AT this time of year I am always more acutely aware of the vast gap that is the jump between elementary and high school English classes in Korea. Elementary English is all about fun and games, whereas middle and high school English is far more dry. I have always tried, with my Co-Teachers support, to bridge this gap as best I can within the parameters of the textbook. The textbook actually allows for very little in the way of extended or complex reading and writing, and the solidity of the foundation of English established from 3rd grade rests on the Korean English teachers, and the collective nature of the grade in question. I am so delighted that this activity was not only a great hit with my students, but also showed that they have an incredible amount of latent English, the use of which just isn’t easily built into the syllabus.
I designed this activity to tie into the themes of Lesson 11: Who Drew This Picture? but it could just as easily be used as a stand alone activity. The aim was not only to get out students to prepare material ahead of time – we asked them to bring a picture and some information – but also to challenge them to use these Korean notes and translate them into English themselves. We weren’t looking for perfect English, we were looking to see what our students would do with the task set them.
IN the interest of keeping our 6th graders focused on the task in hand, instead of focusing on the famous people in the text book, we allowed our 6th graders to choose anyone they wanted. We were also prepared for forgetfulness, and any students who came to class without a picture and information in hand had to complete a Fact File on Queen Elizabeth II. Obviously!
MY students excelled themselves. I have never been so proud of 6th grade and I have never seen so much English written in class – and by students who will do the bear minimum, or less, if they can get away with it.
WAS there perfect English? No, there were holes in many a sentence. Was it all understandable? Totally! Half the battle with a second language is making yourself understood. At their age, and with the late start in the language and the lack of grammar foundation (and even less time to work solid grammar teaching into an elementary curriculum), the level of accuracy was fantastic.
THE exercise showed our students, of all levels, just what they are capable of. Their English foundation is solid, and there’s so much more locked away in their brains than they are effectively using. We continued to build upon this momentum with a sentence building activity this week (worksheet next Monday) that they also aced, with very little hands on input from teachers – it was day 1 of Lesson 12 (I’m Faster Than You) and some of the sentences they were coming out with were pretty complex. 6th grade are flourishing in the English classroom and I’m So. Damn. Proud!