A Four-Unit EFL Course for AdultsA Complete Set of Handouts to Use in the Classroom
vorland [at] ge.aitech.ac.jp
Aichi Institute of Technology, Toyota, Japan
Unit 1 | Unit 2 | Unit 3 | Unit 4
For several years I have been teaching four-day summer classes which are open to the community at a local college. The classes are open to men and women of all ages and all backgrounds. As it turns out, the members of the classes are mostly women of ages spanning over forty years. For each of the four days we have one theme. I have chosen four themes that I think are the most practical: Meeting Someone, Shopping, At A Restaurant and Traveling. Each lesson consists of several segments, most of which are connected to that day's theme. To compensate for the difference in abilities, I explain almost everything first in English and then in Japanese.
Day 1I usually walk into the first day of class and tell everybody my name, where I live and where I'm from in English. Then, right away, I switch to Japanese and explain what I expect to do in the next four days. I tell them that we are going to try to use English as a communication tool, practicing what we already know rather than trying to learn more words or sentence patterns. I explain that we're all going to make a lot of mistakes and stress that the only person in the room whose native language was English was me and so I was the only one who could (but, hopefully wouldn't) be expected to use perfect English. I have found that the more I go on about this the happier and the more relaxed the class is.
Next, I explain that I will introduce myself in English and that they should try to listen for what they can understand. What they can't understand they should guess at and not let bother them. I introduce myself, talk about my family and Minnesota (where I'm from) and include an anecdote or two in Japanese. Afterwards, I pass out the four days of handouts explaining that we probably won't have time to do everything. I have found that handing out all four day's worth is the best because it gives those with the time a chance to prepare for the next day. I point out the introduction Quiz in the Day 1 handout and ask them to fill in as much as they can. I go around the room helping the ones who find it difficult.
I ask the members to pair up with someone who has about the same English ability and we practice the Meeting Someone For The First Time section and the What/Who Is Your Favorite..... section. I try to get everyone to learn to volunteer information before they ask a question and have constructed my pair practices to reinforce this. I explain that it is not only a friendlier way to ask someone a question but it is also easier and less time consuming. With an outgoing group I encourage them to practice with several partners. For advanced students I suggest that they add their own questions.
The amount of time that I spend on Pronunciation depends on the group. I talk about some of the sounds and explain that pronunciation practice is a good way to improve listening abilities. After I have them repeat the sound groups I read one of the minimal word pairs and have them circle the words that they hear. If there are a lot of the mistakes and there seems to be some interest I practice those sounds again.
Day 2After warming up with the Day 2 pair practice I continue on with useful Shopping shopping phrases and a short explanation about money. Having real examples of US, Canadian, Australian dollars, some coins, a personal checkbook and a credit card helps the explanation, raises the interest level and helps the stragglers to keep up. I usually try to take a number of English language catalogs to show, explain and pass around. Then, I hand out a stack of Thriftway Supermarket newspaper ads to each pair and had them answer the questions in the Thriftway Quiz. The outside materials seem to generate a lot of interest. In the quizzes I tried to include questions that would call attention to interesting differences in customs and be a starting point for discussions.
Day 3I take three or four different menus to explain and then a stack of the same kind of menu to hand out. Tipping and table manners seem to be a good starting point for discussions.
Day 4On the last day I take travel brochures, guides and maps to pass around and discuss. Asking what countries members have been to, where they would like to go, what to pack for an overseas trip or where to take a visitor from overseas all seem to generate discussion.
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. III, No. 5, May 1997