Number one for English language teachers

Couch potato

Type: Reference material

In her final diary entry, Amthal Karim teaches a very excitable class adverbs of frequency and discusses whether there may be a couch potato or two among them.

After the success of my first lesson with Group 2, I am positive that the students will enjoy the second lesson. I grab their attention and interest immediately by writing the words 'couch potato' on the board. I decided to use a theme-based approach to this lesson as, by the second part of the evening, the students are usually less willing to do any intensive reading exercises or grammar work - this is the 'fun' part of my lesson. The enthusiastic and very able Chinese student promptly explains the meaning of couch potato to the rest of the class. Some of the students still look slightly puzzled so I proceed by handing out the first worksheet which has a picture of a potato man dressed in slippers with a meal slouching in front of a television. This has immediate effect and comments of 'Aaaah!' and 'I see!' reverberate around the room.

I offer the students a synopsis of the short article entitled 'Are you a Couch Potato?' I then ask them to list six activities they do in their spare time and move quickly to the point of the whole exercise - 'We are now going to find out if your partner is a couch potato!' There is laughing amongst some students and sighs of 'oh no!' amongst others as they regret having not put a more energetic activity in their list. I show the students a table to help them score their partner's activities from 1 (lazy) to 10 (energetic). The students start rustling their worksheets; hurriedly scribbling numbers and shouting out names of activities which their partners have listed to determine a score. I find myself calling out numbers like a bingo master! 'Eating - zero.' 'Sleeping - definitely zero.' 'Travelling - maybe 4? The same as shopping?' 'Running - 10 because it's very energetic.' Some of the students want to use minus figures to bring down their partner's score!

I have to almost shout over the excited voices to find out what scores the students have been given by their partners. I explain that a score of 6-10 means that you are definitely a couch potato - one student admits sheepishly that their score was 8 whilst another tries to deny vehemently to her partner that her score was 6. A score of 11-30 means that you are quite energetic but improvement could be made - a few smiles and murmured cheers. A score of over 31 means that you are very energetic and definitely not a couch potato! One of the students has scored 40 and seems very pleased!

It takes just one minute to reduce the noise level from very high to silent - I simply turn on the overhead projector and the grammar focus for the lesson beams onto the wall. The students begin the task of putting the adverbs of frequency listed into the correct order. A trainee teacher - probably bored of nearly two hours of observing - helps me to monitor the students' progress. The help is much appreciated, as the classroom is becoming an obstacle course! The end of this activity focuses on pronunciation - the students recite 'usually', 'rarely' and 'occasionally' prompted by me and they all seem to grasp the difficult sounds in the words really well.

The final activity of the lesson becomes the noisiest yet - a game using adverbs of frequency, two teams and the aim of producing a winning line of counters. The hint of competition makes even the quietest students get up from their seats and get involved in the game. One group gets really serious and asks for a watch to time the answers given by the other team - they are only allowed five seconds for producing a sentence! The large group of Chinese students at the front of the class produces some sentences which, although completely accurate, turn the faces of some of the trainee teachers red and produce giggles from other students. 'I quite often wear underwear!' is among the brave answers offered! All the groups enjoy the task and I am rewarded with a big (loud) thank you at the end of the lesson. As I am packing away my materials and collecting scattered worksheets from around the room, I realise that my evening is not over yet - the Japanese student is back with his list of questions. I try referring him to an intermediate level study guide which I quickly produce from my bag. The reply? 'I already have this book. This is why I have questions!'

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