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Out of Order?
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Marti has worked full-time in ESL and basic literacy ministries since 1973. She has written many materials:
  • Laubach Way to English (co-author)
  • Emergency English for Refugees
  • Handbook for Volunteer Reading Aides
  • Passport to the World of English
    (Four volumes)
Is it ever okay to teach lessons out of order?
          Or should we just stick to the book?

A nswer:

In all my teaching, I try to keep two questions in mind.

  What does my student want and need to be able to do NOW?
  How can I help her or him be able to do that NOW?

So my answer to your question is, yes, it is okay to teach lessons out of order, if doing so meets a particular student need.

An example
When I am teaching Book 1 of Passport to the World of English series, I'm working primarily on helping students get acquainted with the English alphabet and sounds and oral skills. But if a student makes consistent grammar mistakes during Book One lessons, I often go to Book Two, find a grammar page or two that explains the mistake and gives added practice in the problem area. I insert these extra pages into the Book One lesson.

If the student doesn't know the question words and question forms, for instance, I would provide the chart and exercises from Book Two (shown below), which summarize all the words and question-word order.

Grammar Focus: Question Words and Forms

was                           the President?

were                          the winners?

was                           the assignment?

were                          the assignments?

was                           your birthday?

were                          your holidays?

was                           the dictionary?

were                          the dictionaries?

was                           the dictionary on the floor?

were                          the dictionaries on the floor?

was                           Mrs. Smith?

were                          Mr. and Mrs. Smith?

The Book Two writing exercises immediately following the chart are to write two questions for each question word. Example:

Try It
       Write two questions for each question word
       (who, what, when, where, why, how).
       1. __________________________________________
       2. __________________________________________

For Book One students, we'd study the chart together. Then I'd have my student SAY two questions for each question word. (Let students look at the chart while they try to formulate their questions.)

Another example
If something is happening that is in the news and/or being talked about a lot, I try to find a lesson on the same or related subject.

For example, there's a lesson in Book One of Passport to the World of English about the first time men landed on the moon. Whenever a space shuttle goes up, I skip to that lesson. I also try to record a portion of the evening news covering the launch. Or I bring in a video clip from a similar launch, or from that first moon landing.

You can use video clips as a change of pace in the lesson, or as review. Often I use them with or in place of a theme picture. It's a special way to start a new lesson.

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Joanne Rae Meads Ball
September 16, 1999