Describing Nature

Wall-E-Wallpaper

I don’t know what to say about the school schedule over here in Korea.  It is, all at once, breathtakingly stupid and perfectly reasonable.  I don’t know whether to rise up and fight it or applaud it (though I will certainly do neither).  The school year here ends on Christmas Eve (right after final exams) and then the students have the month of January off.  Then, in the middle of February, the students come back for 1-2 weeks.  The purpose is for the kids to get their test scores back (which takes all of half a day).  The students then circulate through the classrooms and.. pretend to learn? There is a reasoning that says this is an opportunity for students to get feedback on their skills and do some remedial work or extra work.  Mostly it seems they watch movies.

In fact, during one class with my graduating 9th graders, they put on a movie (in Korean, not English.  I’m not complaining, just pointing it out.) and when the class ended (but the movie had not) the teacher from the next class period came to the room, told the students they could stay and then watched the movie with us.

I don’t mean to say this teacher was lazy or wrong.  In fact I think it was as good a use of time as anything else.  She is a really nice person and a good teacher.  That’s what happens when you put one week of school randomly in the middle of two very long breaks.

The next thing that happens when the school is between semesters is that I am not informed about anything.  I understand there is a big language barrier (and I am working on it, some are incredulous) and that the school does a good job making sure I have a space and resources to work.

Nevertheless, at some point it can no longer be legitimately called a ‘quirky cultural difference’ when, as I show up to work (8:30am) when no classes are in session, I am greeted and told there are students in my classroom and that I am going to teach a conversation class for the rest of the week.  At some point, it just becomes douche-bagery.

I much prefer to work within a schedule (and I always have) and so the spontaneous and random changes that often happen are not exactly my idea of fun; but I am also a decent worker and will adapt.  I can still manage my job, even if things aren’t how I like them.  In that spirit, I threw together this lesson for the conversation classes.

In this lesson, the students will spend a good length of time using the English ability they have to be as descriptive as possible.  There is essentially only one kind of activity in the lesson and it is recycled a few times over, in progressively more difficult and interesting ways.  This iteration focuses on nature (and could go even further into Environmental protection), but that is mostly just a framework to work in.  This same lesson could be used with any set of pictures or any framework.

Descriptive Nature

Conversation

 Materials Needed:

  • Several pictures depicting nature, cities and pollution
  • Paper or whiteboards for drawing
  • Movie Wall-E

 Performance Objectives:

SWBAT activate and list words and phrases familiar to them relating to nature and the environment.  This will be done by presenting a series of pictures, some of nature, cities and pollution.  Students will be schaffolded until they are presented with a final picture that they will control the descriptive process entirely.

 SWBAT describe a picture to another student who cannot see said picture using only English.  Students will use the words activated from the warm-up to help their partner draw a picture of the visual they are presented with.  Students artwork will be used to compare between pairs of students how describing in some ways may be more effective than others.

 SWBAT describe a scene from the movie Wall-E to a rotating partner.  Half the students will watch a scene, and then it will be played again while they describe it to a partner who will try to draw it.  At semi-random intervals, students will rotate one space and continue describing and drawing.  At the end, the pictures will be compared to the actual scene.  Switch roles and Repeat.

 Before Class:

Ensure that there are enough materials for drawing and that the pictures for reference are available.  Also prepare the movie Wall-E loaded at the correct scenes.

 Warm-up: (10 min)

Objectives: SWBAT activate and list words and phrases familiar to them relating to nature and the environment.  This will be done by presenting a series of pictures, some of nature, cities and pollution.  Students will be schaffolded until they are presented with a final picture that they will control the descriptive process entirely.

 Instructional Strategy:  pair-work, whole class

 Sensory Learning Style:  visual, audio

 Task Description:

To begin the class, present a particularly vivid (but still describable) picture of nature.  Let the students look at it for a moment and then inform them that they will list all the words and phrases they know that describe the picture.  Perform a quick demonstration, describing a couple of aspects of the picture (colors, shapes, phrases) to give them an idea.  Perform a comprehension check.  Ask students, “What are you going to say about the pictures?”

 Give the students 2-3 minutes to look at the picture and think of words.  Begin the conversation yourself, draw attention to a specific area or thing in the picture and ask probing questions about that thing.  “What is this? (a tree) What color is the tree? (green) Is the tree big or small?  What is the shape of the tree?  Are there any other colors in the tree?”  Continue guiding as needed.  Point out another area and let the students direct the conversation more and guide less.  As the students speak, write the words on the board to give the students a visual of words they may know, but not know how to write.  Leave on board for entirety of class.

