My watch shows 7:24 a.m. The punch clock on the teacher´s lounge wall reads 7:20 a.m. The music blaring from the campus loudspeakers confirms the punch clock and prompts the herd of adolescence to gallop toward their classrooms while shouting greetings to friends and teachers.
I dodge through the cross traffic and reach my room. The light welcomes me in from the dark, cool morning. I settle my back pack on the grey metal teacher´s table and organize my materials as I wait for the students to settle in. Voices compete with each other and are distorted by the roaring of dozens of metal desks scraped across the floor as students organize themselves for almost 6 straight hours in this same room. When I´m ready, I stand in front of the 40-plus students with one hand held high. This signals most of the students to look and listen. The rest (usually) focus in once I begin my lesson in a quiet voice.
I begin with any one of many silly kinestetic activities. Sometimes I have them raise a hand and repeat a crazy pledge that I invent (“I promise to bring Mr. Tim chocolate every other Tuesday, and marshmellows the first Friday of every month. So help me Brittney Spears”). English Aerobics is a favorite. They repeat my karate-like jumps, twists, and turns as I shout the alphabet. When I stop they shout words that begin with the last letter I shouted. Sometimes we just do finger exercises. We might raise the index, or the ring, and do finger stretches or finger bends, depending on our mood.
That done, I get into the lesson. Depending on the day (each of my 11 groups get 45 minutes of ESL, 3 times a week) I either introduce vocabulary, present a story, or do a play. These activites are broken up by games, songs, or textbook activities, all depending on the attention span and discipline of the group. I like to stay away from the text as much as possible. Songs and games I enjoy, as do the kids, but they don´t offer a lot of learning. They are good for practice, and maintaining interest.
The heart of my program is storytelling. From a well told story, I can easily get the repition and comprehension my students need to acquire English. I don´t tell a story as much as ask it. Every detail of the story I follow with at least 5 questions. Often the kids offer details. I choose to include their details or not depending on what vocabulary or structures we are focusing on. A portion of a story might sound like this:
“There is a big rabbit. Is there a rabbit or a big elefant? Is there a big elefant? Is there a big rabbit? Is there a big rabbit or a small rabbit? Yes, the rabbit is big. Is the rabbit small?”
and so on… I continue, varying the questions with each detail. I know I need to slow down, or back up, if I get few (or no) student responses.
An example of one of our recent storeis, without the questions:
There is a girl. Her name is Hillary Duff. She is pretty, but not as pretty as the girls from Durango. She has a problem. She needs a turtle. She goes to Brad Pitt. He has lots of turtles. He is intellegent, but not as intellegent as Durango boys. Brad gives Hillary a turtle. She yells, “Oh no, oh, no” and throws the turtle at Brad´s head. She yells, “That is a blue turtle. I need a purple turtle with an orange head!” She cries, and cries, and cries. Brad doesn´t cry. He likes the turtle on his head.
After 45 minutes of this, the music blasts from the loud speakers, cueing me to move on . I pack up, wave to the group, and stumble on to my next group of students. Most days I have between 7 and 8 groups of kids, with no scheduled passing time. There is a twenty minute break after the first 4 groups, which I spend happily socializing with fellow teachers, or gaggles of students on the park benches in the shade, or between buildings in the patio.
Once the last class departs, I punch-out with the other 80-some teachers in the teacher´s lounge and head for home. On the walk home I may encounter students, their parents, or other regulars on my route. It is common to stop and chat for awhile. It is more of a straggle than a walk home. No rush; time isn´t always measured by a clock here. Often it is measured by what you are doing or who you are doing it with. On that note, I am going to sign of and be with my family.
Nos vemos en clase, Cuates,