Teaching practice #5 -ed vs. -ing adjectives

“Teacher! Teacher! Can we play a game? I am soooo boring!”

“I like to play Starcraft because it is very funny!”

“I read a very interested story in the newspaper today”

Fun vs funny, Bored vs boring, Interested vs interesting. Quick, think of how you would clearly explain the difference between these words to an English student. You have to make the explanation simple, quick and memorable. I’ll give a partial explanation: the -ed adjectives here (bored, fun, interested) are all emotions, whereas the -ing adjectives (boring, funny, interesting) are describing the source of the emotions. It seems simple, but it’s really hard for ESL students to understand.

This is especially true is Asia, where many of the languages use only one word to describe both ideas. Long after students master other parts of English, many are still stuck making this error. I decided to be ambitious by tacking this problem in one of my lessons. It didn’t work out. I’ll be frank and let you know that this was officially my worst lesson of the CELTA – out of three grades “above standard” “to standard” and “below standard”, this was my only “below standard” lesson of the course.

The lesson

The basic problem is that I did not spend enough time planning the lesson.

  • I was still printing out my handouts and projector slides 5 minutes before class started.
  • My lesson plan was only 1 page long, with no anticipated problems
  • One of my slides for checking answers was mis-printed – so I had to waste time writing answers to questions on the board.
  • When we did the listening activity from the book, I wrote down the wrong track number and had to jump around the CD before I found the right track.
  • I didn’t use any visuals to explain ideas, but just gave long verbal explanations

Truth be told, I had planned all my first 4 lessons in the same last-minute style, it just didn’t catch up with me until this lesson. In this case I really let myself slide because I was so busy writing assignments #2 and #3 that I didn’t leave time for lesson planning. I made sure to plan lessons 6, 7 and 8 days ahead to avoid these problems, and of course they were my best lessons durring the course.

Improving the lesson – Using a ‘cline’

Let’s look at the last problem from my lesson, lack of visuals, and think of how I could have saved the lesson with better planning. The lesson was mainly a grammar lesson about -ed/-ing adjectives, and the lesson used a listening exercise from the book’s CD – people talking about how they feel watching different stories from TV news.

Worried       Upset       Depressed

As I said, this was a grammar lesson, not a vocabulary lesson, but these three words were were key to understanding the listening exercise so I had to cover them. Before class I thought that the students would know these words. I was half right – they knew the words were negative, and related to ‘being sad’, but most of them could not use them correctly in a sentence. I had to think of a way to explain.

I forget how my explanation started, it was very faltering and unclear. I gave definitions and several unconnected examples of each word, then asked them to give examples. They still didn’t get it. Then I thought of the following example, which is long, and probably took even longer for me to think of and say in class. Insert awkward pauses and “ummms” where appropriate.

The difference between these words is TIME. I feel “worried” when I think about something bad happening in the future. I get upset when something bad happens to me NOW. Upset doesn’t just mean sad, but sad and surprised. I feel depressed over a long time, after something bad has happened.  For example, let’s say something very sad happens to me – my mother gets sick and dies. First, she might get sick – I got to visit her in the hospital and feel very worried about what may happen in the future. As she gets sicker, I get more worried. Then when I hear that she has died, I feel very upset. Feeling upset is feeling surprised and sad together. Finally, for days, weeks, or longer afterwards I feel depressed.

Of course, only after class was over did I think of drawing the same idea like this…

In CELTA speak this type of diagram is called a ‘cline’, and this is the perfect time to use one.

Just drawing that on the board or projector would have saved a lot of time, been a lot more clear, and given the students something visual to remember the idea with. I shared this idea with my instructor John durring feedback, and he liked it. To make it even better I could have used a different context. You see, the content of the lesson was not about dying mothers, it was about how people feel while watching television news. I could have used a current television story such as the monsoon floods in Thailand.

So, the moral of the story is, lesson planning is king – always use spare time durring CELTA to lesson plan.

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