[Note 1: This post is not a replacement for the GPA Manual. I assume you have already carefully read the GPA Phase 1 Manual. This post is about the nitty gritty details of preparing to start Phase 1, in a situation where your teachers do not know GPA, so you are self-coaching & you need to provide everything.]
[Note 2: If you are planning to start GPA quite quickly after moving to a new country, I strongly recommend preparing materials 1 & 2, plus buying a mic, before you leave your home country, and bringing it all with you. In your home country you can complete these steps quickly. In a new country it will be quite time consuming to do so.]
Resources & equipment
- Buy a good set of family figurines as early as possible. I assumed I would be able to find a set in my local shops, and totally failed. There were lots of fancy individual dolls but no simple family sets. So you’ll probably need to buy online. However, if you’re starting GPA as soon as you arrive in your host country, searching & buying online might be quite hard, and often can have long shipping delays. So I strongly recommend buying this online in your own country before you arrive (e.g. via Amazon). You want to find a family set — at least mum, dad, and 2 kids, ideally some extra elderly adults too.
- Print the entire GPA Graphics Packet. You will need two copies. At least one copy must be printed on light-weight card in order to be used frequently for cue cards.Yes, it’s a bit of hassle to print on light-weight card, but it will help a lot. I skipped this step and strongly regretted it.
- Draw a local map. You will really need this once you hit Meeting 16 onwards, and it will be very helpful for many of your lessons. So spend the time to draw a decent A3 size one, with streets, and all the local stores. Make sure it represents a common neighbourhood in your country.
- Buy the kids toys you will need – refer to the Graphics Pack. Fruit & vegies, animals, kitchen items, household items, etc. This stuff I found easy to find locally.
- Plan some kind of folder system to manage all your resources. The most flexible option I found was to buy a bunch of A4 clear plastic sleeves. These are very quick to open and pull stuff in/out, and you can label them easily (see pic).
- Microphone. This is your #1 most valuable tool for your entire language learning time and you will use it every single class hour, so get something decent. If you’re not sure – buy a Rode SmartLav for your phone. It’s a very good lapel mic and worth the price (You can also use it for sending video updates back to friends in your home country!).
- Headphones. Again, this is your #2 most valuable tool. You will use it every single day and listen to thousands of hours of recordings. I splashed out on some Bose headphones with noise cancelling – this was very helpful for being able to listen in noisey environments (e.g. on the bus) and hear the audio crystal clear. However, the Bose set is big and bulky, so I also ended up buying some tiny cheap Bluetooth airbuds (Xiaomi Airdots) as an ultra portable option to always have on me for extra listening.
- Apps for recording & playback. See this post for more info.
Preparing for your first day
Hopefully at language school, your teachers will have reasonable English. If not, finding someone to help your translate for the first few class lessons could help. Since you will be directing your teachers every class, you will need some very basic words to use to explain what kind of activity you are doing each day. Phase 1 mostly involves a small range of games, repeated with different content. I strongly suggest practicing the entire Meeting 1 plan yourself before class. Because you are the leader, you need to make sure you understand exactly how each of the following activities works, and what instructions your teacher will need. If you have a wife/husband, practice with them using English. Also, this will help you realise precisely what materials each activity will need. For Meeting 1 you will need to understand at least the following activities:
- Dirty Dozen — this is the bread & butter activity of P1. It’s quite quick to learn. I think I use the phrase ‘the where is? game’ to refer to it with my language teachers.
- Commands, dirty dozen style — e.g. ‘Stand! Sit!’. This is a variation on the DD game, and teachers will need some initial coaching to understand how to modify their sentences and instructions to you accordingly.
- Pronouns via photos — this is the activity which teaches pronouns by using photos of you in action. In my situation, I prepare the photos beforehand at home with my wife, and then asked my language teacher to ‘pretend’ she was my wife. This was a lot easier than trying to take all the photos at the language school.
- Cartoon bubbles – this activity help you memorize common scripts for daily life. It is a little bit difficult to understand at first, so having someone to help coach will also be useful.
Prepare a schedule for every class
You could print the entire GPA P1 manual, and use that to refer to in class. The downside is that the manual is very detailed and verbose. You don’t want to waste time in class sitting there reading large chunks of text. I printed the manual, but ended up never using it in class directly.
What I found much more helpful was the following process:
- Read through the GPA Manual’s provided Meeting Plan and understand what it involves.
- Make a one-page summary for yourself to remind you of the activities and the resources needed.
If you want an example, you can download my own set of 1-page summaries for Meeting Plans 1-32 below. After Meeting 32, I was familiar enough with the activities to not need a full printed summary and just scribbled notes on paper.