 Using more pictures, repeat process until upon presenting a picture, students offer up words and phrases spontaneously.  Provide a couple of new words and/or phrases the students may not know.

Presentation: (20 min)

Objectives: SWBAT describe a picture to another student who cannot see said picture using only English.  Students will use the words activated from the warm-up to help their partner draw a picture of the visual they are presented with.  Students artwork will be used to compare between pairs of students how describing in some ways may be more effective than others.

 Instructional Strategy: Pair-work, classwork

 Sensory Learning Style: visual, audio, textile

 Task Description:

Organize the students into pairs, have one of the pair face the board and the other opposite of their partner, so they cannot see the board.  Explain that you will show another picture and that the partner that can see the board, will describe (using as many words and phrases) the picture to the student that cannot.  The blind student, using a whiteboard or a piece of paper, will draw the picture based on their partners description.  Perform a demonstration with a picture from the warm-up.  Have a student face away from the board and describe the picture as the student draws. Emphasis that students may only use English to describe the picture.  Perform a comprehension check, pointing to another pair, “What does this person do with the picture? (describes it).”  “Can they use Korean? (no).”  “Can this person look at the picture? (no).”

 Show the first picture, and let the students begin.  Circulate and help any students who are having trouble beginning.  In order to maintain the description in English, if you hear Korean, enforce some sort of consequence (make the students start over, erase their whiteboard, have them switch partners, etc..).  Same thing if the blind partner looks at the picture.  Make sure the punishment isn’t seen as diminutive or judgmental.

 After 5 minutes (or when the students have finished describing/drawing) have the students present their pictures to the class.  Discuss why some pictures look the way they do.  What words or phrases did the student use to get their partner to draw more details or more specific details (did you give spatial directions? “on the right there is… above that there is…”)  Switch roles, present a new picture and repeat the activity.

 Practice: (20-30 min)

Objectives: SWBAT describe a scene from the movie Wall-E to a rotating partner.  Half the students will watch a scene, and then it will be played again while they describe it to a partner who will try to draw it.  At semi-random intervals, students will rotate one space and continue describing and drawing.  At the end, the pictures will be compared to the actual scene.  Switch roles and Repeat.

 Instructional Strategy: pair-work, class conversation

 Sensory Learning Style: audio, visual, textile

 Task Description:

Explain to students that we will move on to video now.  Show the movie title (wall-e) and explain that we will do the same activity as before, but differently.  In pairs, students will watch a scene from the movie, while they try to describe what is happening to their partner.  Emphasize that they will get more than one chance to see the scene.  Next, explain that in this activity, students will rotate partners every minute (or so) and that they must continue describing the video to their new partner (who is drawing).  Perform a demonstration with a different, shorter, scene and a couple of students.  Describe the scene to one student who is drawing.  After a few minutes, say, “rotate!” and have a student next to you step in and start describing to the person drawing.  Continue only until the students get the idea (which should be quickly).

Perform a comprehension check. “What does the partner watching the video do? (describes it).” “what does the other partner do? (draws).” “what happens when I say, ‘rotate!’? (we switch partners).” “Does the person drawing rotate? (no).”  Emphasize that the same rules apply about using English or glancing at the video.

 Begin, circulate and enforce the rules, help and motivate the students.  Make sure to keep the scene playing.  Stop the scene if needed to provide input or answer questions.  At the end, present the pictures (which should vary moreso than the picture input).  Have the students switch roles. Repeat.

Potential scenes:
Opening scene, polluted Earth (1:00-6:00)
Space Dance (57:00-1:00:00)
Robot Rebellion (52:30-55:00)

Pictures:

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2 thoughts on “Describing Nature

  1. I love this lesson. This kind of lesson makes me miss 4th grade. We did opinion responses to these types of pictures at times too, but the pictures I used for that were more emotion provoking. These pictures are great for description. Are you going to say something to someone about the lack of effort on anyone else’s part about communicating the schedule with you? Mom says you’re thinking about staying there, so be on the lookout for Madison because she’s going to be upset about that and she may show up there to drag you home 🙂

    Like

    • suffer in quiet internet shouting is the traditional way for NETs 🙂 I have tried to be.. direct, in the past and that is not effective. I have to leave clues and hints, which I have been doing. It’ll be an evolution, someday I’m going to wake up and realize I’m just as up-to-date as everyone else (which is still very random).
      I will be back in the states for at least two weeks in the summer, so.. it’s all good.

      Like

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