One of the worst things about volunteering to tutor in a language you do not yet speak fluently is a breathless dog-paddling sense that you could sink at any moment. One of the best things about volunteering to tutor in the same, said language is a realisation that if you keep paddling you can somehow stay afloat.
Of course, it also helps if someone unexpectedly throws you a lifeline.
This is my third year of tutoring beginners' Welsh and to make the whole damn thing more breathless, I decided to chuck out the tried, tested and proven ineffective course book and to try using the SSiW audio lessons instead. The bonus is that I am no longer the primary teacher. My job is merely to facilitate a weekly session in which people get to practice what they've learned from the audio lessons.
The latter is easier said than done.
You see, Andrew was always the games person in our family. I read the stories. He played the games. I made the fancy birthday cakes. He ran the party activities. I took the kids to events – like free shopping centre entertainment or movies (when we could afford them). He took them to the park and invented games. Are you picking a pattern here? I am not a natural games person. I am therefore being forced to operate way outside of my comfort zone. By the end of the term one we'd exhausted my complete games repertoire. We'd played memory games – with home made flash cards, bingo, guessing games, versions of I went to the shop and I bought a…using the geiriadur lliwgar. And we've had fun. Some weeks I'm not sure if people are laughing with me or at me. But, they kept coming back. And they are excited about learning Welsh. At the end of the term one someone asked:
'We don't have to stop over the holidays do we? We can keep going with the lessons?'
This year I've been fortunate to have a three slightly more experienced SSiW learners in the class. One of them, Jason, I'd met on the forum. Though, for the first few weeks, I was so busy dog-paddling that I didn't make the connection. Jason seemed to know what he was doing, however, and had experience with language learning. So, I picked on him to help model games and activities. After a few weeks of doing so, I decided, I owed him an apology and a thank you. That's where the unexpected lifeline comes in.
'I work as a trainer and a facilitator,' Jason said. 'If you ever need someone to bounce ideas off.'
To which I replied:
'Bounce! Na jyst twlid y holl pel ata i, plis – bounce! No just throw the whole ball at me please.
Turns out Jason had heaps of ideas. Some of them so simple I'm embarrassed I never thought of them. We got together last night and thrashed out a revised approach. And here's the thing. It's going to be easier. Way easier. I may even manage to progress from desperate dog-paddle to free style.
Here's how it's looking so far.
- Introduction – a chance to check where people are up to in the lessons and to ask questions
- Ice breaker game involving the new patterns for the lesson – this will involve teams and a little more competition
- Divide into pairs and do an activity based on the new patterns – this may involve dialogues, role plays or questionnaires in which people have to produce the Welsh
- A form of Gwenyn Geirfa (word bee – like a spelling bee) – initially with me reading the Welsh words and people writing down the English – eventually like Gwenyn Geirfa on Hwb with people taking turns to be in the hot seat.
- To introduce this more on the spot type of Gwenyn Geirfa we may have a 'prepare Liz for bootcamp' session in which I am put on the spot to come up with vocabulary on a theme. This would involve each class member coming up with a word for me. Yikes!
- Watch Hwb's, Y wers Cymraeg, and then talk about what was going on in the segment – identifying words recognised and bits not understood. I have been showing these but failing to use them as a comprehension exercise.
- Do some work with spelling. People seem to want to see the words they are learning in the audio lessons. We may use these words to explore the difference between the Welsh and English alphabets.
- Learn some simple nursery rhymes and songs.
- Idiom of the week – maybe with charades.
- A wrap up at the end of the lesson with time for thoughts and questions.
What do you reckon? It's not too late to join the class. Oh, and if you have any ideas for games, songs, nursery rhymes I'm keen to hear from you.