Happiness. What a fabulous theme for a lesson! Our Global voyagers will learn, as they stop off at Unit 6, that it’s not all about fame and fortune. No, happiness, it seems, is made up of three indefinable – but refreshingly universal – elements: relationships, beliefs and purpose.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to put Unit 6 itself to the test. Does it have what it takes to make a happy lesson?
Relationships are there right from the start – as the heart and soul of the introductory activity. I can see myself silently removing objects from a bag – a dirty shinpad, a bag of compost complete with wriggling worms, a dance shoe … and solemnly announcing, These make me happy! Then, I’d get students to draw pictures of the five things that make them happy and have them mingle to guess what their pictures represent as well as compare. Finally, we’d stick a visual top-ten of happiness to the wall. Useful for later revision of comparatives, perhaps!
What about beliefs? The ones that really count here in New Zealand are the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – the founding document through which the sometimes fraught relationship between the Maori and Pakeha (Europeans) was intended to be guided. These principles are partnership, protection and participation. It seems to me that Global does allow for protection of students’ own culture and a kind of partnership in cultural as well as language learning. Students’ own experiences and opinions are woven into the activities in which they participate.
And purpose? I feel that in a lesson, a strong sense of purpose comes from having a clear theme and coherent narrative. I see this in the way the text in Unit 6 starts off with a clear skills task, and is later exploited for vocabulary, grammar and phonology learning. That ought to make for a good balance of continuity and development.
So is this a lesson to be happy in? Yes, but … as any good relationship, a coursebook can only make you happy if it gives you space, inspires you to grow and change. It is, as the saying goes, the wind beneath your wings.