Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Way to Go - an approach to teaching directions...

It was the last half hour of tonight’s lesson with my multi lingual pre-intermediate class. We had finished a challenging reading text, the class was tired and the room was hot. Glancing at the course book I saw that the next page “Asking Directions” would fit perfectly into this time slot.  But we needed a break from reading and we needed to get moving. This is what we did.

1. I divided the group into pairs. I asked each person to write a short note to his/her partner. My only stipulations were that it had to be friendly, platonic and short (they had two minutes).

2. I took one half of each pair out of the room. Tonight I was teaching upstairs: I gestured downstairs and told them they could hide their note anywhere in the building. Urging them to remember where they had hidden their partner’s note I ran up the stairs to the second half of the group.

3. While we were waiting for the rest of the group to return I drew a diagram of a road on the board with left and right turns branching out and a stick man walking up the road. I started to brainstorm phrases such as go straight ahead, turn right, take the second on your left etc.

4. The first group returned and I repeated step two with the second half of the group. Meanwhile I ran back and repeated step three with the first half of the group.

5. I asked one learner to close her eyes.  I hid a magic marker under a book at the other side of the room (it was a fairly large room) while the others watched. The other learners then gave her directions to get to the pen.

6. Finally, the learners worked in their pairs to direct each other to their letters.   I observed them listening really carefully to each other’s directions. If they didn’t manage to find their letter the first time, I allowed them to try again with their partner’s help on the condition that there would be no gesturing, only spoken directions.

This worked well for a number of reasons. Firstly, the learners welcomed having the opportunity to move from their seats. Secondly, they were clearly very eager to find and read their notes! The building where I teach is fairly large (and empty at nights) and there are many nooks and crannies, which make it perfect for a spot of “hunt the note”.  However, I’m pretty sure that those working in less windy teaching contexts could even take this lesson outside!

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