Spoon feeding – no thanks!

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As many of you know I have been in the teaching doldrums for a couple of years.  In September of this academic year I scrawled some targets in the front of my teacher’s planner, my number 1 target was to be more creative with my teaching.   This hasn’t happened overnight it has been as they say, a slow burn but along the way I have been trying bits and bobs of things in my classroom to great effect. I did however, need to take my little bits of things further.   At Ililc3 I was inspired by @bains_1 fab presentation on keeping lessons fresh and interesting and more recently by @headguruteacher’s fabulous blog on the subject of joy which you can read here http://headguruteacher.com/2013/03/03/great-lessons-10-joy/ both of which mirror my personal philosophy that spoon feeding is NOT teaching and that lessons should be memorable and if at all possible fun!

It was with a heavy heart therefore that I realised, dullness of dull this half term’s topic for Y7 Spanish was describing your physical features!  Every cloud has a silver lining and this was my chance to put my little bits of practice and new found va va voom into action.  I planned a series of lessons based on the theme of Lonely Hearts.
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In Lesson 1 I introduced the class to describing their hair and eyes using prezi which can be seen here http://prezi.com/wpjyugz3ccxg/los-ojos-y-el-pelo/  

In Lesson 2 we used Fakebook.  I created a page using this tool which can be found here http://www.classtools.net  based on Brad Pitt looking for a new girlfriend. Students had to work in groups to answer a variety of comprehension questions.   They knew some of the vocabulary in the text but a lot of it they either had to look up in a dictionary or use context to help them understand meaning.  This lesson was really successful, it really levelled the playing field. Some of my brightest students hated it as they actually had to do work for themselves instead of being fed the information and then having to regurgitate it.  On the other hand, 2 of my SEN students were working together and were absolutely fabulous at  working out what the sentences meant and extracting meaning form context it was a total joy to behold!

This activity then lead onto lesson 3 and  what I called the “discover stage” students now had to find the Spanish for a list of English words except this time they were not allowed to use dictionaries and had to either remember what they had discussed when completing the comprehension exercise or had to gain meaning from context.  The next stage of discovery was aimed at getting the students to find adjectives to describe their personality.  They did this in groups of 4 using any method they could think of, most resorted to dictionaries or online dictionaries.  After 5 minutes I selected 1 student from each group they were to be the magpie and were to go to all the other groups and collect as many adjectives as they could.  The rest of their group continued to look for adjectives as before.  After 5 minutes the group with the largest number of adjectives was the WINNER! Our lesson ended with an oral pairwork activity where students had to ask Cómo eres? and their partner described themselves physically and their personality.

Lesson 4 was an oral lesson for the most part!  Students extended their pairwork speaking to not only describe themselves but also say what they liked and disliked – they had gained information on this during the Fakebook exercise.  Once the students were confident I sprung on them that we were going to go speed dating.  Our next activity was to think in groups (my classroom is arranged in groups of 4) of 10 questions that we had learnt this year that we could ask our speed dates.  The class came up with the usual name, age birthday but not what’s in your pencil case? (funny that!) and so with our questions on the board we were ready to date.  The boys were seated and each girl sat opposite a boy, I played a lovely kissing sound effect http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh4hV1CLaVk and we were off.  Students asked and answered questions for 3 mins and the sound effect was played again to signal that it was time to move on.  The classroom was filled with the sound of Spanish and although they had been somewhat dubious at first the students really got into it.  As one of my Y7 boys said at the end of the lesson “that’s a lesson that we are unlikely to forget in a hurry miss!”

The lesson series was rounded off with a written homework task in which students had to write an entry for a lonely hearts column stating  what type of person they were looking for and then giving a full description of themselves.  We have also been working on connectives this year so hopefully I should have some interesting, well written pieces of homework coming in this week.

Instead of a lot of choral listen and repeat and I’ll feed you the language and you can recite it back to me ad infinitum, this series of lessons really got my class thinking, not only that, we had fun on the way. After all as E M Forster so rightly says; “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon”

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