Cute Idea #9: Pets
A powerful way to get kids quickly involved in class is to talk about their pets:
Some teachers ask their students to produce drawings of their pets on their Card Talk cards, in addition to things they like to do. This is a good move.
Instant discussions of high quality happen as you walk around the room and act surprised and extremely interested in the fact that Tyler has a dog named Dipper. People really love to talk about their pets.
Since I will ask Tyler many questions about Dipper in a period of about ten minutes, really locking onto that pet with many varied questions, Tyler has the opportunity to enter into a one-on-one discussion with me.
When this is going on, the focus in the room from the other students is very high. The others know that they are hearing what they came to learn – the target language.
These extended one one-on-one discussions can be awesome! They bring great pride to both the instructor, who is doing what she set out to do as a language teacher, and the student, who can’t believe that they can understand the questions so clearly. The pets plays a big role in this.
Even if the student answers with only “yes” or “no” for five straight minutes, I often notice that with each passing minute the smile on their face gets bigger as they realize what they are doing – communicating in the target language.
Moments like these make it great to be a language teacher. All the people who do research on how people acquire languages would envy us this kind of application of their research, because it is just so much fun! We’re not thinking about it, nor are we talking about it, we’re doing it! But pets make some of the best discussions.
Here are some examples of questions normally asked during discussions about pets:
1. Is it a male or a female?
2. What is his/her name?
3. What color(s) is it?
4. How old is it?
5. Is it big or small?
6. Does it have (big, small, average) (eyes, ears, teeth, legs, etc.)?
7. Does it sleep a lot? Where does it sleep?
8. Is it fierce or timid?
9. What kind of food does it eat?
When talking about pets, as on the subject of family members above, we again remind you to encourage your students to lie about facts if they feel so inclined, or to even to make them up from scratch. Such lies always inject interest, humor, and new vocabulary into the class discussion. Many of my students are excellent liars, and I am very proud of them.
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