How it all Began:
Last autumn I was addressed by the management of the department at the university where I work. They asked me if I could design a 10 x 90 min Office English course to begin in March. I said yes. Those of you who know me are already aware that I always say yes to work, no matter how much time it might take or whether I have the official qualifications. My motto is to only take on assignments that I feel like (and capable of) doing. I liked the idea of this one and I thought, silly me, that there was plenty of time till March.
As luck would have it, last Sunday saw me in this mood.
And many people responded. I was so grateful. I got emails with materials, book recommendations, and this tweet, which was really helpful.
What did I want?
The idea was to design a modular course with a worksheet for each lesson. I wanted a task-based course with little input (as I learnt in this wonderful free book) and a lot of output by the students. The course was to be highly practical. It couldn’t be completely tailored to my students’ needs, but it was to be tailored to the needs of an imaginary employee of the university where I work. The level was high-intermediate.
Last Sunday I did a rough outline of the individual modules. I didn’t want materials for the course photocopied from other books, cut up, laid out on a page and photocopied again… you get the picture. You may not know how maniacal I am about neat and uniform layouts. I also wanted worksheets that could be reused if the course is ever repeated. As for the content, I decided to alternate Speaking and Writing lessons.
Now that the first lesson is over, I decided to publish weekly posts with short info about the course so as to help anyone who might find themselves in my position. I don’t think I can share the worksheets (still quite unsure who they belong to) but I will try to describe the flow of the lessons.
Lesson 1 – My Day, My Daily Routine, What I Use English for, Work-Life Balance
Time: 90 mins
Aim: Ss can describe their daily routines, their dream day, what is the ratio of different activities, and what they use English for
Number of students: 10 on the list, 7 present
I started by showing the students the daily routine of Pyotr IIyich Tchaikovski found here and asked the students to comment. Then they were to draw their own pie chart of their working day – an activity I found in this other wonderful free book.
Next we moved on to the activity so kindly brought up to me by Paul Walsh: ranking work activities according to (1) what we do most often, (2) what we use English for, (3) what we enjoy and (4) what we hate (formal meetings and doing reports, as it turned out). See Figure 1 for the list of activities. Students were to work individually, add two more activities, and then make a group consensus.
Feedback on language used – mostly pronunciation issues, in this case the weak form of prepositions of and for.
Focus on Form and Task Repetition
I gave students a list of more advanced words, expressions, idioms, and phrasal verbs to describe their work (rewarding work, be snowed under with work, a huge pile of work, red tape, etc.) After clarifying their meaning, I asked them to talk about their job one more time (one minute each), use as many of the new expressions as possible, while their partner was to award points for each word used. This was nice and dynamic.
Next we drew pie charts of our dream days and the students suggested how they could move from their average day (as in Task 1) to their Dream Day without having to earn a fortune. We discussed the ideas in the open class. One tip I liked was to move closer to work – commuting does, in fact, take an awful lot of time.
Finally, there was the Exit Ticket with students writing down what they learnt (pronunciation, new words), what they expected to learn next time in our email writing lesson (read emails, work on articles), and drawing emoticons of how they felt (mostly great).
I then shared with them the link to the Padlet I’d made for the course and we were done.
I feel the lesson went really well. I learnt what the students needed and I can use this to plan my next lessons. We broke the ice without doing any icebreakers. And I feel incredibly relieved because next week I’ll be teaching a class that I already know.
Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading.