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.

Building Language

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As much as a teacher tries to build language, it helps to highlight certain grammar points that help to expand the students’ sentences by questioning them about factors such as time, place and manner. We can add details to the students’ speech or writing with adverbial phrases.
Example #1

Time (answers the question ‘When?’)

She will be arriving in a short time.

Place (answers the question ‘Where?’)

He is waiting near the wall.

Manner (answers the question ‘How?’)

They are discussing the matter in a civilized way.

Example #2

“Sue went” doesn’t convey much information.

S: Sue went.

T: Where did Sue go?

S: Sue went to the gym.

T: And, when did Sue go to the gym?

S: Sue went to the gym after work.

T: And also, why did Sue go to the gym after work?

S: Sue went to the gym after work to keep her New Year’s resolution.

“Sue went to the gym after work to keep her New Year’s resolution” explains the where, when and why of the event.

Moreover, adverbial phrases can be created by using prepositions to tell how, where, when, and how often. For example, “Sue swam with perfect technique in the pool before lunch on Tuesdays.”

SIT TESOL – Extended Reflection on Classroom Practice

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Lesson #2

(words 1238)

As usual, I think the lesson was done competently without having much to quibble about. I felt as though I tested the students, which gave me some satisfaction. The lesson that I gave had a purpose and there were objectives to be met, which I think were achievable and a little challenging. Making the lesson challenging was a focus from my previous lesson so I think I took my action points, that I had written in my lesson plan, onboard. I must say though, as always, there are some details regarding the teaching in the class to work on. The details I would like to raise in this reflection are to make me realize some of the reasons for doing certain methods of teaching in class, which I hope after this reflection, will make the lesson more rewarding for the students.

One of my main focuses this time was to make the lesson more challenging for the students, as they were at a higher level. The part of the lesson that I think the students were challenged, was the listening section that certainly gave the students a chance to test their skills. What the students had to do was to listen to a tape with two men talking about their university schedules. Prior to starting the exercise, I had the students get into groups of seven, which I believe made for a better learning experience, where their peers could discuss the answers with them after each listening of the tape. The listening experience was also facilitated with modeling of how to finish the exercise. This worked well because I showed them a model schedule and also wrote the schedule on the board thus I felt the students had a complete understanding. I also made sure I asked concept-checking questions to some of the students about what to complete on the schedule, so I felt as though they were completely ready to listen to the tape. I think I this process is done every time I should not have any problems with listening.

The tape was about two minutes long, which I thought worked fine. I think if it was any longer would have prolonged the listening too far and likewise shorter would not challenge the students enough. I say this because in the previous lesson, which another teacher took before me, the students had listened to a tape and I felt as though it went on too long which was about 4 minutes. That time I saw the students losing interest, which is hard if you have to play it twice or three times. I think with my tape the students needed to listen two times such that once they had listened the second time they were fine and had completed the exercise. I must say though there were a few students that didn’t finish the task completely, so I think this told me that I tested some students. I mean if all the students had finished the first time I would have known for sure that it was easy, but the second play and some students not entirely finishing gave me a feeling of how I was testing them. There was one issue that I think did hinder the proceeding though, and that is, I should have given the students some time to check their answers the first time after listening to the tape. I think there were some students who were a little confused about the answers and needed that checking time to ask their peers. Also, I had put them into groups, which would have made them be able to converse and to understand better so maybe I missed a good opportunity to let the students think about their answers. I think in consequent classes I should go around the group asking and provoking thought and trying to get the student in the groups to say what they wrote down as to generate student talking in English.

I think again I could have challenged the students a bit more. There are points in the class after I finished explaining where I think that all the students understand but I cannot be really sure because I haven’t checked all the students. I introduced the ‘subjects at university’ and wrote them on the board for example physics, chemistry, and science. I ‘fumped’ the words which was the right idea because I knew some of the words were new to them but as for clearer dictionary definition and reinforcing this definition I am not sure a did this. I think the students kind of knew the words but it would have been nice to have them discuss and at least be able to understand them by trying to talk about them. I think for the level they were it would have not been much trouble to converse about these words. I think a simple exercise like matching the words and definitions could have worked. Also, when I asked the two groups to think of some subjects to go with a major (e.g. major – science / subject studied at university – physics) I didn’t give them a model because one of the majors I gave one group was art and I never really said what branch of arts at university. I could have said fine arts, humanities, and liberal arts.

If I had given liberal arts I could have elicited an example like ‘music’ to the board just to send the students on the right path. My objectives were for the students to learn new words relating to university. This was learned by way of a university schedule that was filled in with these words from the tape after they had listened to it. I think the students achieved their objectives of learning the new words and filling in the schedule as planned. To explain how well these adjectives were achieved I would have to say not entirely. I say this because of some of the actions I did to confirm every student’s knowledge. There were times when simple checking could have confirmed everything to me. I have mentioned one way I could have checked above with the subjects and majors. Also after each listening of the tape, I checked on the students and asks them how they were getting on. If they were hearing the tape, what were they thinking?  And also at the end of the final post-exercise, I could have made the students not look at their schedules so much and discuss more. I did find them saying student A: ‘when are you free?’ student B: ‘Friday’ student A: “okay’. This was distinctly different from the tape, which lasted two minutes.

To conclude this reflection, I think I have learned to put more into a lesson. I mean the start where I would be doing the presentation/pre-stage of the lesson is to make sure all the students are well informed before I move on. This means getting the so-called weaker students to prove some understanding. Also in relation to the weaker students is to keep the students in pairs and groups so the better students help those weaker ones. Also, I should give them time to discuss in-between stages. I think there is a lot to be learned at certain stages if only to get the students to sit back and contemplate what they have just been told. This would be done in groups or pairs again.

Chunking

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So, what is so important about moving from vocabulary to adverbials phrases, complements and objects such as “on the way”, “one night”, “from outer space”, or even “a monster from outer space”? Here lie examples of chunking of words and the Lexical Approach. The principles of the Lexical Approach have been around since Michael Lewis published ‘The Lexical Approach’ in 1993.

The principles of the Lexical Approach have [been around] since Michael Lewis published ‘The Lexical Approach’ [20 years ago]. [It seems, however, that] many teachers and researchers do not [have a clear idea of] what the Lexical Approach actually [looks like] [in practice].

All the parts in brackets are fixed or set phrases. Different commentators use different and overlapping terms – ‘prefabricated phrases’, ‘lexical phrases’, ‘formulaic language’, ‘frozen and semi-frozen phrases’, are just some of these terms. We use just two: ‘lexical chunks’ and ‘collocations’.

‘Lexical chunk’ is an umbrella term which includes all the other terms. We define a lexical chunk as any pair or group of words which are commonly found together, or in close proximity.

‘Collocation’ is also included in the term ‘lexical chunk’, but we refer to it separately from time to time, so we define it as a pair of lexical content words commonly found together. Following this definition, ‘basic’ + ‘principles’ is a collocation, but ‘look’ + ‘at’ is not because it combines a lexical content word and a grammar function word. Identifying chunks and collocations is often a question of intuition.

Here are some examples.

Lexical Chunks (that are not collocations) 

by the way
up to nowupside

upside down

If I were you

a long way off

out of my mind

Lexical Chunks (that are collocations) 
totally convinced
strong accent

terrible accident

sense of humour

sounds exciting

brings good luck