“Wait a minute,” I said to my friend, “How is the start of an Smith’s lesson like a piece of bread?”
“Well, you have to tell the students what the lesson is going to be about, right? That’s what the bread does. It reminds people to get ready to eat. Without it, people are still in their walk in off the street Japanese mode. Same in a lesson. You want people to transition to the lesson. Then they remember what they did last week, they know what to do. If they don’t know what to do, they are nervous. They will have a lot of trouble!”
I had been having trouble planning an ESL lesson. I thought, what should I do? I asked a friend. He said, “At Smith’s it’s like a sandwich!”
I thought about it for a moment. Then I said, “Sandwich? How is it like a sandwich?”
He said, “Think about it. In a lesson, first you review what you taught them last time. Then you tell them a bit about this lesson. Then you practice it with them. Then you tell them what you practiced with them to make it clear. That helps them remember the whole lesson. Finally you move into a small new chunk of English that they can work on for a week, and bridge into the next lesson with.
A sandwich is like that. First you have the bread on the bottom. That is the base. You build the sandwich on that. Then you put in the meat and other fillings. Then you put the top piece of bread on it. That connects it all together. And the top and the bottom are really connective stuff that string each lesson logically into the next.”
“Ok,” I said, ” So bread on the bottom is the start of the lesson. You review the last lesson for the students. But what about the filling?”
“That’s the most important part! That’s what you really want to give to the customer… I mean the student. That is what you want them to practice!”
“So the meat is, say, practicing the past tense?”
“No, they have probably forgotten the past tense. The meat is how to say the past tense in English. Give them the forms.”
“Then the meat is practice the forms, right?” I asked.
“No, it is just showing them the forms… it is giving the basic information. You can use flashcards for that. The lettuce is the practice. They have to chew it again and again to get it right into themselves. If they don’t chew it enough, it can’t get into their bloodstream, right?”
“The bloodstream, eh? I think I get it. But what about the mustard? What’s that?”
“That is the spiciest part! That’s when you give them a chance to use the past tense in their own story. Practice is controlled. You set it up. It is neccessary, and you make sure they use the past tense.
But mustard is the uncontrollable spicy part. You give them a chance to use the language in their own story. It is authentic then, and more difficult for the student. It also gives them a chance to make a mistake. And that’s the best part.”
“You mean its best if they make a mistake?”
“Of course! Then you know what they don’t know. Then you can help them correct it. If you don’t give them a chance to make a mistake in class, they will leave your class thinking they know it all and make those mistakes later. You want them to make lots of mistakes so you can correct them. Then the students will have the right patterns. They will be better speakers.”
“Now we are finished, right?” I asked again.
“No! Now we need the bread on top, ” he said.
“You have to review the lesson for them, so they remember it. People experience things and forget quickly. Do you remember what you have for dinner three nights ago? If you’re like me, you forgot and it will take you a few moments to remember.”
“You’re right, I forgot!”
“So you review the class with your students and they will remember it all easier later, after they leave your class. See? The ESL lesson sandwich!”
I had to admit, my friend had a good comparison. At Smith’s, I think of a lesson like a sandwich, it is easy to see the structure, and to see what each part does. The bread at the top and bottom is like the beginning and the end. The contents are topic material – the meat; review – the lettuce; freer practice – the spicy mustard (spicy because it is unpredictable). Then one point for the bridge to the next class. After that it was easy laying out a lesson to teach each time.