If you have the opportunity to teach one-on-one, you’ll enjoy both the freedom of drawing from existing resources and the creative challenge of tailoring it for your student’s needs. Even in a group class setting, you may have the option to bring in supplemental materials to meet a specific purpose. What exactly can you do besides read the text or listen to the video?

The length of your lesson and the level of the student(s) are two key factors. You can design multiple activities if you have at least an hour. You’ll need to limit your use of a resource if you’re given only thirty minutes, but a series of activities can span two or three lessons if you’re working with a lengthy story or speech, for example. The other option is to work with only an excerpt from an authentic source and then encourage students to delve deeper on their own. Their level will also be a factor in how accessible a resource is.

To illustrate just some of the approaches I’ve taken, I’d like to share activities from a recent lesson plan. The student is advanced and has a strong command of academic vocabulary. She requested (1) more practice with everyday vocabulary used in conversation and (2) tasks to improve her versatility when it comes to syntax and sentence variety in her academic and professional writing. I also know that (3) a heavy dose of motivational content would build some confidence at this time.

Topic: Brené Brown on her book Daring Greatly
This is a short clip on YouTube. Brown speaks for about two minutes and includes a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which expanded my student’s formal vocabulary with marred by and err.
– We read the transcript aloud for pronunciation and oral expression.
– We paraphrased key ideas to move from spoken to written English.
– I created a set of related statements that replicated common mistakes I’ve spotted in my student’s writing and asked her to correct them. Examples: (1) She feared being exposed, criticism, and failure. [parallel structure] (2) If you never try, you would never know what greatness could you achieve. [conditionals]

If you look for themes, there’s always a way to expand the topic. Because Brown used the analogy of a fighter daring greatly in the ring, I decided to bring in boxing vocabulary. I’m no expert in this sport, but as a native speaker (who’s watched a lot of boxing movies like Rocky) there’s a set of vocabulary that I’m familiar with, and I aimed to teach these words and expressions.
– We completed a short quiz and discussed how many of the words can be used idiomatically or metaphorically. I ended up adding more sports-related vocabulary on the spot once I realized my student didn’t know that boxing matches are divided into rounds. We quickly went through other sports to make sure she know where the sports were played (tennis – court, football – field, etc.) and how the games broke down (football – quarters, boxing – rounds, etc.)
– We also discussed a set of idioms based on boxing. I appreciated the list compiled on MentalFloss. I trimmed it down and created my own examples to allow my student to use context clues.

Some of the expressions were already familiar, making our progress quite fast. With new expressions, we slowed down and brainstormed different contexts and examples.

I look forward to next week when we discuss excerpts from the commencement speech given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Again, the speech is motivational and directed toward a female audience. The language lends itself to the task of paraphrasing, and I plan to challenge my student to rewrite part of the transcript, adopting standard grammar and punctuation that’s appropriate for formal writing. This will target syntax and sentence variety. Just as I dug to arrive at a boxing theme, I’ve decided to follow a reference in the speech to makeup. We’ll review common vocabulary, similar to what I’ve presented in an older video on everyday vocabulary.

Featured photo by ds-30 retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/threads-needle-sewing-spiral-4966997/.

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