Month: October 2014
On (in)tangible results of my learning
The never-ending story of L2 learning
My attempt to square the circle
Petty details or vital issues?
Formal assessment – no place for compassion?
A yet to be piloted lesson plan
A) Gradual elaboration: 1) Ask Ss to listen to the easiest (simplified) version of the authentic news item, i.e. Level 1. This is very short so I’ll use it as a dictation. 2) Play the more difficult version, including more details and more advanced vocabulary, which may be pre-taught if necessary. 3) Ask Ss to re-write the first version, i.e. they elaborate on it from memory, using more detail and more advanced vocabulary. 4) Play the Level 3 version – the original one – just the video, no sound. Allow Ss to make any changes again. 5) Play the video with the sound on. Let Ss add more information to their texts. 6) Ask Ss to write up and submit the final draft.
My first formal observations
Observation: the cross-curricular approach
The Board – my enemy?
Like any other teacher I have some favourite activities. I’m not talking about what we do in class as part of the learning process but specifically about what I do. I love cleaning the board with a wet sponge, for example. I love the moment of handing out corrected tests. I also enjoy recording marks into my grade book. I love it when I manage everything I have planned and the bell rings just after I say: Ok. That’s all for today.
There are things, though, that I don’t like very much. First of all, I hate taking attendance. The thing is that the class book always arrives at the most inappropriate moment – in the middle of someone’s sentence, midst a listening exercise, when I’m opening a file on my PC, etc. So I usually put off this somewhat mundane chore, and as a result I always forget about it completely in the end. Class teachers then chase me in the corridor asking me, with a more or less accusing look, to do what I should have done long ago.
There’s one thing that I hate even more than taking attendance. I hate board work. Not that I hate the board itself, I actually like it, especially when it’s newly painted, and I like the traditional chalk too, no matter how obsolete it may seem to some nowadays. What I hate is the act of doing something with my back to the class. I think this must be a psychological issue and perhaps it has something to do with control. I suspect I hate being observed without being able to see. This makes me spend as little time writing on the board as possible; I even tend to avoid it completely, which is reprehensible, of course. And when I do write on the board, I’m usually in a hurry, my style of writing is hasty and my handwriting sloppy. The other day I wrote something on the board and found out I had made 6 mistakes in just a couple of sentences. For example, I left out letter ‘t’ in ‘slightly’ – not only once but twice! I even invented a new word; instead of ‘homework’ and came up with ‘homewsode’. I have no idea how this nonsense came to existence; I suppose I simply started thinking of something else in the middle of the word. Unfortunately, it was the students who’d noticed, not me. We all laughed at my incompetence, but I think it was a shame. I sometimes think I must suffer from some type of board dysgraphia – the specific angle and the distance from which I write on the board, as well as the size of the writing space, somehow prevent me from taking full control over my writing.
Anyway, this incident made me stop and think about my problem. Let me stress that I believe that decent board work is one of the aspects of a good lesson; it’s part of successful classroom management. I truly believe that the board should be well-organized and clear and I know that at the end of the lesson my board should ideally be full of useful vocabulary and grammar and I rejoice when I occasionally manage to produce it. Obviously, one thing that might help is planning. I’m not sure whether it would really solve my psychological problem, i.e. my reluctance to stand in a somewhat vulnerable position and let students watch my flabby biceps flapping while I’m writing – but it may definitely help me calm down and focus.
What I don’t mind at all, on the other hand, is sitting at the computer, typing on the keyboard, facing the class, the class facing me and the larger screen in front of them. From a psychological viewpoint, I feel I have more control over what I’m doing, and with just a slight shift of my eyes I can address the class and then immediately zoom in on my writing again. From a practical point of view, I can change and enlarge the font within a matter of seconds, I can insert pictures, graphs and tables, I can delete, copy and paste quickly without whirling dust that makes people in the room cough and choke. I also believe it helps students concentrate better because the teacher is not flying around, blocking their view. Finally, a digital record is always more legible and looks more organized, and it can be stored and referred to later. So I’m wondering if maybe, for my students’ sake, I should simply abandon traditional board work for good and do what I like doing and don’t struggle with….