This week was my first back in a high school classroom for almost two and a half months. I was expecting it to be a bit of a shock to the system, especially as I’m back up to 11 classes in two and a half days instead of the very relaxed 7 in 3 days last semester. Actually it turned out to be really great to get a proper routine going again, and thrilling to be back in front of a class. Working with students whom I developed bonds last year meant a much less nerve-wracking start (for both teacher and students) and I was excited by the potential of my new first graders, whose English level seems to be relatively high.
For the first week I wanted to do something thematically linked to the start of the new semester. It had to be fun and not too difficult. I didn’t want to shatter my students confidence and motivation in the very first week (or ever, for that matter). A big part of my job seems to be saying “Hello” and “How are you?” to students I meet around the school. I never get anything but “Hello” or “Hi” from the kids, and the response to “How are you doing?” is usually “Going to the tuckshop”. I wondered if I could put a bit more colour into my kids greetings palette.
The fun element was taken care of when I searched “How are you doing?” on Youtube. I got presented with a couple Budweiser adverts that I had never seen before (I don’t think they aired in the UK). Say what you like about the beer, but there’s not too much wrong with Budweiser’s ad agency. Anyway, these ads were to form the basis of the lesson.
I started the lesson by writing “Greetings” on the board. This was a new word for most groups, so we got to the meaning by eliciting some examples from the students. A good start is to ask what the first word they learn in English (or any language) is. Then I asked them to identify the greeting in the first video. It’s harder than it sounds, so a hint about the number of words is useful. Once we had the greeting I asked them what it meant in the video. We got to “Hello” pretty quickly.
Then I played the second video, and asked the students why the men laugh at the man in the hat. The answer lies in the fact that “How you doin?” can also mean “How are you?” and this is the question that he answers to “Hello”. To elicit this meaning have them listen carefully for the “I’m doing fine” response. After this, a bit of fun class drilling can be put in, to establish the context, if you say “Hello” first, it’s probably a “How are you?” question.
I wanted one more greeting, so on the theme of Budweiser adverts I looked up this old gem.
Once again, I asked students to listen for the greeting and then asked what the two meanings for the video were. They got “Hello” quite easily, and if they didn’t get “What are you doing?” then I left it to discover during the dictation exercise. I gave them the following prompts and asked them to complete the dictation in groups.
Once they had listened a few times and some groups had finished or almost finished, they read them as they were and I scored them out of ten. With some groups who got through the lesson quicker we then did it again, but this time with them inserting their own activites in place of “watching the game” and “having a Bud”. Finally, if we hadn’t got the second meaning for “What’s up?”, I got it from them at this stage.
When I first started critiquing this lesson I think I was a little bit harsh on myself. I felt like it failed as we didn’t get time to do much speaking, but the listening element is good and looking at apparently simple language on a deeper level definitely made my students think a bit. The videos were great fun, and most of the kids understood and found them funny. I also had a “Wazzup!” impressions competition planned, which I think would have been great fun. Maybe I’ll save that for another day. I think the best part of this week, and a good indication of a degree of success, was hearing my students leaving the classroom practising their “What’s up?” and “How you doin’?” unprompted. I’ll test how well it stuck around the school corridors this week.
Below is my original lesson plan for the week and my evaluation. Feel free to download any part of this. I’d love to hear if you find it useful.