Feb 15, 2012

Behind Bars - English for inmates, part 6

Lesson six
I think we're getting there -- since we've been able to have a little run of regular lessons we've achieved a kind of momentum. Problems of severe lateness have been less evident and we now seem to have a definite group that has gelled into a positive and collaborative unit.
Today was really good - everyone was focused and keen. During the review that always opens lessons, students were really able to focus on the language that they had by now become to feel at ease with -- all simple stuff, but the fact that any stuff at all is now ‘simple’ gives a good sense of achievement. The oral work -- the basic question-answer work -- has got a good bit of pace to it now and that gives us the kind of positive impetus that brings us up to new work eager and ready. Here the fact of having two one-hour lessons rather than a single 90-minute lesson makes a great difference. The lesson comes to an end before anyone is tiring too much and the shorter gap between lessons helps keep things fresh in the students’ minds. Plus the fact they now have the book, which I’m really pleased to see students seem to be using a lot between lessons.
There is a fair degree of diversity in the group, in terms of level, or at least competence -- a few of the students have missed much of the course until now, either through absence or significant lateness, and unfortunately this applies to two of the real zero-beginners. On a lesson like today when everyone was here for a full lesson (more or less) it allows me to work on those who need to catch up a bit -- it's important to avoid situations where people feel they are losing touch hopelessly. For the last 10 minutes we worked with the books with the students in pairs. I tried as much as possible to pair up students so that those who had missed out could be tutored by those who had managed to follow fully. My two higher level students work together (I have given each of them a more advanced book to give them something more interesting to work from in their own time and to bring to lessons so we can find something more challenging).
It was great to see these guys working so conscientiously together-- people who would probably not have much - if anything - to do with each other, trying to explain this new language, trying to impart the best they could, the knowledge they've picked up so far in this classroom.

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