What is the best way to spend class time?

Here’s my take on it. All my classes meet for at least two hours two days a week. I find this arrangement better than one hour five days a week because the students have time to play with the material right after the presentation. Class time is precious. After I call roll I do what I call “loading the students” by giving a presentation using the marker board and the textbook which includes the grammar (say the present tense of the verb “to go”) and vocabulary of the day (go where, with whom, when, to do what, why?) and a useful context in which to play with these elements. All this time the students are actively taking notes. They can break into my presentation at any time to ask a question. They are constantly participating. During the presentation I ask them to do short oral translations (English to Italian) using the material. In other words, my presentations are interactive. I’m preparing them to take over, form dyads (with classmates of their choice) and interview each other using the grammar and vocabulary of the day and anything else they have learned from previous lessons. The questions they are getting ready to ask each other are in the book and are mostly open-ended thus encouraging rejoinders. For example: Where do you go on weekends? With whom? What do you do there? Why? All these little questions give them the opportunity to use the new material and dredge up things they’ve learned in previous lessons. They can answer truthfully or be fanciful. While they are doing this activity I silently walk around and make myself available for questions they may have during the interview. To change things up sometimes I prepare them to work quietly alone matching columns, or better, composing paragraphs on the topic of the day to read to their classmates, etc. For homework they usually write their own personal answers to the questions they asked their partner in class. Sometimes they also copy sentences containing blanks, filling in the blanks with conjugated forms, etc. Copying is very important in a first-year language class. I personally correct and make comments on all the homework thereby creating a personal relationship with each student. Basically I try to create a friendly community of language learners with me as the facilitator. Most of them say they love learning in a free and easy atmosphere by playing creatively with the language like this. What’s your take on how to best spend class time?

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