Since, ago, yet, already. These four little words seem to plague French learners and for obvious reasons. Since translates to depuis. So does for. The idea of ago has a structure that when translated looks like there are four years, I went to the US for vacation. As for already, well, its French equivalent can also translate to yet. In some contexts, that is.
Not what I had predicted doing, but it came up and incidentally SAYA could fit well with the jump-start idea that I had chosen (thank you, ELT gods!)
We began the lesson with a little revision from the regular “Lesson That Was” form that I fill in and photocopy for everyone at the end of each lesson (See Teaching Unplugged, p. 63). Students made mental notes of questions they still had about any language. We boarded this and then students grouped in 4s to try to answer some of their classmates’ questions by going to the board and playing teacher. I monitored and corrected as needed. Although the students seemed reluctant to take the place of the teacher, they do it and they really try. Best thing is they explain in their own words, which are probably better understood by their peers than my explanations.
This was when SAYA came in, probably sparked by last lesson’s work on the present perfect simple.
I explained it to one group, who then went to the board to explain it to the rest of the class. We elicited a few examples together, and I circled the words in red to set up for the next activity. Maybe we could have done some more SAYA-specific work here, but I thought the activity I had planned would lend itself nicely to some natural emergence. I was hoping this would be shed light on these little linguistic trouble-makers in a more organic, holistic way. Did it?
I asked if any of the students had a newspaper on them. Since they give out freebies near the tram stop, I was pretty sure the answer would be yes. Bingo! We opened a page, I read the headline and asked if they could guess what the article was about. Luckily, this one particular headline was a bit enigmatic–something about a Salkin-Magnani face off. Then I pulled out my grassroots “front page” based on “Headlines” (Teaching Unplugged, p. 38) about my weekend spent purging my apartment of unneeded clothes, books, papers, and general clutter. Students asked a few questions about what sort of home purification took place, but I stopped them before they could get all the details (oh, the suspense building up to next week’s lesson!)
Students were encouraged to create their own headline, and if desired, to exaggerate their exploits. 6 of them lined up with their own front pages, the other half stood in front of a partner to ask him/her questions to learn more about their headline. After a minute or so, the questioners rotated until they had spoken to each headline-holder. All the while, I circulate to help with vocab and make notes on what I hear.
Afterwards, group summary of the stories to check what they had understood and to consolidate the stories. We went over some of the new vocabulary as we pieced together the stories and I pointed out where SAYA could have been used to try to tie the day’s bits together.
During the Headlines activity, SAYA didn’t come up as much as I would have liked, but I think that I was less disappointed than if I had done a traditional PPP lesson. In a way, it was a bit liberating and at the same time, a signal to say that this aspect would need some recycling in future lessons.
Which is why their homework is to write the “article” to match their headline, making a special effort to incorporate since, ago, yet, and already when possible. In the meantime, I’ll try to think of a catalyst likely to draw out this language again for next week.
BONUS: A few memorable headlines and their stories:
–On a Culinary Quest for Taste: about a girl making crepes with her mom
–Boomerang Rock Strikes: one guy threw a rock against a wall when he was a kid. It bounced back and left a small scar on his lower lip.
–Nightmare in the ER: this poor girl spent her week of vacation at home with stomach flu that required a trip to the hospital
–Young Painter Wins Prize: one of my students won his height in paint thanks to a miniature octopus woman figurine he created.