Teaching

SIT TESOL CERTIFICATE COURSE – Focus on Learning

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Referring to my first language learning experience as a supposed language student, I had a few times when I was not really involved and missed a few points, but why did I miss these few points?  Maybe it was because I am that type of learner who does not get into a lesson straight away. Suddenly your SIT trainer says, ‘right let’s learn German’ and you are like, ‘okay, if you want’. The same as when your teacher could say let’s learn ‘modals’ and you like ‘we learned that last week’. The point is, it is still valid and a learning experience.

There were some people and me especially at that time where the visual experience of watching other people was enough, I was not ready to join in. I did not know at the time if this was a mistake or not. I must admit I found it a little boring to start. I think that some learners could find this experience a little embarrassing, suddenly speaking this new language. Maybe I did find it weird, so I enjoyed just sitting back and seeing others do the talking which some proudly did.

On the flip side, to this experience, I had many times when I sailed through everything because I did the work that the SIT trainer told me to do. I said the sentence she asked and I wrote things down. I think by this time I had got over the first language hurdle and maybe felt a bit at ease, also I got some of the questions right that boosted my confidence and thus I got the benefit out of the lesson which made me happier. I suppose for a language learner it is hard to be attentive all the time and at times the students would just prefer to be looking at the class happening and not playing an active part. Motivation is hard at times.

With reference to the ‘Learners Are Individuals’ handout I have read, It alludes to this point that there are many different styles of learning. You can not have a class of 20 students all with exactly the same way of learning. Some students know grammar better, some are more confident in speaking, some want to write all the facts and some just in the class to have fun. I empathize with some of these points as I sometimes hear my peers talk about, and they have a lot more to say or they explain a point better than the way you thought. My reaction to this is that we are all the class together, and it should be a shared experience. If you have this shared experience I think it will make for a better atmosphere, general variety of ideas, and the class feeling that they all worked as a group. I think that everyone should benefit from everyone although there are some students more salient. Hopefully, they do not take over.

I think this learning experience gives me a broader perspective to look at the fact that there are many elements to a learning classroom experience and what I take from being a learner is to try and apply what I have learned as a student to the classroom. I think what I have done will influence my teaching by realizing that students find learning difficult as much as I did. I will find in the class some students are better than others where I will have to help the weaker students and not let the others go too far ahead. For example, I found the German language learning experience enjoyable because I was working with other students and listening to them say the words. I actually found it funny at times. This I think it is great that you can have a group of people working together learning from each other. Group work is definitely a plus. My final point is not to give them too much information; I found from my German class that it should be taken stage by stage. I think if you provide sufficient information and do not baffle the students with too much, the lesson will go better. What you are left with is a feeling that you can empathize with the students’ needs and thus you will be able to bring that extra dimension that will help the students to achieve.

An example would be SIT trainer’s class on ‘problems and advice’. The step-by-step process using PPU (presentation/practice/use) allowed the students to learn about giving advice. The SIT trainer gave a real experience to start with, she explained that her clothes were old and she did not have enough money to buy new ones. She acted this out and it made you really feel for her. It made for some good advice from the students. As a learner, you were already getting into the lesson. This method was very easily done and the students had a lot of advice for her. She did the same for her tax problem where she did not have enough money to pay the tax man. The advice given was attached with modals. Now, we had to distinguish between serious and not serious which led to looking at the modals. This was a good introduction to the start of the class and I think the process got everybody thinking. These were real problems that I think everybody had had before, so her method was a good way of presenting the subject. I think, as a learner if the lesson relates to something the class knows it will work. She also had cards with problems on them for us to judge if they were serious or not serious. I guess this was a more practice situation. The SIT trainer was trying to see if we knew serious and not serious. This was another way to clarify what we were learning about. As a student, I felt I was much clearer with the subject. I think this method of clarification helps all individual members of the group who are all of the different aptitudes. We worked as a group with the SIT trainer making sure everybody had a chance and I felt as though the group moved along nicely. We had pair work trying to match problems with advice on the worksheet. In pairs was a great way to get the students together. I like the pair work as a learner because we can help each other. Finally, we had a chance to do group work and speak to all the students. This varied structure and interesting parts made for a better class. I think if I were that ESL student the class would have instilled that knowledge of giving advice because of the systematic way of keeping the students attentive with varying teaching techniques.

