Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to make a bad unit in the book into a whole lesson

Sometimes there are those units in the book that just seem irrelevant, bordering on ridiculous but you have to make it work.  This week, in Top Notch 2, there was a unit about being at a hotel and all the problems that you could encounter.  I just didn't think it was helpful for my students.  When in the next few years are they going to go overseas and stay at a 5-star hotel that comes to turn down your bed and provides you with skirt hangers?  If I was teaching adults, or even students besides freshman, it would have been more helpful to them. Anyway, my students are straight out of high-school so this was not what they needed.

So what I usually do when I encounter this is to take the grammar focus of the unit and build a whole lesson around that.  In this unit it was, "You'd better/You'd better not."  This is the lesson plan I made:

1. Review Game using materials from the past 2 weeks.  I made some mixed up sentences and they had to make correct sentences with their partner. 

2. Short grammar lesson/examples.  Then, they did 2 little sections in the book.  The first was a conversation speaking with their partner and the second was writing some sentences. 

3. Then, I made a board game.  I made a 5x5 chart on my computer and put problems in each square.  For example, "I'm so fat!" or "I have no friends."  Then, when the students landed on that square, they had to give some advice using the grammar point.  I also throw in a few random things like go back 3, move ahead 2, go back to the start, and switch spots with the person on your left/right.  I make it more fun by telling them that they're the teachers and have to listen for any crazy answers, and that person has to go back the number of squares that they went forward.  I give the winner in each group a stamp (which equals 2% of their final grade).

4. In the same groups of 4 or 5, they had to think of a small problem.  Each person in the group gave them some advice using the grammar point.

Overall, it was a solid lesson that got the students talking and listening, thinking, laughing and learning.  If I had just stuck with the book, it would have been an exercise in tedium I think.  Don't be afraid to use your own discretion to make whatever you have work.  My caution is that you really should at least make an attempt to use a page or two of the book everyday, or the students will get annoyed and wonder why they actually had to buy it.

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