I have spent the past year and a half working for an online ESL company called VIPKID. One of our beginner level units focuses heavily on shapes and shape patterns. The classes are one on one, using a live video screen and a PPT style lesson that both the student and I can draw on. I was covering a unit assessment on the shapes lesson with a student named Vern. The first task was to name all of the shapes. Vern had clearly put a lot of work into preparing for his assessment, and he gave quick, clear answers for each shape I circled.

I circled the square, and Vern said “Square,” I circled the circle and Vern said “Circle,” he even knew the name of the parallelogram! And then I circled the triangle, “Bicycle!” Vern answered with all the confident of a seven year old boy.

“Tri-an-gle,” I corrected, counting out the syllables for him.

“Tri-an-gle,” Vern repeated.

Next I circled the rectangle.

Rectangle is a particularly tough word because the children often confuse it with triangle. Not Vern, “Red-bicycle!” he cried.

I had to fight to keep from laughing as I corrected him. As the lesson progressed, despite my corrections, triangle remained “bicycle”, and rectangle remained “red-bicycle.” Glancing at the clock I realized that we were going through the assessment quite quickly, and decided to take the time to practice these particularly difficult shapes.

“Tri-an-gle,” I clapped and chanted, Vern repeating after me, “TRIANGLE!” I shouted, and Vern shouted the word back “triangle,” I whispered, and again Vern whispered the word back to me. “REEEEC-TAAAN-GLLLLE,” I sang opera style as I underlined the next shape on the PPT, and Vern copied my impression. “Rec—tangle!” I chanted with Vern once again repeating. “Rec-tan-gle,” I pumped my arms in the air as Vern repeated the word.

The next time we came across triangle, I circled the word on the ppt, waiting to see if our practice had made a difference.

“TRIANGLE!” Vern shouted.

I went crazy, dancing and cheering. Vern and I gave each other virtual high fives through the computer screen (Vern almost knocked over his computer). The next slide featured a rectangle. I held my breath, holding my hand up to my ear to show that I was listening for Vern’s answer.


Close enough.


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2 thoughts on “Red-bicycle

    1. It is incredibly satisfying. Watching that growth from one class to another is what keeps me teaching. I had the same student again today, and he said “triangle” perfectly! And then “Rec-triangle”, so we still have some improvements to make but we’re getting closer.

      Liked by 1 person

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