Back home, teaching: out of the frying pen and into the fire

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Lesson plans with reflection, Lessons and activities
Tags: , , , , ,

This was written back in September – I’ve been meaning to finish it, but never got down to writing up anything, so here goes.
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The first week of post-Delta Module 2 teaching has gone by! I don’t think I’ve taught a single lesson that I would’ve done the same before the course.

  • I make sure I formulate a very specific aim for the lesson – a learning outcome – and keep it in my head while planning and teaching the lesson; I use it as the main basis for post-lesson reflection – you can’t reflect how well the lesson went if there’s nothing specific you wanted to achieve!
  • I don’t expect anything to magically happen anymore. For example, if I want the s/s to speak faster during a task repeated with less time given, I specifically ask them to try and speak faster and not leave out any information. If I want an A2 class of teens to ask me questions in English, I make a massive effort to teach them these questions, display them on walls in all classrooms we are sent to (3 so far) and stop the class to help reformulate & board whenever someone shouts out a question in Russian that they could’ve easily adapted from one of the questions on the wall.
  • As a result of trying to ensure things do happen, I’ve become extra slow. Trying to not let things go – stop and deal with them. No idea how bad it has become, how I could speed up and what the s/s think (yet).
  • I’ve become more frank with s/s (and also in general, for better or worse).
    Both in class – talking about stuff and making personal comments – and after the lesson, daring to bring up what happened in class and why things went the way they did.

I wanted to write a summary of new things I did/tried that week – but ended up writing up only the following procedure (I’ll write a separate blog post about two more interesting things that happened that week).

What Why
For a listening task, I asked the students to

  • (1) write questions for the listening passage (this I had done before); boarded some of their questions and asked the group to concentrate on the ones on the board.
  • (2) After the first listen + pair check, I asked the group which questions were answered (exactly a half of the questions on the board), ticked them, removed the rest from the board and then asked them to nominate a few more questions that were answered in the passage. S/s nominated another 4 or 5 qs.
  • (3) While s/s listened again, I noted down the times when sections relevant to each question started in the recording.
  • (4) While s/s were checking in pairs, I listened in to hear where there are multiple versions. During feedback I accepted all answers, pushing s/s for alternatives and boarding them, and then replayed the relevant sections for everyone to check.
Overall impression of the technique: it made the listening task more meaningful for s/s than just answering questions from the coursebook. Also it was more life-like: s/s approached the passage with questions in mind, and these were not ordered in the order they’d come up in the passage.The questions nominated after the 1st listen covered the passage in sufficient detail to thoroughly check understanding.Accepting all answers and replaying the relevant sections ensured that the weaker s/s heard the answers in the end. The weaker students are also helped by the boarded answers (stage (4) turns into a discrimination exercise).

Also, one of the sub-aims for this lesson was to revise question formation, focused on in the previous lessons.

I’ve tried this procedure a few times since then. A variation that might break s/s’ shyness could be to ask s/s to test their partners’ comprehension and then pool their questions (in this way it could also be used for a reading passage).

Benefits: This procedure could be used for authentic videos/articles – makes the teacher’s life much easier!

One pitfall I’ve run into: If the level of the audio text is not quite right, students might end up hearing some things they consider to be ‘obvious’ and thus not worth asking, and fail to come up with any new questions in (2). I guess in this case the teacher should provide the questions. The procedure worked well with a pre-intermediate group listening to an audio from a pre-intermediate coursebook, but broke down somewhat with a group of (self-critical) teens watching an authentic video.

A general reservation: this procedure is definitely more time-consuming than ‘going with the book.’

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