All is well in my world, I'm glad to report. I haven't been posting as much as usual but as we often find out, sometimes real life interferes with blogging.
I've had a busy, rather unsettling week which, I'm glad to say, has ended satisfactorily. Nothing bad has happened but things have been occupying my waking and sleeping moments to the extent that blogging has been difficult.
As well as trying to be a good mum to my lovely three, I am also trying to be a good teacher to my various classes of English and my one Spanish conversation group. This takes preparation - lots of it - which I am glad to do because it certainly helps to have an idea of what should be happening! Ironically, I find that the more detailed the preparation, the more I struggle to stick to it - ever the broad brusher! Whilst I like to do lots of preparation, but what works for me is to have plenty flexible ideas that I can adapt to how the students seem that day - going with the flow - as well as delivering some specifics.
For some of the older classes, I ask the children to practice new vocabulary, or I give them a crossword or word puzzle to do at home; I gave another class the task of finding the past tense of several verbs and this week, I've asked one more advanced group to bring in lots of phrasal verbs (a verb plus another word which changes the meaning of the original verb - e.g. look+after, take+care etc) so we can practice using them in conversation. But for the little ones, who have two and a half hours a week with me, I don't think homework is either necessary or appropriate.
At this age, 8-9, children need to expand their still limited vocabulary and, equally importantly, they need to know the correct pronunciation of these new words. Learning from a native English speaker is really helpful as I really make them get their tongues around the difficult things - differentiating between 'sh' and 's'; sounding consonants clearly and correctly and always challenging Spanish pronunciation of those words that are the same or similar in both languages - a Spanish speaker can't always do this, however good their pronunciation and grammar. I managed to convince Maria that I don't want the children to spend a lot of time writing just yet as that is a sure way for them to 'hear' the words they see as if the words were Spanish - the eye doesn't need to pronounce 'table' - it knows what it is - but the Spanish eye will 'hear' it as 'tab-ley'. This really impedes understanding for an English listener - and surely, they want to learn so they can speak English to English speakers - most Spaniards understand each other well when they speak English as they all make similar mistakes!
I'm no expert, though I am fast developing my own view about how to teach English, but I think singing is not only jolly good fun but really good for teaching the rhythm and intonation of English - as well as increasing vocabulary. I still remember the words of songs that I learnt in my French lessons - who else could still pluck an Alouette to the bone!
And I'm sure my students will never forget the digit called 'thumb' after singing 'One Finger, One Thumb, Keep Moving' several times; or how to pronounce 'shoulders' (difficult!) after singing 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'....it's also an excellent form of exercise for me too!
We 'Hokey Cokey' to practice left, right and parts of the body. We sing 'I know an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly' to learn the names of animals and phrases of exclamation and to capture English intonation - 'I don't know why she swallowed a fly' (as well as a dollop of English black humour - I LOVE the last line.)
If I sound a bit defensive in this post, it's because I was torn between knowing parents were unhappy with their children's lessons and worrying that Maria thought I wasn't teaching properly, feeling I was somehow 'doing it' wrong - and yet, also feeling that it was absolutely inappropriate to have the children after a day at school, sitting down quietly and 'studying' English in my class.
So, I suggested to Maria that if any parents were concerned, then they could come and talk to me directly and I could show them my lesson plans, explain how the games and songs are part of a proper learning process and say why giving them homework could be counter-productive if they ended up with poor pronunciation. She has never had a native English teacher who could speak to the parents in their own language before and I was grateful that she thought it a good idea. We agreed they could come on Thursday at 6.30 when I finished teaching my last class.
My conversational Spanish is not bad but I spent some time (a lot!) during the days before Thursday practising various phrases out loud - on my walks with Darwin - hoping they sounded convincing and that my Spanish was up to it. I knew there would probably be at least one if not two parents who would come and see me.
At this point, the adrenalin kicked in and fortunately, my years of addressing teachers, head teachers and other groups stood me in good stead and I started speaking to them - determined that they should feel confident that I had a 'method'; to understand that it was different from a classroom teacher in Spain's method, but it was a suitable method for teaching a language to youngsters.
To be fair, most came without an issue - they just wanted to know that their child was doing OK - and many told me their children were very enthusiastic about their lessons. One came to me at the end and said she was a teacher herself and she really liked my approach and that I'd explained everything very well. I was SO relieved!
And I am glad to say that the two who did have concerns left feeling much happier, especially as I said that the homework I could sanction was revising new vocabulary - writing it down too - plus saying the alphabet out loud in English and using it to spell out words. I also told them their children should watch some TV in English by changing the audio channel to the original language. So much of what's on TV here is in English - lots of American English cartoons, but also plenty English documentaries. (Yes, I do listen in English when I can!)
And Maria was delighted with what I had said and how the parents seemed when they left. Yey! I left feeling fantastic...though the next day, whilst taking Darwin for a walk with FR, it hit me that now, I really have to deliver! Quite a responsibility.
I'm off now to practice my singing....and waving!