Learning English… a slightly different way

One of the classes I teach is a compact course, meeting twice a week for 90 min. Currently there are 14 participants, which makes it the biggest group I teach. The official title is “English for active people” and the course description makes it obvious that the course is open, not related to any text book, an overview of grammar and fun.
The course is run at a state-funded adult education center, the German Volkshochschule.

When I interviewed for the position as English teacher, I made it clear that I am not too keen on text books and “boring” classes. I didn’t know they had already, in their minds, matched me to this particular course.

The first session was on Tuesday. I was expecting 17 participants, 14 showed up. And I was nervous. I had planned the lesson in some detail, but what can you do when you don’t know the level of English of your participants, their needs and, well, them personally? I like to think of myself as someone who thinks on their feet a lot, which makes such beginnings much easier.

But I quickly noticed that I wouldn’t be using the book I was offered to use. I also saw myself applying all those teaching strategies that I used in PYP schools or experienced in PYP workshops myself.
The thing about using “different” teaching styles with adults is… they might not be comfortable. I am glad my class reacted mainly positive, and I hope they will find the course useful and exciting. Without the text book, without the sitting at desks and filling out gaps in texts.

Here are some of the things we did in our first session:

  • Find someone who: It was a way for me to see how the participants form questions, but also a way for me to avoid them sitting down and waiting for the class to start. They got to walk around and speak to each other before the class even officially started!
  • Ice breaker: Speed dating … The participants got to speak to everyone in the room for 1 min only. It was a great way for them to get to know each other, and for me to listen in.
  • Goals: I was curious about their needs and wishes, so in groups they brainstormed their reasons for attending this course and wanting to learn English.
  • Exit Cards: Reflection is important, and so is feedback for me. In this session, the topic for the exit cards was: Why am I here/My goals for this course are/My expectations
The first session was a real success. The exit cards allowed me to get a good overview of what the participants are expecting. Some feedback suggested that I speak English only, and that we establish a “no German allowed” agreement, which makes me think that the next session could include essential agreements as well.
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