Reflection on a Lesson

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New Interchange Student Book Activity: Imagining a different past

1. What specific class were you teaching?

I was teaching a level 8 class. The specific grammar point that I was teaching was ‘imagining a different past’. This was done by using the verb structure ‘I would have + past participle’ and ‘you should have + past participle’. There were 10 students in the class and their English was good. They were mostly older students with two young boys about 16 years old. Two or three of the students were a bit talkative.

2. What exactly was being taught?
(What was your teaching goal or objective?)

My teaching goal was to have the students talking about various situations and then imagining these situations from another perspective. This meant they had to imagine a different past. The objectives were to use certain grammar which showed they were imagining or trying to change the past.

3. Describe the environment and setting you were in.
(When and where did the event occur? To what extent did the setting contribute to the success or less successful lesson?)

This class was on a Tuesday evening in a rectangle shaped room with windows on the shorter walls. There was a long whiteboard along one longer wall and the students sat along the other wall. The classrooms are a bit of a funny shape and there was not much to see from the windows, a car park one side and toilets from the other. I would say it is not the most relaxing situation/place. To add to this the air conditioning was broken so the students were very hot. I think the students were not so bothered about the classroom but were annoyed with the air conditioning. For myself, I was aware that the students kept talking about the temperature and this kept taking their minds off the lesson.

4. How was the material actually presented?
(What was actually done, how was it done, and why is it interpreted as successful?)

The material was presented in a more grammar based lesson. The students had to understand the structure and also understand that they were imagining different past. This was a past that did not happen. For this, I had to do a lot of concept checking questions. I gave them a lot of examples and made them give me a lot also. This made way for a lot time to help them with their grammar. I gave them a few sheets where they had to fill in the gaps. I certainly gave them enough information to formulate an idea on changing the past. At the end, I gave them a story about a shipwrecked man and they had to explain what he did wrong. This gave them a freer practice. At this time I recognized how well they had demonstrated their knowledge of the lesson.

5. How did you, the instructor, know whether students had learned the material to the expected level of performance? How did the students know?
(How was achievement tested/evaluated/ assessed and measured against the goal?)

I did an exercise at the end of the class and got them to figure out a problem that I set. It was about a man who had got lost at sea and found himself on a desert island. A group of students starting writing in the present and I said to them that we were imagining a different past. Once I said this they understood and started writing as they were supposed to. I did not need to tell them more. I looked at their sentences and apart from some little grammar points it was fine. They also asked me for some clarification which was only to say that is fine. I went around each group and highlighted the points are noticed were not easy to understand. The students gave me some bright answers.

6. What did you learn as a teaching instructor from this experience?
(Why does this particular example stand out in your memory?)

I learnt that students can appreciate grammar if it is done correctly. I feel this was a grammar lesson and they were asking a lot of question for clarification. I was pleased I asked a lot of concept checking questions. This I felt gave the students the idea to ask me for clarification. There was also the case of the students being able to say the words together for example ‘you shouldn’t have done that’. For English speaking people, this can roll off the tongue but for my students it was hard. I was pleased I helped them in this respect.

7. Is there a “big lesson” here or a general principle about effective teaching and learning that your example illustrates? Can you summarize it?
(How would you explain this insight to a new instructor who is not in your discipline?)

I would say that students need to be tested. They also need lots of examples for clarification. They also need to be heard, not only speaking but also speaking the target language.

8. What did you like about he lesson (and WHY?)

I like the way that I got the objective of the lesson over. I did a lot of concept checking questions that nearly all the students answered correctly. This made me move on with the lesson at a certain pace. I felt I kept them busy.

9.  How would you change the lesson (and WHY?)

There were two students in the class who loved to talk. Even though it is good to talk English in class, these students were taking valuable time of my lesson and handing the other students less time to understand fully what the lesson was about.

I have to agree with one of the points Barry raised in our meeting which was asking students randomly for answers. I asked them in a line at times, this made some switch off and not listen. I have since tried asking random students other lessons and seen the benefit of doing it this way. I must agree that it keeps the students on their toes and lets the students realize that it could be them next which means they should be prepared.

10. What I would do differently next time?

I would change the final use stage as I felt it only made them create sentences not actually talking. The students got up and said their sentences which were fine as they were but this did not lead onto to any further discussion. I feel as though the use stage should allow the students to comment on other students’ work which can lead to the other students commenting further. I would have liked to have them comment on the other group’s ideas. I could have written up a form for them to write the other group’s ideas. I think also a role-play where you have an agony aunt ‘phone in’ that people discuss their problems could have been better. I mean everyone has something to say about people’s problems.

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