Although I have moved over to the ‘dark side’ or SLT, I still teach. This is an idea I first read over on Noel Jenkins’ blog almost a year ago. Head there to see the original post. It’s taken me this long to build the excellent process of describing places described by Noel into a lesson. Like Noel, I too find my students struggle when describing places. What follows is a description of the lesson.
The slide above is displayed (without the senses named). The class talk in pairs to remind themselves of our senses. The class have already brought in an image from home in a previous lesson and produced a written description of it. After some brief feedback on the senses, I introduce some my curiosity kit. A battered suitcase full of objects. The challenge is for the class to write a description of the place I was when I needed the items. The items include:
- Water proof trousers.
- An Ice Axe.
- B2 winter walking boots.
- A map of the Swiss Alps
Students may talk in pairs and I pass the items around the room for them to examine. This phase ends with a few minutes of silence for students to draft their response. Then I show this clip taken by me:
It doesn’t have to be an example like this one, but the fact that the teacher has been there and needs some stuff is important. You could equally choose the local high street and show items.
The next challenge, with Mystery Place 2, is to reduce the description taken from a novel to as few words as possible. I used this, but again you could choose any passage that describes a place from a novel:
Next follows a discussion about what type of description would be best. For example, the single word ‘volcano’ could mean anywhere in the world and so on.
After considering another reason for describing places in detail, in this case a news reporter, we move onto Noel’s describing places process, introduced as a flow diagram. It may not be fashionable, but I get the class to make their own version as a flow chart or table with an arrow pointing to the top. Next, the class self and peer assess their written descriptions of the homework photo (of a favourite place); their description of my first mystery place, and the extract, scoring each out of six and saying how they could be improved. At Patcham, students mark in red pen.
When this is going on I have a general wander and reward excellent use of adjectives and honest refection.
Finally, I visit the Bing homepage. At the moment, they are showing close ups of various beasties, but it’s not long before you can find a decent image like the one below. I do this for two reasons. First, it provides a place that I haven’t been to and probably don’t know about. This means I can model the descriptive process too. Secondly, the homework set (also based on Noel’s homework idea) uses the Bing homepage, and I can show how to find out where it is, map it etc.
I also plan to start the next few lessons with the Bing homepage in order to reinforce the describing skills, adding a nice bit of randomness into the lessons.