Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Home-Grown Language Plants - David Warr’s Blog Challenge

George Harrison Quote
“I’m not really a career person. I’m a gardener, basically.” - George Harrison

For a long time now, one of my favourite blogs has been David Warr’s Language Garden, both for its though-provoking content and the creative ‘language plants’ which introduce/conclude each post with a visual re-working of a quote. It was with great excitement then that yesterday I saw David’s blog challenge to create a summary of a lesson we had done using his new Language Plant Maker. Having had a fun morning experimenting and creating, I’m ready to share my beginner’s gardening skills.

David’s challenge calls on us to reflect on a recent lesson in the style of an activity from Teaching Unplugged entitled “That was the lesson that was” (pp. 63 if you have the book). By chance, one of my lessons yesterday was based on another Teaching Unplugged idea “Good things, bad things” (pp. 52) so here are some language plants representing the language that emerged or was uncovered:

cola ayran

Rather than a single object, I started the lesson with two: a cola can and a carton of ayran (a Turkish yoghurt drink) and asked the students to write down a couple of sentences about them. This naturally led to comparative forms being used and you can see a representation of what they produced above. Beyond the basic ‘Cola is better than ayran’, I asked the class for their reasons, which led us to comparing noun forms with has + more/less…, something their coursebooks had never touched upon.

The discussion than moved into fast food in general and whether it was better to have it as a treat once in a while or avoid it all together. The following language emerged during the discussion:

fast food

All useful language (a lesson full of useful language, one might say ;)) which helped a group of ten year-olds get into a proper discussion. We also followed the Teaching Unplugged idea of moving to different ends of the classroom depending on our point of view, letting the ones who were undecided stay in the middle. Using the language from the images above, each group tried to persuade the undecided ones to join them - all in all, a great lesson!

And a great challenge to help me reflect on it! I will be using these plants in class tomorrow to review what we talked about. Thanks David - the challenge and the Plant Maker are both really appreciated.

4 comments:

  1. Well Dave, I am truly appreciative of how you have dived straight into this, and am tremendously impressed with not only the plants, but how you've integrated them into your lesson. I hope they enjoyed it, and will like the review activity tomorrow. Thanks from your final comments, and also the great quote from George too - my favourite Beatle.

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  2. Wow Dave - there is some seriously advanced gardening going on here! Makes me want to try again - your unplugged lesson sounds like a lot of fun. I love how it flowed from two simple objects into comparatives and then into a full on debate. Looking forward to hearing what your learners think of their creations :-)

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  3. Thank you David for making all this available. I'm sure the review will be a hit with these images to display.

    And George was my favourite Beatle as well :)

    Anna - I notice we both had 'full of...' come up in our classes. :) These are the kind of lessons that my students really enjoy these days - I wish I could do them all the time!

    And great to have you back blogging!

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  4. Yeah I noticed that too - funny!

    I know the feeling - for me the start of term has been so overwhelming that I've fallen back rather more heavily on materials and previous lessons than I would like. However it's so often the unplugged lessons that really fly! I'm hoping once the students feel more at ease with eachother and me I'll have the courage to go unplugged a whole lot more.

    And thanks - it's nice to be back! :-)

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