Mario’s Lost Exercise
Paul Davis, UK
Paul Davis teacher, teacher trainer, trainer of trainers and author. Has co-written: Dictation, CUP, The Confidence Book, Longman, and More Grammar Games, CUP, and Ways of Doing, CUP. Has worked in many kinds of ELT teaching and training in many countries. Regular Pilgrims trainer. His present ELT interests include Silent Way, Linguistic Psychodrama and Corpus Linguistics.
In the olden days, in Cambridge, before Thatcher, we used to have union meetings (by coincidence we also had paid holidays, pensions, contracts and so on). Mario was a guest speaker at my first union meeting when I was a young teacher – half the meeting was devoted to union business but the other half was devoted to practical teaching ideas. Below I have written up in recipe form the first exercise I ever learnt from Mario at that union meeting (he has forgotten it and denies ever having done it!).
To go deeper into the meaning of words
Post-beginner and above
30 - 40 minutes
Recycling already known vocabulary
Ask each student to draw a picture of a tree in their copybooks.
Ask them to work alone and write as many adjectives as they can think of to describe their tree. Allow at least eight minutes.
Brainstorm the adjectives on the blackboard (see below)
Last time we did this activity (at upper-intermediate level) we got:
large straight bare well stable evergreen
rustling young damaged blooming
flowery green wild
crinkly unusual bent high yellow
unique old tall red rare shady thick
brown deciduous barren twisted
Get the students standing up and paired off.
They ask each other personal questions using all the words on the board: Are you straight? Are you green? Are you thick ? etc.
Finally, have a whole-class session to discuss the words and how they can be used about people.
It is possible to separate the words above into three categories:
- Ones like ‘deciduous’, which can be used about trees but not about people
- Ones like ‘old’, which have a roughly similar meaning
- Ones like ‘green’, which change meaning
It is also possible to look up words on wikis such as www.urbandictionary.com to get the more obscure meanings for higher levels. It also shows that while nowadays there is, usefully, an emphasis on word partnerships that single word exercises carry considerable meaning for the learner.
Brainstorm all the multi-word verbs associated with driving. For example: belt up, slow down, wind up, get in, turn on, etc. Change the context to people/relationships and have look at how the meaning changes.
This was the first exercise I saw Mario present when he was half the age he is now – I still use it. It requires no preparation but stretches the students It can be used at any level since the text comes from the students. As far as I know he has forgotten it exists.
Mario was instrumental in forming the union in Cambridge. A union which established good pay and conditions for teachers in the 80s and 90s of the last century.
This is an early example of Mario being generous with time and help.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.