As I explained, my Friday afternoon class is writing a novel. We now have four characters, Vincent Team, Johnny Spider, Jackson Sixteen and James Blonde. They are bachelors who live in a large Georgetown mansion. Their professions are secret agent, FBI undercover agent, bank guard and body guard. We have decided on their ages, their physical descriptions and their personalities. We also discovered what kind of cars our heroes drive, and the ecologists would be horrified. When they’re not behind the wheel of a Jaguar or a luxury model Landrover, they’re on a Bugatti motorcycle. Does such a thing exist?
The next step was to identify the problem that they had to solve. It appears that Bill Gates disappeared on Friday, the 21st of December, 2012, and every Friday since then an important and influential person has disappeared, every time from a different country. We began the list of vanished personalities, and for our next lesson the boys will do research to complete the list. They are to bring a short description in English of the missing persons.
I used this class in a “Speed Lessoning” exercise at the TESOL workshop in Toulouse. My colleagues came up with the idea of preparing a map of the world showing our missing persons, such as you would find in the crime room of a police investigation. I like the idea and will try it, complete with thumb tacks and strings. We can post notes on the wall as we gather clues.
What is Speed Lessoning? Paul Scanlan, a charming fellow from New Zealand, put us in groups of three. Each person was to present the group with a class and the others had 20 minutes to help him prepare a lesson for the class. After 20 minutes, we helped the second person prepare a lesson for a different class and then on to the third person. Paul gave us a phrase to use if our partners were going off on a tack that didn’t suit us and our teaching style. “Maybe not this time.” I liked the idea of being able to reject ideas without giving offense. In an hour my group had three lessons prepared and ready to roll. One was for university students studying American institutions, another for post baccalaureate students who would be selling farm equipment and the third for my middle school boys. Talk about variety!
It was a very enriching experience. It’s true that outsiders can give you a fresh look and perspective on your classes. This would be an interesting exercise to try in the staff room of a large school.