After my Czech student and I confirmed where and when we would meet, I started to think about the order of the items in the needs analysis. The weather was one of the subjects he’d mentioned first. It is also a fairly lexical (easier than grammar?) topic, so I decided to start with it.
I was planning for a 60-min lesson with the Exit Task happening at the start of the follow-up lesson. I loosely based my lesson on the building block described by Michael Long in SLA and Task-Based Language Teaching. The exit task was: 1. Student can understand another person saying what the weather is like. 2. Student can describe what the weather is like in 11/12 pictures (all general weather words like rain, snow, cold, warm, hot). 3: Student can ask what the weather is like and say what the weather is like when they look out of the window.
To prepare, I had folded a piece of A4 paper into 12 squares. I had drawn a pre-set weather type on each. I had retrieved the words from the CEFR A2 Level Description for Czech and added some common words. In the lesson, I said: “Na obrázku jedna prší. Na obrázku dvě sněží.” (In picture one, it’s raining. In picture two, it’s snowing, etc.) We went over all the pictures. The student was taking notes as we went, repeating the language and later supplying the language himself.
Sub-task 2: – Pairwork
I had also prepared two sets of the same cards – weather photos. I put two cards next to each other and said: “Vlevo prší. Vpravo je teplo.” (In the picture on the left, it’s raining; it is warm in the picture on the right). When the student understood, I put a large folder between us to block the view. Then we took turns choosing two pictures and describing them. This was successfully completed if the two sets matched after we lifted the folder. Some interesting meaning negotiations went on at this stage.
Sub-task 3: Listening
I had downloaded a third set of weather pictures from the ESL Library. I had written down some descriptions of the pictures, this time using other words than just simple sentences. I described some of the pictures and the student had to point to them.
Sub-task 4: Reading
Very similar to the previous task- I had written four descriptions of the pictures. Besides weather lexis, I used sentences with words like: “The tree has no leaves,” etc. The student understood well in this task, too.
Focus on Form:
In the lesson plan, I decided to focus on one verb class and its conjugation. (SNĚŽIT – SNĚŽÍ – Í KONJUGACE), because three verbs (SNĚŽIT, PRŠET, SVÍTIT) belonged to that conjugation. As it turned out, it was flawed. The student had known about the conjugations. The choice was artificial. Instead, I should have done the natural thing and focused on the mistakes he’d made in the lesson, which in this case were quite common – confusing the adverbs with verbs, producing incorrect sentences, such as:
Je sněží. (It is snows): CORRECT: Sněží:
Neníprší. (It isn’t rains):CORRECT: Neprší.
This was a part in my lesson where I felt I wasn’t reacting to the needs of the student, proceeding with my own thing. It wasn’t a big deal, but I could feel it.
Next lesson, when the student opened the door for me, he asked: Jaké je dnespočasí? (What is the weather like?) I answered and we were able to carry on a little small talk. We then proceeded with homework corrections (Describe three pictures in writing). I looked at the notes he´d made and corrected some minor mistakes. I checked that he could describe the weather in 12 pictures (he did 10 accurately; 2 with some mistakes). I asked him to tell me what the weather was like that day. He walked to the window and told me, using four different expressions (There wasn’t much else that could have been said about the weather on that day). So I decided the task was successfully completed.
I was really satisfied with the way the lesson went. How was it different to a standard “Weather” lesson?
Firstly, we never teach the weather on Day 1. Day 1 is for describing either the world around us, or to deal with intros. Nevertheless, it seemed a great choice to start with. It empowered the student with useful words. More importantly, it was what he had wanted to study. It was “the real thing” as he said.
Secondly, there is a huge difference in the aims of the lesson. Instead of: “the student can describe the weather” (or whatever aim you could imagine as part of a standard coursebook syllabus), we had: The student can understand other people talking about the weather. The student can talk about the weather. In other words, it is 0-1. Can or can’t. Not: how correctly can he write the words down on the test, how many words can he use, etc. There was a sense of completion as opposed to a vagueness I normally feel. It is, for me, very difficult to describe the difference, but it was really obvious in the lesson.
I have some questions for anyone who wants to think about them:
1: The student took notes during Task 1. Is that a thing to consider?
2: What if he hadn’t passed the Exit Task? Which stages should get repeated/changed, and how?
3: How often/When does the lexis need to be recycled? (Could it be that lexis learnt the TBLT way sticks better?)
Our next task is going shopping, reading supermarket leaflets, and understanding food labels – something I had never taught before. Stayed tuned!
Bidlas, V., Confortiová, H., Turzíková M. Čeština jako cizí jazyk – Úroveň A2 [online]. Praha. UK UJOP. file:///C:/Users/Kamila/Downloads/cestinaA2.pdf.
Freelance Teacher Self Development: How I Plan Lessons [online]. 4.2.2017. https://freelanceteacherselfdevelopment.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/how-i-plan-lessons/.
Long, M. Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching. Chichester: Wiley&Sons. 2015. 470-477.