Okay, so I have a bunch of ideas about how things "ought" to go, but none of that really matters unless you can see it working.
So here is one of those lessons that I have pulled out in Korea from time to time that just goes really well every time.
Lesson title: When You're Slidin'
Age of students: elementary school - preferably 2nd-5th grades
Size of class: 2 or more students. For larger classes, separate the class into groups of 3 or 4.
Student level: high beginner and above
Equipment/supplies needed: tape recorder, CD player, or computer with internet access and speakers
Introduce age appropriate vocabulary (baseball and potty talk),
reinforcement of the rhythm of English through the rhythm of the song,
(in the Korean context) differentiation between when/if, guided
application of rhythm and grammar.
Length of lesson: Approximately 45 minutes.
This lesson is an appropriate lesson for a free day or a relaxing
moment after a test. The topic of the lesson is something parents hate
but kids love, making it risky to do by itself but very effective in
terms of student motivation, long term recall, and real life
Activity 1: Fill in the blank listening.
Time: Approximately 7-8 minutes
the lyrics from "The Diarrhea Song" from "Parenthood" and type them
out, leaving some blanks. Make enough copies for every student and
distribute them to the class.
Be careful which words you choose
to eliminate. What have you been working on in class? If it's rhymes,
then eliminate the words at the ends of the lines--but provide a
word bank because the words are obscure. If it's potty talk (unlikely,
but...), then eliminate the words of the bodily functions. If sports,
eliminate baseball words. If noun markers, eliminate possessive
Play the song, which can be found on Youtube here.
students fill in the blanks. Repeat listening as necessary--I usually
give two to three opportunities, but it will depend on the number of
eliminated words and the level of your students.
Activity 2: Singing/Role Playing
Time: Approximately 10-15 minutes
the meaning of the text. Allow students to translate if needed. Trust
me, at this age, once the words have been translated, they will use the
English and never resort to the home language again.
kids to sing and/or act out the song. The actual singing is important
because it reinforces the rhythm, which is one of the problems with the
acquisition of English by speakers of several other languages.
role playing as well adds an entirely new dimension to the work. Now,
we have not only engaged linguistic and musical intelligences, we are
also adding bodiy kinesthetic and the personal intelligences. It puts
the kids in touch with their feelings and their bodies and relates them
to the words.
This is HUGE.
First, this group is in the
concrete-operational stage of thinking. The doing is just incredibly
important for the recall, and it is actually equating this meaning with
this grammar--which is generally acquired either through memorization
(needing far more practice than is usually allotted) or through logic
(which is a formal-operational function--something our 2nd to 5th
graders are not entirely ready to do).
Secondly, the vocabulary
is age appropriate. Since 2nd to 5th graders care VERY MUCH about potty
language and the more grotesque functions of the body, the MEANING
carried with the grammar will make learning the grammar attractive to
Thirdly, this is a moment of connection and belonging. We
are talking the second tier of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and this is
especially problematic in ESL/EFL classes because there is a lot of
alienation between students and teacher. Two things allow bonding
here. First, the teacher has shown true interest in a something dear to
the students and has given them free reign (or at least limited reign)
to pursue this interest, and, secondly, the students are tapping into
their own emotions. This is very rare in early EFL/ESL classrooms
because the cognitive energy required to translate/formulate what they
want to say often buries their affect. You can't bond with someone when
you're always wearing a mask. The goofiness of this role play allows
that mask to come off.
Finally, back to the grammar, in a Korean
context, it is very difficult to break the when/if translation. Koreans
will usually translate "if" for future or imaginary hypothetical
situations in which Westerners primarily use "when." Through the use of
something as memorable and entertaining as "The Diarrhea Song," you can
break the translation by providing a pattern. Koreans, in particular,
will use these patterns in formulating their thoughts in English.
Activity 3: Rewriting
Time: 20-30 minutes
their groups, students rewrite the song using their own
games/problems. For example, they can still use diarrhea, but maybe
they set it up in their hagwon ("When you're on the hagwon bus and you
feel a big warm rush, diarrhea...diarrhea") or they could use a
different problem like being out of their allowance ("When you're
picking up the phone but you hear no dial tone, out of money...out of
money. When your stomach starts to growl but you can't buy kimbap now,
out of money...out of money.").
Have the groups perform for each other.
provides both practice and relevance, both of which are necessary for
the acquisition of the grammar and the vocabulary. It also makes the
song and its content the students' own. It doesn't just belong to
English class any more. This is about them and their problems (and
In addition, it straddles Eastern and Western cultural
differences. Presenting your work for the others is often considered
arrogant showmanship in Asian cultures, BUT working together is
perfectly normal and making your classmates laugh is improving
everyone's mood--something many Asians, and Koreans at least, are taught
to do from birth. Therefore, this simple activity helps Korean students
in particular begin to overcome cultural barriers which often stand in
the way of success in Western situations, and it does so in such a way
that the students do not have to compromise their own cultural beliefs.