One of the new challenges I have this year is teaching 4th Primary Social and Natural Science as part of the school’s bilingual programme. I see four groups once a week – which is fantastic in terms of planning as I can pretty much repeat the same lesson four times (tweaking it as I go and reflecting on what worked well from the first lesson of the week!).
A couple of weeks ago, the whole year group was involved in a project about Don Quijote – all their lessons in different subjects were themed around the story and so I also offered to prepare on the topic for my class. Having never read the book, I wasn’t really sure which direction to take, so I read up about it (and watched some children’s cartoon versions of the story) to get some ideas. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cram the whole story into an hour-long class, so picked out one of the more famous scenes of Don Quijote attacking a windmill, which he believes to be a giant.
- Elicit from learners what they know about Don Quijote – where does he live? what does he do? what’s his friend’s name? does he have any animals? During this stage, it’s helpful to elicit some of the lexis which learners might be unfamiliar with from the story (e.g. helmet, fight, windmill, etc).
- Divide the class into small teams (in our classes, they are grouped around tables of four or five). Hand out the prepared story, cut up into sections. I had eight envelopes, each with six pieces of paper in. Tell the group to order the sentence.
1. My name is Don Quijote and I’m a very brave knight. This is my faithful servant, Sancho Panza.
Couple of quick hints:
Think beforehand about where you separate the sentences as we don’t want learners to get bogged down with unknown lexis at this point. For example, the sentences above can be ordered without needing to know the word faithful. Secondly, try to prepare enough envelopes so that there are a couple more than the number of groups in the class. That way, when a group finishes ordering the sentence and you check it, you can give them another envelope without needing to wait for another group to finish. Also, you can write on the table with chalk so you remember which sentences the group have completed.
- When groups have completed a number of sentences, do whole group feedback by asking groups to read out the sentences in order. If you have a projector, it also helps to project the story and (another quick tip) if you prepare the text as a Word document, you can make the text white, then highlight and change the colour when they read out the sentence – this allows you to effectively have the whole text on the board, but means learners can only see the sections you want them to.
- As you reveal each sentence, drill it and check lexis and pronunciation.
- Divide the class into groups of three – Don Quijote, Sancho Panza and the narrator. You might like to do some further drilling of the story once everyone has their roles assigned. Give them a few minutes to practise the story in their groups, then invite them to the front to act it out. If there are any pronunciation problems during a group’s performance, do a quick review of it before the next group performs.
Things I enjoyed about this activity:
The sentence ordering activity was quite kineasthetic which I think is important for primary-aged learners.
Drilling the sentences as a group meant that we could work a little on rhythm and intonation, as well as the pronunciation of tricky vocabulary. Also, because of the content, you could get quite theatrical with the drilling.
In all the classes, learners were keen to act out their story. I found this quite motivating as I know within the group there are varying levels of confidence with English and so the fact that they all wanted to participate was great.
You do a fair amount of running between tables during the sentence ordering activity.
Also, it’s sometimes hard to ensure that everyone is equally involved in the ordering task. Perhaps a way to overcome this would be to nominate a learner from each group to be in charge of a sentence – so the others can help, but only that individual can touch the cards and must also read out the sentence to you when it’s complete.
With a group of 25, learners can get a little restless watching other groups perform – in the past I’ve given teams points for their pronunciation and theatrical performance and also for listening to others.