Number one for English language teachers

Nerves

Type: Reference material

In her second diary entry, Amthal Karim gets her class to grips with comparatives and superlatives.

This evening, I must admit I am slightly nervous. I haven't taken a lesson for a while and I had a hard time deciding what to teach the students today. Also, I'm not sure if there has been a new intake of students so there might be a lot of new faces too. It's half an hour until the lesson begins and I've already re-arranged the furniture in the classroom - ok, maybe moved a couple of chairs around - set up the overhead projector and laid out all the tasks and worksheets on my desk in neat piles. My exterior manner exudes confidence and a calm manner but inside I am beginning to feel very tense.

As the room fills up with students, I realise my gut feeling was right - they are all new students - except for one Spanish girl whom I recognise from before. Maybe there's no real need to panic - they all seem friendly enough - until, one by one, the trainee teachers who will be observing my lesson stroll in. Six! Yes, six trainee teachers - the activities I've chosen to do today now seem even more likely to fail.

No time to think about it though - straight into the first lesson, Comparatives and Superlatives. I hear one of the trainee teachers mumbling something about not being familiar with superlatives - I feel the tension slowing. Then, the Italian gentleman who had asked me earlier how he could register for the classes returns and sits down. It looks like he took my advice and decided to join the lesson this evening. The tension I felt before now seems a distant memory as I hand out the adverts, introduce the topic and watch the students shuffle interestedly through the sheets and whip out their pens to start writing.

Great! It looks like the students are learning something new. This is always a relief as the classes have no set curriculum and, as teachers pick and choose their topics, this results in inevitable repetition. However, the majority of students don't seem to mind, as every lesson tends to produce it's own style and slant on each topic so everyone is happy.

The students make ample notes while I am reading notes from the overhead projector and scribble away at their gap-filling exercise. I make my way around the room, dodging and tripping over bags and coats piled around on the floor. The students whom I thought would struggle with the task finish it early and the eager students who volunteer answers to everything seem ok too - that is, until I decide to inspect their progress more closely. Good - goodier - goodiest. I point at the mistake - 'Do you think this is right?' The girl looks up - ponders for a moment reading the expression on my face - and replies hurriedly 'Better, better!' 'Good, and the best.'

Next, it's the free practice stage - the students always respond well to being asked to create! 'Write your own advert choosing from six imaginary products.' The students go blank. I am asked to provide examples of what I would write if I was trying to sell 'Marvo Margarine'. AAAArgh - It's not me that needs to do this exercise! I reply quickly with 'The smoothest, creamiest margarine you can buy, and lower fat than other margarines.' Not bad for a two second time limit to think! A quick glance at the observing teachers to check their approval and the students are happy to begin the task.

Before long, the Italian gentleman becomes the centre of attention. He strikes up a friendship with the girl sitting beside him as well as a love-hate relationship with the Asian gentleman also sitting at his table - they seem to love to argue about everything. Both groups on that table have chosen to write an advert about 'Sleepo Beds' and the Italian seems determined to make everything he writes controversial and humorous - 'Sleepo Beds are good for having the best nights with your partner.' I'll have to manage that one during feedback with a straight face.

The group with the three Middle Eastern ladies has chosen 'Sleepo Beds' too, although their advert has been more studiously researched - 'the best bed you can buy at the lowest price. The most comfortable bed you can buy.' Good work - but admittedly not as funny, clever or able to make the lesson livelier than the adverts about beds and cosy nights!

The quietest group - trying to hide away from the others in case they have to answer a question - are doing well despite their lack of confidence. They're advertising 'Supremo Racing Cars' and have used plenty of comparative and superlative adjectives. A question from the Spanish girl about the comparative form for 'safety' is answered quickly and confidently - easy, they are beginner students after all! However, I soon realise my mistake as the conversation descends into further muddled explanations - the adjective should be 'safe' NOT 'safety' which is how it is converted into 'safer' and 'safest' using the rules I have just taught. Phew! - and I thought I only had to worry about the advanced students asking me questions which I couldn't answer. I use this as a cue to initiate feedback. As predicted, the Italian makes everyone giggle - even the observing teachers at the back of the room - and I close the lesson wondering when the panic disappeared and whether the observing teachers noticed it at all.

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