What Makes a Good Language Lesson?

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Notes on a Lecture by Professor Jack C Richards

Reflection on an Article

(590 words)

My initial reaction to this article was to think I had heard this before and read it also in a book. I think the issue is though, as a teacher if you miss some points in your lesson then all that reading /listening was not worth the effort. I think that Professor Richard raises some valid points that I hope by talking about them raises my awareness that bit more.

I have to agree with Professor Richards, this is a focus of mine as well, and that is the ‘focus on the learners’ in the classroom and their acquisition of a new language.  I know in a class of twenty students there will be students that are more extroverted and introverted. I think it is right, bearing the students’ learning in mind, that the teacher must ‘allow the learner’s perspective to be their constant focus of attention’. I think for a teacher, it can be easy to teach a lesson but if you have not made sure that the students have learned all that you gave them it is not of any value. I think by involving all the class you can get a better perspective where you can improve yourself and help all students more in the class. Professor Richard alludes to this by saying: ‘teachers need to change students seating positions on regular basis and teach lesson from different location’. I have heard the word ‘comfort zone’, and I think this is what it means by getting the students to realize the reason for coming to an English language class. It is true that the students do like to sit with their friends and sometimes make the class a social experience, not a learning experience.

Another fact I think is valuable and that is the ‘goals of the lesson’. This goes along with the clearly written lesson plan. If there are clear objectives and the teacher makes sure the students are achieving them the teacher will have the students’ attention. Professor Richards says for successful lessons, ‘goals and activities are clear and students are occupied for a large portion of the lesson’. I think by doing this, the lesson will give the students as Professor Richards says, ‘a sense that they are actually capable of learning to speak English’. This means that activities given to the students are achievable. Also, I think the end result is as much value as the during/middle part. The result is what the students leave the classroom with. The teacher hopes and I think every teacher should strive for is that the students should, ‘be able to do something in English that they couldn’t do as well before’. This means the teacher’s lesson must be something that the students can, ‘retain and use and which is lasting value’. I think this is one of the main issues for a teacher which is to be able to successfully finish a lesson where all the students have learned something and achieved. This is an issue that affects me, as I like to focus on challenging the students.

I like this article because it is another way of reinforcing what the teacher knows but sometimes forget. I would have liked to have listened to the whole lecture though and not just these summaries.

That first TEFL class

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So, someone asked me what I thought about starting with a new school abroad and how would a new teacher prepare for such an adventure that would help them settle in smoothly. I thought I should share my ideas with you hopeful educators. Hopefully, it gets you thinking a bit more and helps you along.

…..I would say beforehand go into the school and meet everyone to show them you are willing to learn more about the school and to show that you are friendly. This may be a good chance to find out what books are being used (you could actually take the books home then) and what is the curriculum; also the ages of students, their backgrounds, and their levels. I worked for a school that had 15 levels from basic to advanced, so it is good to know what you will be teaching. I would also see what hours I am working and how long I have the students for. In a high school you may have them for a whole term but in a language school only 30 hours (4 – 6 weeks).

I think you should mention that you would set up a few observations beforehand (and in those first few weeks). With these observations, you may actually be observing the class(es) you will be teaching, the students will be glad to say hello, this may be beneficial when you have that first class. This could be good as you get to see the teachers in action and how they use the classroom (classroom management). It would also be good to get a mentor. He or she could help you with the school’s teaching approach and also observe you in those first classes just to help you along. I would also go out for a drink with the teachers beforehand or have lunch together. They may even have a teacher’s room where they can show you all their available materials and of course your desk.

There are many private schools out there where there are 15 to 20 in a class (high schools I had 60).  Above all, this kind of work has a very communicative approach because more than likely the students learn English but not with a native speaker. They usually have to sit and listen. Think about pair work, group work, students facing the board, and being able to come up and write at any time. Your classes need to be active and student-centered because in many ways you are the facilitator.

