My Saturday’s at Smith’s Ohstu school are usually busy, and there are not many lessons that don’t have less than 2 students per class. On this occasion I had only one student, this is very rare so I took the opportunity to try the Let’s Talk About It book with her.
Her level is rather high, as she had spent quite sometime in Australia. I opened the book to the contents page and let her choose a topic we would talk about. She chose “Weather”. We started the lesson.
I know one very special thing about this student, in her use of academic vocabulary. Some words she uses even surprise me in that average Joe on the street would probably never use them. On the other hand though, I was also surprised on what vocabulary she didn’t know that Joe would use nearly everyday. This was made very apparent within this lesson.
The first question asked to describe the weather. She replied, “it is terribly rain”. I said keep it simple and to think of only one word to describe the picture. She said, “Rain”. I replied, “it is pretty strong though isn’t?” In the end I told her it is “Stormy”. Her delight was clear to see, how happy she was to know this new word. This obviously passed her by over the years. We continued to the weather map and the question said, “what is the man’s job?” She said, “he is a meteorologist”. I thought wow, I only just about know that word myself. I replied, “that’s his job in the office, but where is he now?” She said, “OH! He is reporting the weather.” I replied “So he is a………..?” She thought for a moment and answered “A Weather Reporter?” I said, that’s right, but there is a more common word we use, it’s called “A Weather Man”.
As the lesson progressed I was a little surprised to realize how many words she didn’t know when talking about the weather, and on how you shouldn’t take it for granted that you assume they have an overall knowledge of the English language. I have been teaching English for quite a long time and it’s great to find out new things.
She told me that while studying in Australia, pretty much everyday was Sunny and nobody really talked about the weather, which is the total opposite in England, you could spend a whole morning just talking about it.
Due to her limited vocabulary, I took out the weather picture cards from the curriculum, placed them on the table and asked her to match them up with the word cards. She had a little problem at first to match them, but the pictures are great for clues and she really enjoyed this little task and I helped her where she had difficulty.
My conclusion is that, try not to overestimate your student’s ability, try to find their weaknesses and work on them, they will benefit from it greatly and you as a teacher can learn from it too and get much satisfaction knowing that you have made a contribution to increasing their knowledge in English and at the same time culturally too.
Finally, when the class was over, she thanked me on how much new vocabulary she had learnt and will try to use it as much as possible in future discussions. On leaving she asked if she could have a bunch of flyers to give to her friends and colleagues. It just goes to show you, make the time and effort and convey to your students that you really care, you can definately reap the rewards.