improvised English class

Ever had that terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad feeling when it’s 15 minutes before class and you have absolutely no material or lesson plan or idea what you’re going to do?

That happened to me on Tuesday. I had an awesome lesson planned on the present perfect simple and continuous forms… and forgot to e-mail it to the receptionist for her to print out.

When I arrived at the school and discovered no copies waiting in my locker, I frantically tore through the school’s materials archives, looking for any extra handouts I could possibly use. I consulted other teachers. “Ugh, I hate improvising a class,” one of them said. “It always feels like I’m ‘cheating’ the students. Why don’t you just throw on a DVD?”

I happened to have a random pack of conversation cue cards in my purse. It’ll have to do, I thought, hoping the students would be in a talkative mood that day.

Being the first class after a 4-day weekend, only three of my nine students showed up – and three of the quieter ones, to boot. How the heck am I going to fill 80 minutes??? With upper-intermediate and advanced classes, it can be pretty easy to hold an unstructured “conversation class,” but with early intermediate students – particularly ones who aren’t strong in the speaking department – it’s much harder.

Well, we started with the conversation cards, which contained very simple cues like “Yesterday I didn’t…”   “I can’t stand…”   “Next year I will…”   etc. – the students talked and ended up sharing some funny stories. Then I turned it into a game: each person had to take a card and say something they thought would be unique – true for them but not true for the other students. If they were successful, they got to keep the card; if not, the card went back into the pile. It was a fun challenge. Finally, I had them write down the alphabet A-Z and put one word for each letter that was related to them in some way (i.e. A for August because my birthday’s in August; B for blue because it’s my favorite color, etc) and then share. Fortunately, I managed to “stretch” the activities into an hour and twenty minutes worth of class.

Whew, I thought as I dismissed everyone. I got through it. As the students were leaving, Juliane approached me.

Thank you for this class,” she said, smiling.

I was surprised. “Uh, you’re welcome.”

“It completely changed my mood. It was a really difficult day, and I was thinking if I would come to class or not, but I’m happy I did.”

Glad to see my “improvised” class wasn’t so bad after all  🙂