Monday, 1 March 2010

Azumino tourism class 105

My plan on Wednesday evening with the Azumino tourism group was to encourage some heads up communication. I think I achieved this goal nicely, with a very simple puzzle - actually intended as an "ice-breaker" - but which turned into a class defining exercise.

The ice-breaking plan, with about 13 students, was for pairs to match up very short conversational exchanges such as "I hope England win the World Cup" (a personal favourite!) > "So do I".  I had no idea about the level of people coming this evening, nor any guarantee on numbers, so this seemed like a sensible place to start. In the end, it turned out to be a very good place to start! Our average level was 'shy'!

In my experience, it pays to let an activity run if you have the time to spare; as a learner it can be very frustrating to have 'time' called before you are ready. The luxury tonight was actually having lots of time. I lent a hand here and there, but I didn't want to turn this into a 'firefighting' exercise; instead a nudge in the right direction eg OK, that is a yes/no question, but the answer is more subtle...

I was a bit surprised at how long this exercise took, but it showed that even very simple exchanges need activating. "How are you?", "Can I sit here?", "Can I help you?" are all the beginnings of international friendships...Everyone found this a bit hard but at the same time realised they have some work to do if they want to 'survive' encounters in English successfully.

After a quick break I asked students to work in pairs, giving each other directions on a simple grid. (One recurring request has been to practice directions). Simple is best, as is the need to avoid over complex maps right now. Very simple imperatives (commands), nevertheless demanding clear delivery & checking skills - when was the last time you stopped for directions but didn't listen carefully enough & got lost again?! This worked rather quickly, because as expected there was a degree of 'cheating' going on - looking over each others' shoulders, pointing & translating...OK, first time is a bit 'wobbly' as they probably have not done something like this before.

The real fun began when I asked the group to break up into teams, with one artist to work at the nice big board at the front of the room, and two/three 'directors' per artist with the instructions, seated at the back of the room. Intended to be noisy and competitive, it worked. Each groups grid or finished product on the board was different, so cheating really didn't help! The artists did a fine job interpreting conflicting instructions, and most of the directors really got into the mood, gesticulating wildly and miming, trying to 'win'.

Ice well & truly broken, an intense and fun large group class finished with everyone tired & cheery. Well done everyone!