I seem to have seen (and taught) countless lessons on describing people’s physical appearance. While reading Cecilia Lemos’s lesson about personalities it struck me that its far less common to see personality related descriptions being used. I really liked Cecilia’s lesson, and thought it would be great fun for my high schoolers to try. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t have the vocabulary for it though, so before shamelessly pilfering it (that’s coming next week) I decided to embark upon a little vocabulary building with my students in preparation.
The lesson plan was very simple. Brainstorm some ways to describe a friend, and from that draw out a distinction between physical and mental characteristics. Then, using a video to introduce a couple of well-known characters from Korean TV, get students to discover some vocabulary relating to aspects of their personalities. Then, choosing their favourite character, students would write a speech about three of the qualities they liked in the character, using evidence from the TV show to back up their observations. The speeches would then be judged by the class and a prize awarded to the best one. The aim of this lesson was to revise or discover a great deal of new vocabulary, and then try to deepen our knowledge of a few of the terms.
The lesson was certainly an enjoyable one to teach, mainly because of the source material, an excerpt from the Korean drama The Secret Garden. I’m going to talk more about this in a post later this week. I’m also happy that I finally managed to plan a lesson that ran more or less to time and achieved all of its goals, even if it was a bit of a rush to finish. Amongst my new first graders it highlighted a few of the quieter students with excellent writing skills who I hadn’t noticed before today, and across the board I was pleasantly surprised at the level of writing and some of the more interesting vocabulary generated. I’d say that this was one of the better lessons I’ve taught in terms of meeting its objectives.
The negatives to come from this mostly occurred in the last ten minutes or so of the lesson. Student concentration on the speeches was almost non-existent. I was thinking about positioning as a factor in this. A solution to this could be to get students to give their speeches from the front of the class, rather than standing by their desk. There may also be a way to get students to listen and comment on/reconstruct what they heard, though this would be impossible in the time alloted. The upshot of this was that the voting process simply didn’t work. Students just didn’t vote; one group won on the strength of a sole student raising their hand from a class of 25. Another factor was that I was a little rushed, so my explanation may not have been clear enough. Still, these didn’t detract too much from an otherwise successful class.
There were a couple of things I took from this lesson. One is, when faced with a lot of new vocabulary like this, how to help students to understand it in a limited time. Inviting questions doesn’t usually elicit much response. I found that grouping synonyms or near synonyms helped, as well as highlighting antonyms for each word. The second point was the realisation that my students usually picked the more familiar terms for their speeches. This rather defeated the object of gaining a deeper understanding of some new vocabulary words (though it isn’t an entirely pointless exercise). If I do a lesson like this again I’ll remove some of the easy options, and force them to tackle a new vocabulary word.
At the end of the lesson, I collected all of the words my students brainstormed into the Wordle you can see at the top. I’m going to use this as the start of the next lesson, to remind students of what we looked at last week and set them up for describing each other’s personalities. I’ll report back on how that goes early next week.