Number one for English language teachers

Anecdote: A successful vocabulary lesson?

Type: Anecdote

The scene is a vile yellow-painted classroom in a rundown secondary school in London. A very young teacher - me - has a group of very lively (that's polite) 14 year olds for whom school is not much of a priority and English last thing on a Friday afternoon is definitely not a priority. Between them they speak quite a number of languages, but you should know that this is a school where any second language teaching needs are catered for by the Remedial Department - not an enlightened decision. The choice of 'Readers' for English classes is not enlightened either. I have a novel about an English boy growing up in 1940s northern England which presents constant and sometimes insurmountable challenges to 4F's world knowledge (and mine). However, we have reached a fairly good understanding that if I read to them on Friday afternoon, they will stay in their seats and listen most of the time. Most of the time ... today, as my eye wanders ahead of my voice, the word 'bosom' comes into view.

'What's a 'bosom', Miss?' They may not know the meaning but I am certain they can sense one of 'those' words when it appears. I guess it is quite a useful word in that we digress into the lexis of personal description - sizes, shapes, textures, into polite conversation - what you would and would not say about or to the owner of a bosom, into historical and cultural matters (OK - hindsight says that they didn't need to know about figureheads on Spanish galleons but I thought they provided quite good examples of bosoms.)

We were just returning to the story when the door opened. The very best possible example of a bosom came in though unfortunately it belonged to the Head of the English Department. There was a split second of silence. Various of the class looked at me knowingly and smiled and nodded. Some looked at me slightly enquiring, then smiled and nodded. Then the whole class collapsed into howls of laughter, fell off their chairs etc. She just stood there ... and so did I, trying hard not to join them.

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