Noah's Ark

It's time for a role-play:

Student A: turn to page 61
Student B: turn to page 64

It is somehow assumed that in all classrooms, all over the world, wherever there are people learning English that their teachers are teaching to an even number of students, every day.

Amazing, really...

Useful links related to this posting: 
Reasons I don't like textbooks (series)
ELTchat: Is using a coursebook such a bad thing?

image credit: Cartoon about Noah's Arc by Gaspirtz

I love hearing from you!   Please add your thoughts if there's something you would like to question, add or say about this post - got any useful strategies or tips to deal with this dilemma, ones which don't involve making the teacher one of the partners and therefore no longer able to record errors and mistakes for feedback? 

Don't worry about perfection in your comment or agreeing with me: it's always a pleasure to hear from you and know your viewpoints.

9 Responses to “Noah's Ark”

  • English Raven says:
    October 01, 2010

    LOL! (Loved the cartoon!)

    I'm not so sure it's a matter of publishers automatically assuming there is going to be an even number of students in each class as it is a bit of a (not all that unreasonable?) assumption that teachers should be able to find practical ways around this - some of which are actually quite beneficial.

    For example:

    - The teacher him/herself pairing up with one student, and rotating in that role so that each student in the class eventually gets a turn to practice a roleplay with the teacher.

    - Allocating one (or more, totalling an odd number) student(s) to be a "teaching assistant" or observer, watching pairs do their roleplays and giving them feedback or prompts/help (based on having access to both versions of a gap-fill for instance). They could also be called on to take notes and report to the rest of the class what happened in the roleplays they observed.

    - Having one or more students act as "interruptors" (or "curve balls") to butt in on the roleplays as an unexpected third participant.

    - Having one or more students listen to the paired roleplays and write it down as a script, which is then negotiated and edited together with the original roleplayers.

    And the list goes on...

    So long as there is rotation and variety (so that all students get chances to be roleplayers or additional participants in some way), I personally think this is not a problem at all, but a good opportunity.

    October 01, 2010

    Great suggestions! Which all work with smallish sized groups. This came up because I was working with a medium sized group, 15, and I have to confess I did think to myself at certain points how infinitely better it would be if on occasion there was something specific added to some of the roleplays (using a book which I AM GOING TO RAVE ABOUT SOON) - a required text - but point is, why not a C option every now and then...

  • Johanna says:
    October 01, 2010

    Yes, Karenne, often thought the same myself - what about an optional C role. I remember years ago wanting to write a business English practice book for threes called 'Three's Company' - but never got beyond the title!

  • chris says:
    October 01, 2010

    Excellent point, Karenne, almost every book is designed around pairwork!!

    Like Jason, I lovvvve the Noah's Ark cartoon :-)

    True, Jason's unfinished list of contingency/strategy ideas is just great and definitely how an experienced teacher deals with this dilemma in class - often on the spot.

    The 'observer' role, with a clear task, is definitely one I use often - regardless of whether numbers are odd or even - and this observer can give valuable feedback to the pair/group afterwards (at least it doesn't always come from the teacher!).

    But rarely in a Teacher's Book (do many teachers read teacher's books these days, except for the answer key?) is there a great list like this to "spice up" and "effectively mangage" the 121 tasks. So all ears about the book you're going to rave about!

    Ken Wilson recently blogged about motivation and one of the points mentioned definitely supporting the threesome theme. You might not have read it so here's the link:

    Love Johanna's book title... go for's not too late!


  • Mike Harrison says:
    October 02, 2010

    Well, they had a 50 percent chance of getting it right... (this is assuming no classes with 0 students)


  • Natasa says:
    October 03, 2010

    The other day I was teaching a group of 11 students and, just as I was figuring out what the least clumsy way to solve the Student A/Student B dilemma was, one of them complained that he had a very sore throat and that he couldn't talk. I exclaimed: "That's great! So, we have an even number of students after all." I think I really scared them, you should have seen the look in their eyes.
    Yes, it would be great to have a Student C option every now and then.

    October 04, 2010

    Johanna - think that's a killer title and I hadn't thought of that, a whole book of 3 activities... I think ya should make a supplementary book (but self-publish it as the publishers shy away from things that don't make oodles of cash :-))

    October 04, 2010

    Hey Chris,

    Me too - the observer or reporter is a clear and easy task but as you mentioned, there are difficulties in managing 1-2-1s and roleplay activities - off to go see what Ken blogged about, think this was a post I missed!

    Hey Mike, and then there is the playing of odds..

    October 04, 2010

    Hi Natasa!

    Long time no see, hope you are well - you gave me such giggles with your spontaneous "that's great" - been there, done that!



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