Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jeremy Harmer's "perfect" lesson plan

I watched Jeremy Harmer present a demonstration lesson at IATEFL Poland's annual conference, September 7-9, 2012. 

The lesson was so perfect, I just have to put it down here. Integration was the key: content, blended beautifully with student participation, grammar and lexis, audio and visual elements, and excitement.

The elements were watching and listening to a video, focus on collocations, intonation, and effective presentation skills.
The content was Michelle Obama's speech at the U.S. Democratic Party convention, and the video is here. Jeremy used just the final two minutes of the speech. (text is below)

Warmer (10 minutes)
A wordle made up of words from Michelle Obama's speech. Task was to search for collocations with a partner. We tried to find strong collocations and distinguish them from simple adjective-noun pairs.
Strong collocations:
American dream/jail time/better life/younger generation/love life
Adjective-noun pairs:
proud immigrants/women farmers/Great Depression

There was a lot of discussion! Jeremy asked for ANY adjective-noun combinations, then for subject-verb combinations

Next, he asked the group to guess where the words in the wordle came from (we didn't know the lesson was based on Michelle's speech)

Our group guessed: epic novel, maybe The Great Gatsby, newspaper article, historical material, country western song, poem, something "thespian"...

Then the video was shown (it was actually shown 3 times during the lesson, more often than I usually do, but surprisingly we never tired of it)
We were asked how we felt while watching. There were lots of questions.

The video was shown again. Harmer asked us to think What makes it a success?
Pointed out: emphasis on "surely" and "if", body language. Long-short words, reiterate the same grammatical structure

A student was asked to read the script out plain without any intonation or shifts. We discussed that.

Intonation and Stress activity (pairs)
A: Ask B about a film
B can answer four different ways, using intonation
a. I definitely loved it
b. I really enjoyed it
c. It was fabulous
d. It was absolutely terrible
Then again, using do-DO-do-do-do-DO-do (I DEFinitely LOVED it) This was modeled by Jeremy, with plenty of chorusing and laughter

Pointed out difference in meaning between THANK you and Thank YOU.
Pointed out that Michelle used pitch and intonation very well.

Sonnet by e e cummings, "It may not always be so..."
it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips, which i have loved, should touch
another's, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be--
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands

We read the poem to ourselves and noticed its structure (sonnet, 14 lines with 2 stanzas of 8/6 lines, Petrarchan aabb, melancholy) Punctuation (--- ; comma) guides breathing when reading aloud. Then a student tried it before the group.

Return to Michelle's speech: it was played again, for the third time

  • speaks to all constituents (workers, blacks, gays-lesbians etc.)
  • iconic moments - "if" + past tense - NOT conditional!!
  • the positive CAN

FINALE: Then a student tried giving Michelle's speech from the text provided. Very dramatic, lots of varied pitch and intonation. We applauded!!

Michelle Obama's speech (final excerpt)
If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire, if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores, if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote, if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the alter with who they love then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream. Because in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country -- the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.

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