A perfect lesson

Many moons ago, when I was at teacher’s college, we were taught to write lesson plans, and given the theory of what makes a good lesson. Of course, once I graduated and got into a real classroom, like every teacher I rapidly gave up on writing the lesson plans, partly through lack of time, and partly through having acquired enough experience that I applied many of the principles automatically, without having to sit down and work them out every time.

It’s a long time since I was in a classroom, but now that I’ve been doing this ESOL tutoring, I’m finding those principles are starting to come back, and even when I depart from my lesson plan, they’re sneaking into the lesson.

Tonight was a great example of that. Although I’d worked out a lesson, we ended up doing something completely different as the lesson grew organically out of the conversation N and I were having. We started off playing with some word cards, making simple sentences. N would come up with an idea for a sentence, and we’d work together to find the right words and put them in order. A few of the sentences she managed to do all by herself, so I wrote them into her workbook so she could copy them out. Then we talked about the sentences, and she came up with some more on her own, and (with a bit of help from me with the harder words) she wrote them down. A very simple little lesson, but it kept us occupied for the whole hour.

It wasn’t until I was walking home and was mentally reviewing what we’d done that I realised it was a theoretically perfect lesson. The different parts of the lesson had each built the same basic skill, but between them had covered all the different learning styles: kinaesthetic (arranging cards into sentences), oral/aural (verbally creating sentences), and visual (writing the sentences). Plus because N was creating sentences about her own life, it gave her ownership of the lesson. And best of all, it was a huge boost to her confidence, because she discovered she was able to spell so many of the words all by herself, or with just a little prompting from me.

I’m sure next week I’ll revert to my usual chaotic teaching technique, but isn’t it nice when things all come together nicely, even if it was totally accidental! :-)

Oh, and another nice thing about tonight’s lesson. One of the sentences she came up with was “My husband talked to his sister.” Not very exciting, until you hear the back-story to that sentence. MrPloppy has been helping N’s son with his computer, and at the weekend went round there and installed some software he needed to get his webcam working. After N came up with the “My husband talked to his sister.” sentence, she told me the sister was in Afghanistan, and they’d used the computer to talk to her. And because the webcam was finally working, her husband and his sister had seen each other for the first time in 27 years. Isn’t that cool? I was able to come home and tell MrPloppy that his tiny favour helping get the software installed led to such an incredibly important moment for a brother and sister separated for all those years.

Bit of a catch-up

Sunday’s breakfast meetup was rather poorly attended – just me, lytteltonwitch, and awhina. I suspect everyone else is just meetup’d out – we have had rather a lot of them lately. There wasn’t much book-swapping going on either – I’d only brought along a couple of books I’d promised to lytteltonwitch (Wicked by Gregory Maguire and There’s No Toilet Paper… On the Road Less Travelled edited by Doug Lansky), and she’d brought Stonehenge: The Secret of the Solstice by Terence Meaden and another brochure about Stonehenge for me. I think we’ve both been doing the same thing at the moment and only reading books about the places we’ll be travelling to :-)

Of course, we also spent a lot of time talking about our upcoming adventures – lytteltonwitch had just booked her flights to Crete for the Greek convention, so was excited about that, and I of course had just paid for Otakuu and my tickets, so was equally effusive. I think awhina was feeling a bit left out.

The rest of Sunday I spent stewing fruit. Not really the ideal activity for a stinking hot summer’s day, but dad had brought up a couple of boxes of fruit for us (nectarines, plums and apricots – yum!) and the sudden hot weather meant that they were going bad quicker than we could eat them.

If I was properly domestic I would have bottled them, but that would have involved too much effort trying to dig out the right sorts of jars and lids (and probably having to go and buy more of each, as well as vast quantities of sugar), so I took the lazy way out and chopped them up roughly and stewed them, then froze the resulting pulp in small quantities. It won’t be much good as a dessert on its own, like preserves would have been, but it’ll make a good base for crumbles and things over the winter.

We tested a bit of it out in a spicy fruit sponge pudding on Sunday night (despite it being way too hot a night for a heavy winter pudding!) and the combination of fruits tasted great, so they’ll be even nicer in the depths of winter.

Last night was chick flicks movie night. We went to see The Bucket List, which I had mixed feelings about. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman gave superb performances, but the overall production values were pretty second-rate, I thought. The scenes in exotic places all looked to me like they’d been filmed in a studio with very faked backdrops and mixed with a bit of stock footage (of course, I have actually been to quite a few of those places, so the faked bits were probably more obvious to me than to the average cinema goer), and the plot was so full of holes it would have made a good colander. Not to mention the clich├ęs… If it hadn’t been for the acting, it would have been an awful film, only fit for Sunday night TV, but the two leads lifted it above that and gave it real emotional impact (yes, I’ll admit it, I was crying by the end). So, like I said, pretty mixed feelings about it.

The university term started this week, so I’ve been releasing books around the campus, trying to catch a few students. A couple of themed releases (A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor on a bench that has a geocache hidden nearby, and The Money Movers by Devon Minchin in the commerce department) and the rest just randomly released around the campus (Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, Death Wore a Diadem by Iona McGregor, and Star Rider by Doris Piserchia).

Actually, I’ve been doing quite well for releases in general this week – as well as the campus releases, I left The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen in a park, Tales of a Man Called Father by Ronnie Knox Mawer at the doctor’s when I went to get a medical certificate for my travel insurance, and The Silk Mill by Jay Allerton at the picture theatre last night.

No catches from any of them yet, but I’m still hopeful.