While I’ve already explained the ins and outs of how to teach beginner, I’ll now move on to the second course at our school, Elementary 1.
(A reminder that you can read about some basic information about our school as well).
The first week of this class is spent getting to know a new group of people. Most of this involves asking questions in present simple, since that’s the only tense they currently know. After the basic get to know yous and a bit of review, I teach them the verb ‘can’ for present ability. After a bit of practice, we move on to the past verb to be, being ‘was/were’. Then we move on to ‘could’ for past ability. There is a bit of practice with the new prepositions such as by and with, but that’s about it for week one.
The second week leads us into the long dark of past simple which never seems to end. Literally, the entire week is spent learning the different verbs in present and past tense, especially the irregular verbs (for example, go -> went). We also work with past time expressions such as ago, last … and yesterday … After this week, students can finally be asked the very basic question, “What did you do yesterday?”
The onslaught of past simple continues. There is a bit more work with negatives and questions in week three, but mostly just more practice. What makes this week redeemable is that there is a section on holidays that I quite like. It allows me to explain Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter a bit as well as allows the students to explain their holidays, both secular and religious. It is the perfect point for them to realize how well they can speak in English. I simply ask them “What do you do for this holiday?” And off they go, using the vocabulary they know and doing their best to communicate. I don’t know why, but having a real conversation about a real topic in English helps them to realize that they not only are learning a lot, but that they can learn more and it gives them a hunger to do so.
There are other short topics such as cardinal and ordinal numbers, more prepositions, parts of speech and conjunctions.
Finally, the two to three week battle with past simple largely ends and the students get to move on to something new. Unit nine is all about food and drinks as well as countable and uncountable nouns. Stephanie mentioned this unit a few months back in her post: I like chocolate. I like carrots. It does tend to make students hungry. I was teaching this unit last Wednesday and we were talking about our favorite Turkish dishes and after we had finished, I simply asked, “Any problems?” And one student responded with, “Yes, teacher. There is a problem. I am hungry.”
In this week, I also usually teach compound nouns such as something, anybody, everywhere and nothing.
After calming down from the hunger bug, we move into comparative and superlative adjectives meaning sentences such as “Andy is taller than Yunus.” Or “Furkan is the youngest in the class.” This week is great if the class has good chemistry with each other. If not…it can be a bit difficult. Week five also has the potential to introduce the mine field known as relative clauses. The writing section is about using ‘which’ and ‘where’ and I do the most basic of introductions to those so long as the class is fairly strong. If they are weak, I don’t touch it because it will only confuse them. They aren’t tested on such things for another three levels anyway.
Like with the first course, the final week is spent wrapping up loose ends, explaining some things that will be on the exam, reviewing and then taking the exam. For whatever reason, the Elementary 1 exam is a more difficult exam for that particular level. I’ve never had a score above 88 and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
At first, I really didn’t enjoy this course at all. It seemed very boring, but after I got the hang of it and figured out a few supplemental things to do, it not only became bearable, but I think it is one of my favorites now. Students still show a lot of improvement and an eagerness to learn. If a student can’t complete this level, it is very likely they won’t be able to learn English without extra help such as a tutor, going back to the beginner course or intense study on their own, which isn’t all too likely to happen for a student who is struggling.