Two weeks ago the director of my school announced that the teachers should organize a “family” lesson. Kids could bring their parents, grandparents and relatives to accompany them on the lesson to observe how their little ones learn and interact. I have to admit – I was a bit worried and well… stressed out. I’ve organized shows and performances for parents and families and I’ve had teacher-parents meetings. But I couldn’t imagine how to have a lesson with parents and relatives observing pupils (who would definitely be stressed) and watching (and probably silently judging) me of course….I decided not to overthink it and as I didn’t have a lot of time to “prep” my pupils just do what I normally do hoping it would go well.
The topic of our lesson was five senses, which is a very pleasant theme and kids like it. We started by arranging the chairs for the families – I have 8 students – this time there were about 20 people in my small classroom. After the parents and relatives settled (at the back so that kids weren’t too distracted) we started the lesson as we normally do – by distributing gold nuggets. It is a very simple but nice idea – pupils get three gold nuggets and if they work “properly”, participate actively and do the assigned tasks, they keep the gold. If they misbehave or aren’t prepared, they lose the nuggets. Those students who keep all three pieces of gold get a sticker at the end of the class – most of the time all of them are rewarded.
The next stage of the lesson was a ball revision – as I teach very lively 10-year olds I always ask them to stand up and form a circle and I throw the ball to them asking basic questions revising the material studied (we start with How are you? and move on to more complicated structures e.g. What smells sweet? What do we use to hear?) . If a student doesn’t know the answer they throw the ball to the person who does. Those revisions usually last up to ten minutes and students really enjoy them. I encourage them to step into my shoes and ask questions as well.
After the revision I always check their homework - they are allowed to “forget” homework from time to time but I keep score. As my kids love football we use a yellow/red card system – two yellow cards and a red card – which means notifying the parents via an online diary.
We started practising the senses vocabulary by using animals - kids had to pick an animal and decide what it can hear, smell, touch, taste and see. Some answers were very funny as kids decided that mosquitoes are just like vampires – they taste blood. Or that an octopus tastes shells (the explanation was that shells are just like crisps). Others decided to use fictional characters (Gruffallo is always a big hit with them). I checked their writing and asked them to swap the texts with their friends. Some braver students wanted to share their ideas with the whole class so they read the texts aloud.
The next part of the lesson was listening and reading. We went over a short text about senses which I read aloud, and to activate my students I asked them to stand up every time they heard verbs connected with their senses (so when they heard see, hear, smell, taste and touch they had to stand up). It was a lot of fun and kids were racing to be the first one to get on their feet.
Next, it was their turn to read the text and I used an interesting idea I found in Pinterest, which I love and think is full of useful activities and teaching tips. (Pinterest basically works as a pinboard where people share and organize the things they love.) I prepared Action Reading Cards which I cut out and laminated. On each card there is a different action or manner in which my students have to read - e.g. use your most scary monster voice, do a little hula dance while you read, read as if you are chanting on a football stadium, do jumping jacks. Kids love them as they never know which card they will get. Of course I don’t make them read long pieces of text – just 2-3 short sentences and I usually join them (and let them decide how I have to read). After they read their sentences we highlighted the verbs connected with senses (expanding their vocabulary by adding items such as it looks, it feels, it sounds…) as well as adverbs and adjectives.
The next stage was to practice those new words. I shouted out commands – find something that looks pretty, find something that feels smooth, find something that smells fresh and asked kids to move around the classroom and stand next to the object/person. Then I asked one student to take on the role of a teacher and shout commands.
We finished the lesson by assigning homework and distributing stickers. All in all, I think I managed to show the parents that lessons do not need to be boring and that kids learn actively and are motivated to do the assigned tasks. My pupils were also able to show their parents how much they already know and that made their families proud.
Anna Musielak is a Polish teacher and teacher trainer holding a Ph.D. from Silesian University. She has worked at the military unit, at college, teaching British Literature and Culture and as methodology director in a private language school. She has also published articles on literature, culture and language teaching. At the moment she is working on workshops and teaching English to young learners and adults. Anna is interested in using drama, music and literature in ELT. She strongly believes that a lesson carried out with enthusiasm and passion is an unforgettable experience for the learners.
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