After 3 class observations at EEC, I was to conduct an activity at the next lesson. I was thinking and thinking what kind of activity to apply so that it fitted in the lesson and was meaningful to them. At the same time I needed an activity that would be totally independent and autonomous. I couldn’t just continue the lesson that their wonderful teacher had been teaching.
I remembered one of our method classes back in 2014 when we were discussing icebreaker activities. I went online, watched several videos and my love for knitting pushed me towards an icebreaker that used a ball of yarn! I had to sacrifice a yarn ball of mine, but surprisingly enough this time I felt ready for it. Even more, I was enthusiastic to use my yarn for a fun activity creation.
I wrote the activity: the idea was to revise all the grammar points they had been targeting at classes I observed, which were I can/can’t, I like/don’t like doing, sports vocab, family vocab and so forth. I also wanted to build a relationship with the little people who could be really destructive if they wished. I needed to create a friendly atmosphere where I would still be the leader.
I wrote the activity and sent it to my cooperating teacher. She, as usual, encouraged me and said it was a great idea. However, she asked me to include some more language points to revise in it. I made the necessary changes and was ready to go there the next day with my yarn ball and a pair of scissors.
The teacher conducted her lesson and left the final 15 minutes for me. During the lesson she had written some sport vocab on the board. So, she drew the Ss’ attention to me and took her seat. I introduced myself once more, in case there were students who didn’t know what I was doing in their classroom during the last 3 classes. I asked them to stand up and make a circle. The teacher asked if she could also take part. She did this to support me and cheer me up. I welcomed her in our circle.
I explained to the kids that we were going to make a big web of friendship: I would tell some details about myself and throw the ball to any of the participants. The one who caught it would need to keep in mind what I said and in his/her turn tell the class some information about his/her personal life. We should continue doing so until the yarn ball was unwound.
The next step was to wind the yarn ball back by passing it to the person who had thrown it to you. It was easy to trace where the yarn had come by following the thread. And when you passed the ball back you should remember and tell the class what that person had told about him/herself.
I noticed that the kids were the most enthusiastic about the things their teacher and I had said. Everyone remembered what we had said word for word, even those who didn’t remember a single word from their peers’ speeches.
It was going quite well and the kids were so calm and attentive until the yarn went tangled! We didn’t manage to untangle it! Such a situation would create a panic for many novice teachers, but not for me. I was surprised how cold-bloodedly I cut the yarn, gathered the whole big web we had created and squeezed it into a ball and right into my bad. I just asked the kids to stay where they were and go on telling all the info they learnt about their classmates. I used cold-calling: I called a name and asked him/her to recall the words of the next person I named.
The teacher and my classmate, who was observing me, both said that the activity was a success as everyone was engaged and no-one was lost or distracted. And they also appreciated the way I saved the situation after the yarn went mad!
The activity had several advantages: it was meaningful, as the Ss spoke about their real life; it was authentic, as there were no rules and the Ss just spoke naturally, though several times they referred to the vocab on the board; it built a relationship between the students, between the teacher, and me; it was fun and it was kinesthetic, as they touched the yarn, could visually see from who the thread had come and to whom it went; it was rational, as it enabled it to engage all the students in a single activity at the same time.
Now I would like to say a few words about the cooperating teacher. At the very beginning I asked my classmate to trade the practicum time with me so that I could commute to my hometown easier. She was willing to help me and thus, the cooperating teacher, initially assigned to me, changed automatically. I don’t even know the other teacher, but I do know that because of the change I had the best teacher possible. Why do I think so? During these 4 times of me teaching at EEC she has been willing to share her knowledge, her experience, and her books with me. She gave me her books and took copies and photos of pages instead! She asked to call her any time I wished. She always picked up the phone and talked to me as much as I needed. She encouraged me in every initiation regarding activity choice, lesson pace. Even when she thought something needed improvement, she told it so tactfully that I didn’t even notice she made me change something in my lesson plan.
When I was conducting my first activity, the abovementioned icebreaker, she was in the circle. When the students were speaking they were making mistakes. She never interfered to correct a mistake, and whenever her students asked her for an English word she tactfully asked them to turn to me. When the yarn ball went all tangled she felt even worse than me, she wanted to help me out somehow, but at the same time didn’t want to take the initiative in her hands. She gave me the opportunity to feel like a real independent teacher in her class. I wish I could be so open-hearted and generous when I have my own practicing students in my class one day…