At long last, students have left the world of being elementary students and have moved on to the joys of pre-intermediate and of course, this means changing books, which of course means that on the first day of this class, less than 3 students will have books, no matter what the size of the class. Pre-intermediate 1 is for the most part a review class. After the heavy grammar in elementary 2, a lot of time is spent reviewing and expanding upon the grammar students have previously learned, along with giving lots of speaking practice. The biggest challenge of P1 as we call it, is timing. While beginner and elementary 1 are five units and elementary 2 is four units, pre-intermediate 1 is six units, so we need to move fast. A fact that is rather difficult considering what I previously mentioned: few students have books the first day.
No books means a lot more get to know you type things than the other classes. This is also easier since students levels are a bit higher. The first unit in our curriculum is mostly a tense review anyway, so I just do my own tense review without the book, using handouts or boardwork or speaking games. I tend to focus on present perfect, making sure the previous teacher taught the class well and the students actually understood what was going on.
The first few days also deal with two pieces of grammar that I pretty much hate, tag questions and embedded questions. An example of a tag question, “You are going to the party, aren’t you?” Or “You didn’t do the dishes, did you?” I mainly don’t like them because they assume and answer and I’d much rather ask, “Are you going to the party?” Or “Did you do the dishes?”
Tag questions are still not nearly as stupid as embedded questions. An example of an embedded question: “Could you tell me the time please?” Or “Do you know if she is married?” Embedded questions are supposed to be polite, but really, they’re just indirect and that is annoying. Just ask me: “What time is it?” Or “Is she married?” These are often a problem because the grammar inverts for these questions and then they have to understand when to use if and it is just a mess. I mainly hate these because students never ever use them and quite frankly, I seldom use them. They are only for passive skills (reading and listening).
Now that everybody has their books, week 2 ends up being a good deal of review and exercises from the book. In our materials, there is a good reading a guy who has his choice of three ladies and it describes all four people and students have to choose which girl is the best fit for this guy. It’s nice because it introduces some interesting vocabulary about people’s personalities.
In week three, students learn the only new tense for the course, past continuous. So we do lots of practice with sentences using while and when and past continuous. For example: “While I was shopping yesterday, I saw my friend Ilker.”
Week three also reviews countable and uncountable nouns, which students should have learned in elementary 1.
Some of the first words students learn are the articles (a, an, the) but we never actually teach the difference between the indefinite articles (a, an) and the definite article (the) until P1. The rules for when to use which article are absolutely ridiculous. The difference between definite or indefinite often isn’t a problem, but when to use no article is a problem. For example: you use the before newspaper names “The New York Times” or “The Washington Post”. But you use no article before magazines, “Time” or “Sports Illustrated”.
Week four also introduces verb patterns for gerunds (verb-ing) and infinitives (to v1). For example: “I enjoy swimming.” Or “I want to go swimming.” Usually I just show the verbs that take a gerund and the ones that take an infinitive and highlighting which are about the present, past and future. Most verbs are easy, some are difficult to explain because the meaning changes if you use a gerund or infinitive. For example: “I stopped to smoke” is very different from “I stopped smoking.” Another difficult example: “I remember paying the bill” is different from “I remembered to pay the bill.”
Here we have some more review, looking at comparatives and superlatives. “Andy is taller than Yunus.” “Serdar is the oldest in the class.” But I often expand things to do equal comparisons. “Eren is as tall as Kadir.” It also opens things up for levels of comparison. “Aykut is nearly as old as Sinan.” Or “Elif is much taller than Melike.”
This week is also the beginning of a rather difficult subject in grammar, being relative clauses. “He’s the doctor who I saw.” Or “He’s the doctor who examined me.” etc. This is often difficult for students and I can’t blame them. I’m not the best at using relative clauses, but we do a basic overview of relative pronouns such as who, which, where, that, whose, and whom. In this course, I do my best to simply make them aware of these structures, so if there is a gap fill, they can ask themselves, “Is this about a person, place or thing?” And “Is it the subject or the object.” So long as they have that, it’s enough.
There are a lot of things to review, but mostly they are little things. The exam is actually rather difficult since it’s quite comprehensive. Most everything they may have learned in the past 6 months is on the exam. I’ve had one student reach 90 on this exam, but only one.