and drew) a couple more vocabulary items, such as ‘teenager’ and ‘be middle-aged’. Learners then got into groups and copied the timeline, adding in as much vocabulary as they knew. Learner-generated vocabulary included gems like ‘cougar’, ‘toy boy’, ‘sugar daddy’ and ‘mid-life crisis’, all of which sparked a brief discussion about language and gender!

We added everyone’s vocabulary to the class timeline and did some drilling as a group, before practising the vocabulary by comparing the differences between being a small child and a teenager, or being middle-aged and being elderly.

I had intended to move the lesson on to revising life events (as in Solutions), and ultimately ask learners to write a brief paragraph about their own lives (particularly as writing is an oft-neglected skill at FELLOW), but as usual I ran out of time! I do really want to do some writing with the learners though, so I will attempt to focus on that during the next lesson I teach.

Overall, I was really happy with how this class went – definitely one of my better lessons in recent times! It’s a shame I won’t be teaching again for a few weeks.

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