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Alain Hickey's design narrative: Composition

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Alain Hickey
24 March 2016

TitleA Neighbourhood Watch Meeting


I was the teacher of a multilingual adult class who were learning English as a second language. 


This lesson occured a few weeks ago in a classroom where I teach English as a second language. The class was an intermediate level of multilingual students from various countries around the world and who all wanted to improve their English.


I first taught some vocabulary in relation to crime and punishment. I then set up a Neighbourhood Watch meeting in which each student was given a role to play such as 'a resident', 'a local MP', 'local chief of police' etc. The students had to role-play the meeting and try to come up with 5 solutions to stop the increase of crime in their neighbourhood. The measure of success was that they could all agree on 5 solutions and thus improve their fluency.


I frst elicited the meaning of some vocabulary to do with crime such as 'mugging', 'pickpocketing' etc. I then set up the debate giving each student a character to play. While the students were doing the role-play I sat aside and made notes of any problems in relation to pronunciation, vaocabulary and grammar. At the end of the task I gave the students feedback based on my notes.


An unexpected outcome was that at first the studetns didn't initiate the meeting by asking each other questions and communicating. I had to then dictate when it was each student's turn to talk.


On reflection, I now understand that I should have got each student to introduce themseleves just like what would happen in a real life meeting. I feel this would have opened up the role-play and got them talking from the outset and furthermore would have represented a more authentic real life meeting scenario.


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Nathan Casey
3:03pm 5 April 2016

Hi Alain,

I definitely appreciate your experience of expecting the students to start speaking in an activity spontaneously but then needing extra prompting!  I really enjoyed reading about your experience teaching this topic too!

This made me reflect a little on the aims of your activity too that I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on - in terms of more functional language (agreeing / disagreeing, giving an opinion, making a suggestion, etc), was that also something you planned to faciliate use of / teach here, or was that something explored previously?  

And most importantly,,,did they all reach agreement? :)



Susan Williams
2:15pm 7 April 2016

Hi Alain

Role play is definitely a great design narrative that can be used again and again.   I know too, as an English teacher that ideally there is quite a lot of thought and preparation needed in facilitating this, such as handing out role play cards etc.   Teaching the topic of crime and punishment set up the perfect scenario for such a role play and as you say you realised afterwards you could have done something ‘better’ or differently.  However, having written about it and having posted your reflections helps other teachers to realise its complexities and so plan beforehand exactly how they can achieve their objectives. Thank you!

Elizabeth Frost
2:50pm 23 April 2016

Hi Alain

Role play is very difficult to implement:

  • Students don't always engage
  • There is always one person who takes over
  • Preparation is key
  • Trying to think of a topic that will interest everyone.

One of my lecturers came up with a fantastic example of role play.  One student made a jam sandwhich, one gave a commentary to the other students, whilst other students had to critique the final outcome!  Very funny and interesting, almost Master Chef.

Did all of your students understand the concept of neighbourhood watch?  I should imagine it was a little stilted prompting students to communicate, but great fun.


Georgia Eglezou
11:06pm 23 April 2016

I like your design narrative Alain.  Role play is something that my teacher of French used to do often. It was a creative way of learning and practising a language.  However, most of the times the teacher herself had to get involved in order for the discussion to start.  Some students participated a lot, when some others didn’t take part at all as they found the whole things not interesting or they were shy.  I agree with Susan and Elizabeth that it is a way of teaching that needs to be planned in advance and needs careful preparation.

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