When being an adult is tiring, it is good to see things from a child’s perspective. Luckily, I have over a hundred of them to brighten my week:
Some of my students have been writing personal recounts about a fun family day out. I always mark their drafts to avoid any recurring spelling or tense errors before they expand their ideas. One student did raise my eyebrow when she wrote, “We went on the Singapore flayer.” She meant ‘flyer’, I hope.
A letter changes everything
Studying adjectives, my class were encouraged to describe a dog. We discussed lots of ideas, from whether her nose was wet or dry, how long her pink tongue might be, and what she liked to do best. Obviously, going for walks was number one, but one comment made my toes curl. “She likes to chew her bones.” Funny how one ‘s’ can change the meaning entirely.
As the ability in my lower primary classes vary, when it comes to writing tasks we brainstorm ideas and I elicit sentences from them as we go. I write these up on the board so that the students can jot down our shared ideas and use them as a reference when they form their own written piece. For students who are new to writing, it can be daunting to write four paragraphs so we break it down. I cover two finger spacing for indenting, give prompts for punctuation and ask them to spell words or provide synonyms to check understanding. However, one child managed to write, “The children ate their schoolbags.” He’s clearly not a fan of mornings.
This week, I was almost caught out. While discussing an answer with the class, one of my students corrected me. The passage spoke about having a barbecue, along with sweet treats and Japanese delicacies. I agreed with the suggestion that the boys were going to eat barbecue, a dessert and Japanese dishes. One student was indignant that it should be barbecued food instead, because they were not going to eat the actual barbecue itself. However, it does also mean barbecued food so we were both right, although the student did not seem to believe it!
Someone call the Avengers
This week, I designed a Lego superhero sheet for my phonics classes. The worksheet tested their stretching ability, and once they had finished, they could colour in the superheroes (DC’s Batman, Wonderwoman and Superman). After that, I invited them to draw their own. One boy drew a stick man and looked very confused when I asked him to colour it in. Another gave Batman lipstick. My favourite moment was when one boy refused to colour in any more, and said, “One superhero is enough.” Don’t let Stan Lee hear that…
Without warning, one of my six year old students announced, “I know the two bad fingers!” He proceeded to raise his middle finger and index finger and I snapped into action and went in for a high five. He was so distracted he failed to show his classmates the revolutionary hand signals after that. Phew.
During class, I welcome interesting questions and allow the class to journey along mini tangents relating to our topic. This helps to engage my learners. Of course, there is a limit and I have to monitor which direction we head in, but I think it is valuable to let the children express themselves. I think that a teacher should never ‘shhh’ their students, after all, we’re there to improve their speaking skills. However, one comment temporarily stunned me this week. One child asked me, “Did you kill yourself?” Before I could reply, another said, “Charlie Charlie” and it took me a few minutes to get everyone back on track.
I empathise with my students on a daily basis. Learning English is tricky, as it is full of exceptions to the rules and can be a veritable mine field for those working towards fluency. This week, one student was actively expanding his vocabulary and had a lightbulb moment when he realised he could add the suffix -ful to form adjectives. “Wonderful, cheerful, awful…niceful.” When I corrected him, that lightbulb smashed into smithereens.
Dot dash dot
I teach nursery age children phonics primarily, but we also work on speaking, comprehension and fine motor skills. Some children are still learning to write their names and form the English characters, while others are getting used to looking from left to right when they follow stories. I created a tracing sheet for my students to test their pencil grip, and was helping one girl draw her ‘e’ letters the right way round when I heard a tapping noise. Looking up, I saw one of my three year old students furiously stabbing his pencil into the paper. I think he thought we had to form the letters in dots too, rather than drawing over them in smooth lines.
To the beat of his own drum
I like to take an interest in the lives of my students, and often ask broad questions to initiate class discussions. After one student mentioned they played piano, I asked the whole class if anyone played an instrument. Many played the piano or the recorder, but one boy professed to playing the rectangle. It was the triangle back in my day…
Finally, I leave you with a revelation. Talking about recipes, I gave an example of making chocolate chip cookies, and asked the students to describe the instructions using imperative verbs. One suggested, “Cook the cookies.” I realise ‘bake’ is better, but this blew my mind. Of all the foods we cook, why did these get the monopoly on the cooking method? The answer is linguistic evolution, and we have the Dutch to thank. Still, I enjoy stumbling across these coincidences.
Until next week.