Teaching practice #2 – Clothing store

My second practice teaching session was on vocabulary and ‘language chunks’ for use in a clothing store. This was a beginners English class, but they were not absolute beginners – they could have basic conversations, sometimes with complete sentences. A few of the students were in fact quite fluent with the limited vocabulary and grammar that they had. This was a 40 minute class, and the goal was to get them practicing the vocabulary, while using a variety of activities – from pair and small group work up to a whole class role-play.

The Lesson

Before class I had taped photos of clothing with numbers on them around the room. At the start of class I gave students instructions on the first activity, then handed them a paper with a list of clothing words on it. I then put them in pairs and told them to walk around the classroom until they matched all the clothing words with the numbers on the pictures.  This took them about 5 minutes

Then we sat down, I called on pairs randomly for answers and then wrote them on the board. Some of the matches were easy – shirt, pants, shoes – and nobody missed them. But, as I expected, some students had trouble with ‘blouse’ ‘skirt’ and ‘dress’. I drew a simple diagram on the board to demonstrate the difference between the three ideas, as well as answer a few other questions from students. This process took perhaps another 10 minutes.

Then we drilled the words, working on pronunciation. And next I put them into pairs and had them practice a scripted role-play from the book several times – first by reading it, then from partial memory. This process took another 10-15 minutes.

Finally we did another role-play. But instead of being scripted, they had to have free-form conversations. I divided half of the class into clerks and the other half into customers and had them act out their own scene. I encouraged them to use all the words we had covered in the lesson, as well as any other words they knew from outside class. As soon as conversations started dying down, I had them switch roles and try it again. That perfectly filled out the rest of the class. It went slow at first because some students did not understand my instructions – but after doing a demo-run with one of the students they all understood.

I took 1-2 minutes at the end of class to review mistakes that I heard during the role-play, and to practice some of the words that were hard for them to pronounce.

Feedback:

Here are some the positives and negatives about this lesson, as noted on my evaluation sheet and discussed durring my feedback session with the instructors and fellow trainees.

Positives

  1. The instructors said the activity was a good choice to cover the vocabulary.
  2. The lesson was well timed, not over or under time.
  3. The students seemed able to use and understand words that they did not know, or had trouble with at the beginning of the lesson.
  4. Good energy, kept the class active and all the students engaged
  5. Paid good attention to students – durring activities I didn’t sit back or become too involved with any one group – I circled the room and took notes on student progress, and noted common mistakes I heard to talk about at the end.
Problems
  1. I wasted a lot of time checking answers on the first activity. Instead of calling out for answers and writing them on the board, I could have pre-made an answer sheet or projector slide, or even had students write answers on the board and discuses why they were write/wrong.
  2. Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate. When I gave instructions for the activities, I did not demo what I wanted them to do. It’s always a good idea to always demonstrate activities to make sure students understand – especially for beginners.
  3. No lead-in. I jumped right into the activity with no introduction. It may seem obvious, but I could talk for just a minute or two about why we are learning these words, where and how to use them, and make the lesson personal for the students – talk to them about their own shopping habits, for example.
  4. “Tarzan Speak”. As I discussed in another post, I sometimes let the student’s bad English skills affect my own speech when talking to them – I made a lot of progress on this throughout the course.
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