April 16, 2004 – Classroom English, what could possibly go wrong?

In order to become a better teacher, I decided to teach my kids class some “classroom English”. NOVA classrooms are supposed to be English immersion, so I thought that if I taught a few key phrases in English that the kids would get more out of the class.

At the start of the class, I went off script and gave simple examples of the following:

  • How do you spell… (complete with an example of spelling a word)
  • I don’t understand (next to a frowny face with question marks)
  • Help!
  • I have a question

The class seemed to understand, and for a few brief minutes I felt like a really good teacher. “These are all easy, what could possibly go wrong” I thought to myself.

The lesson material of the day was what you want to be when you grow up. To begin, I taught a number of common jobs (doctor, teacher, etc). Then we modeled the target language: “What are you going to be? I’m going to be a (profession name)”. Things were going well when one student puts up her hand as says “I have a question. I don’t understand ‘going to'”.

This stopped me in my tracks. How can you explain the idea of “going to” in English to an 11 year old girl who knows a grand total of about 100 words of English. I tried a few approaches, failed miserably, gave up and then got them to play a find the flashcard game.

I will likely not be trying to teach classroom English to kids again.

(2014 update) Partial rewrite of original post to give better explanation.

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