Yesterday, I taught my first ever class to a room of adults. The University I work with in Segovia has decided to put me in charge of weekly English conversation classes for some of their staff. This includes the Director of Res Life, and higher ups from IT and Finance departments, to name a few. Needless to say, I was intimidated. My goal was to provide them with something they’d find truly beneficial without ever coming off as condescending. Overall, I think it went pretty well.
Initially, it was suggested by my “bosses” that I start with some ice breakers. They even provided examples of ones I could use. I felt a little iffy about using such ice breakers with adults (aged probably between 30-55?), and once I gauged the group I decided to trust my instincts. I’m glad I did. I could tell a lot of them were wondering about me and about the class already, and it would have been too forced to jump into awkward ice breakers intended for a younger audience anyway. Also, I really dislike ice breakers. Really.
Instead, I had them go around and tell me their names/departments/reason for interest in English conversation. I made it clear this was for my benefit, as I realized most of them already knew each other. I learned that many of them feel they do not speak English well enough to use it in professional settings, and that some can speak it fine but struggle with listening. In order to practice both conversation and listening skills, I think I will continue to play some sort of video in the coming weeks.
Yesterday, I played them a video by Sir Ken Robinson which was an RSA animate done about Public Education Systems. It was a lot of information, so I next had them summarize the video with a partner sitting next to them. I was next going to have them discuss relevant questions with the same partners. However, I had started to notice that they were speaking at different levels and mostly sitting with the people they knew best. We also had plenty of class time left, and I know no one wants to be sitting around discussing questions with the same person for 40 minutes! So, the teacher in me kicked in and I asked these adults to please stand up.
Several of the questions I had were debatable, so debate we did! I asked a question, they chose the Agree or Disagree side and then had about 3 minutes to formulate arguments with people on their side. I even dusted off my iPhone timer for this! It was legit. Then, they got to debate. All in English of course. This way, they got to discuss heavy topics (education system in Spain) with a mix of different people, and practice their English! Class time seemed to speed by after that. They made some jokes, trying to get people from the other sides to switch over and any awkwardness anyone felt initially had certainly dissipated.
At the end of class, I let them know I had noted certain areas they needed help with and would create mini-lessons for future classes (focusing on things like singular/plural, past tense, subject-verb agreement). This is the next challenge now – planning instructional lessons, rather than conversational, for adults. They seemed interested in that (I got a lot of affirmative nods), and a couple even came up afterward to let me know I shouldn’t hesitate to correct them! Of course, I still will….But it was nice to hear, and good to have on my radar for future classes.
All in all, success. Here’s hoping for similar sentiments next time around!