(420 Words)

SIT TESOL – What I should teach, and how should I frame my objectives?

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Reflection on the Article

(365 words)

I would just like to reflect on an article with some of the sentences I picked out that I thought summed up the attitude to have in a teaching experience.

1. ‘The quality of that thinking (about objectives) is what makes the difference’.

Again, as I have said in my other reflections these sentences are great facts that if remembered would always pay dividends. I think that the amount of time you put in the amount of satisfaction you will get out of the class. There are many points to think about and you would only be letting yourself down. However, not only by thinking but also it is the degree of excellence, you can achieve from the quality.

2. ‘If I am thinking in terms of activities I am concerned with management. My focus is on giving directions and having everyone engaged’.

100 percent concentration in a class is hard but to have everyone engaged with clear objectives is able to be achieved. I mean that if the students have that focus and know what is to be done objectives can be reached. This also leads to management where the activity is set up properly and modeled and the students know what to achieve. That little bit of planning and giving direction can help so much.

3 ‘Fun doesn’t mean necessarily equal learning’.

This goes with number two that even though you have set the activity up correctly and it is fun, your clear objectives that the ‘students will be able to …..’. may have not been met.  This of course can be checked to see if you have reached your objectives. Just because they are laughing is their English any better than when they came in the door?

4. “Time tables are flexible and what’s important is that the students learn well, even if less is covered’.

This relates to a lesson plan that will have time on it. You think the lesson will take this long. However, again you don’t know how the students will act. You could find yourself teaching them and not achieving your goal of finishing your lesson plan. The important fact is: did they learn all the way through? 

SIT TESOL – Reading  On Language Acquisition

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(573 words)

Reflection on an Article

To begin with, I thought this article was a fascinating read and made me want to know more. I say this because an ESL instructor can be a fantastic teacher but how does he/she know if the students are ‘acquiring the language’ how they should which is natural and not forced? I think this article alludes to the point of ‘acquiring language’. I use the word ‘acquiring’ because the article refers to this entirely through the text. One of the salient points from the article I remembered was about children’s acquisition of a language. The article says ‘children, in natural settings, learn language rapidly and without formal instruction’. It makes me think that children are not given formal education when they are very young yet they acquire their language. It makes me think of some Thai schools where they barrage the students with grammar that is in such a formal setting that doesn’t leave any room for talking. The students are very good at grammar but cannot speak. Furthermore, if the students are not relaxed in the classroom (the setting) the teacher cannot expect them to learn. You would hope they learned their second language the same as their first language in a natural way that children never felt the language was hard or pressured.

The classroom as a setting I think should not be a place that is far from reality such that students can only speak in the classroom not outside where it is most important. I think that as a teacher the authenticity of the teacher’s teaching and the classroom has to be right so as to enlighten the learning experience. I allude to an issue from the article which states ‘ people often learned second languages through grammar study so the similarity between natural, childhood, first language acquisition and later second language acquisition were not apparent. I think this makes me aware that creating a real classroom experience is a must for the students. The use of real objects, pictures, situations, etc to get the feeling that the students will use this language outside the classroom is a must.

One of the authors quoted in this article, Stephen Krashen whose ‘acquisition theory’ is used in teaching, states that ‘language learners need language ‘input’ which consists of new language along with clues as to what the language means’. I guess as a teacher you should follow this path that allows the students to speak in class while giving them that little bit more to expand their language. The teacher should build on what the students already know.

I think this normal delivery of speech and with ‘hands on’ language acquisition experience facilitates the natural learning process. If you remember when you were a child and your parents never really gave you formal education in language acquisition, this article refers to this point as ‘comprehensible input that naturally supplies their children: it is slower and simpler, it focuses on the here and now, it focuses on meaning over form, and it extends and elaborates on the child’s language’. I think the students should not be treated like kids but from the views of this article, you should allow the students to speak and acquire more language as they use their already known language such that the process will follow that the students will acquire more.

I think this was an interesting article and very thought provoking.