[Lesson Plans] Having no students and playing the 3 R’s game
Last week I had the unique experience of being in a school with almost no pupils in it. I decided to take the early bus to school so I’d have plenty of time to meet the new teacher I’d been working with and to find out what I’d be doing. It was still dark out and I noticed a banner in front of the school that included the word «mort,» but I didn’t really understand or think too much of it.
I hung out in the teacher’s lounge and waited for the new teacher to show up but by 8am, it started to seem like something was off: there were pretty much no students around. I found out that apparently, there were some demonstrations going on and students weren’t being sent to school. My understanding was that parents were protesting because the school was going to lose its status as a ZEP school and would therefore be losing funding. According to my new teacher, however, I had to stay in the building for the hours that I’d normally be working.
There were no students for the first hour, so I did some lesson planning. During the next hour, there were three students so the teacher had me play hangman with them for an hour. I tried to make it more challenging by telling them that they had to make a question, or to make a question without the word «what». I also tried to have them practice naming body parts as they were drawn on the board, but it was definitely kind of a stretch.
Another class had about four students in it, so they came up with questions and grilled me about my life. One student asked me about what color school buses were in the US, and I replied «yellow». He then asked what color taxis were and I repeated «yellow» and he excitedly said “C’est jolie, non?” Sometimes I forget how interesting tiny details about other countries can be.
With my afternoon classes, I did a game about the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle) that ended up being a blast:
Introduction to 3 R’s: I started off by trying to have them understand «reduce,» «reuse,» and «recycle.» I tried to impress on them that they could use their knowledge of French to understand English words.
- «Recycle» is the same word in French, so that was easy enough.
- I would then show them the word «use,» which they often understood to mean «utiliser,» and from there I’d add the «re-» and they would be able to figure out «reutiliser.»
- «Reduce» tended to be a little harder, but if they were really stumped I’d start writing «R-E-D-U…» out on the board and sometimes they’d get that it’s «reduire.»
- In order to demonstrate the difference between the 3 R’s, I used paper as an example, by showing them that they could print double-sided to «reduce» the amount of paper used. Then, I would write on the paper to demonstrate «reuse» and put it in the recycling bin to demonstrate «recycle».
Rules: I would assign point values to each «R»: “Reduce” would be 3 points, “reuse” would be 2 points, and “recycle/compost” would be 1 point.
- I would then divide the students into 2 teams and give each student a piece of paper with the name of an object on it (water bottle, plastic bag, egg carton, scrap paper, Jack-o-Lantern, or cardboard box).
- I would ask them to come up with team names in English, which got some interesting responses. I’d explain that they would have to think of whether to reduce, reuse, or recycle the item and how. Often they’d have trouble with «how», so I’d often cave a little on my «no French» rule by asking them to tell me the meaning of «what, where, when, why, who, and how».
- I would give them a few minutes to talk with their groups and figure out what to do with the objects. I’d ask them to try to talk to each other in English but they’d generally just end up talking in French, so I tried not to let the discussion time go on for too long.
- I would then start with one team and ask them to explain what they would do with the item (and how they would reduce/reuse it) in a complete sentence and would then give them points depending on the response. “Reuse” was probably the most popular. I would alternate which team got to start to keep things fair.
Thoughts: We didn’t usually end up getting to talk too much about why reduce > reuse > recycle, but I was hoping that the point system would help them have a basic understanding of the hierarchy between the three. I don’t think the concept of «reduce» was always easy to understand and they sometimes mixed up «reuse» and «recycle», but I think those are pretty subtle anyway and was proud of them for the ideas they did come up with. I also had some props (water bottle, plastic bag, cardboard box, scrap paper) available, but I wanted them to try to figure out the word on their own first, so I didn’t show them unless absolutely necessary. They did tend to have trouble with «scrap paper,» so I’d probably save that one as a last resort next time. I would also have liked to ask the people who said «recycle» what exactly things could be recycled into as a follow up question. They generally seemed to like having a game and usually got into competing with each other. Overall, it went much better than I expected especially considering that I didn’t end up spending nearly as much time as usual on preparing it!