Heads around language

7th March 2008 at 00:00
Out of the office and into the classroom. What a difference a year can make. This time last year I was an expert in intelligent transport systems and today my first lesson lies behind me. A restructure at work offered me the exit route I had been waiting for so I could do something different. I'd quite liked the idea of teaching, but never really followed it up - until now. Within days my application was submitted and by June I had been accepted on the PGCE course at the University of Warwick.

A wet summer later and I was among 270 or so PGCE students in a lecture hall, relieved to find I was not the only mature student. It felt good to be back at university. What I hadn't quite bargained for was the wall of information that was about to engulf us. How did students before us get this all into their heads? More importantly, how do they remember to apply it across their classes all the time?

One of the objectives for modern foreign languages students at Warwick is to produce and provide a language lesson for a local primary school. I wasn't too concerned when I read this in the course handbook but as the lectures rolled on and the different parts of teaching were illustrated, I begun to realise the enormity of the task.

Without the benefit of years of experience it's hard to know what the right level of new material is for children to digest and stay with you during the lesson. But, with lessons plans and props prepared, the moment of truth finally arrived and there was no time to worry. It was go from the moment I walked through the door and even though the children were as good as gold I was grateful the language assistant was with me.

We learnt to name body parts using soft toys and then our own bodies. The pupils were unstoppable. I'd prepared two worksheets: one where they had to write in the name of the body parts and a wordsearch. I was dumbfounded by how keen the children were on wordsearches. By the time the worksheets had been done and we'd gone through the body parts one final time, time was up for my first lesson

Timothy Hilgenberg is a student teacher at the University of Warwick.

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