Lesson from the Classroom
I would first like to say that I have enjoyed this last month immensely while learning a great deal of new material. I feel as though I have further recognized, with the help of the SIT course, what the teacher’s role is in the class, as much as the student’s role. I have learned not only about the teaching side, but also the manner/presence of the teacher in the classroom.
I have taught four-practice lessons so far since starting the course, and I have been trying to become more student-centered while challenging them also. I am more aware now that in the class everyone is equal. I am also aware that the teacher is there to help the students and to facilitate their learning and not lecture. This is why I have tried to focus on each student and recognize the weaker ones. There are various levels of students in the class and also different characters. I realize after doing this course to value every one of them.
I have also valued constructed criticism. One issue in mind was my voice and my delivery of speech during class. During some practice lessons, I have modeled some stories in the class and they have become a bit disjointed, by this I mean incomplete sentences. I am glad the instructors recognized this in me and I think I have tried dealing with it but I would still like to continue to work on it. Likewise, I am pleased that there were a lot of positive points from the instructors, namely my strengths in eliciting questions, answers, and information from the students as well as getting a more student-centered class. I feel as though my fourth practice teaching gave me this experience to adapt to what I had been taught. One case in point is, I had the students in two groups, then four groups, and then pairs all the time monitoring and eliciting. I think this made for a great lesson as long as there was a purpose to do this.
I also watched some of my peers from the course that gave me a great insight into what it is like to be a new ESL teacher. Some of the teachers, because they were absolute beginners, showed some telltale signs of teaching infancy, which was interesting and fascinating to watch. The best example would be talking too much during the class. I guess even more experienced teachers can still fall into that habit. But all the same, it makes a new teacher think that they may do it without thinking.
I think this course has made me see both sides of the classroom from the teachers’ and the students’ perspectives. I have definitely become more aware of how much effort and time the students need to put into a class to get any benefit out. I would like to use my German class as an example. I was an absolute beginner and found the lesson a little challenging. It made me think about how the students in my English class must feel. We have had many practice lessons like the German class where we (SIT Students) had lessons given to us (sometimes as imaginary students). One thing, I took from these was that they were interesting and kept me attentive. It made me feel that if the teacher loses the students’ interest the lesson is so much harder. I think that keeping the students’ interests includes recognizing their learning styles as well. For example, I am the sort of student who likes learning by doing. I cannot sit for long periods. I think Thai students are a bit like this as I have found if there is a game in the lesson, they love moving about. I remember one of Anna’s lessons. She had some slips of paper on her desk at the front. Two groups had to come up to the desk one from each group at a time and take a slip of paper. They then had to take it back to their group and read it out and try and guess the movie. This kinesthetic activity got the students excited and maybe more prone to learning. I think it worked well and showed how some students prefer learning. This is why it was interesting having these practice lessons because we could find out about students’ learning. The classes for the practice session I found were very mixed. We had students from many backgrounds. There were people from Korea, Japan, and Mexico. All of them had their reasons for studying English. It made for a range of styles and backgrounds to work on which I think is very helpful, especially for new teachers.
I have found over the course that I have come to focus more on being a facilitator to the students. I have started concentrating more on my lessons and what the students will get out of my teaching. I feel as though I want every lesson for the students to leave with knowing that bit more than they did before. I have also come to believe that the students need challenges. I think the students like that and anything less would not be just. I saw one lesson by another peer in our group whose delivery was excellent with added humor. I felt he had prepared and wanted to teach us (students for his lesson). It made me realize that if the students recognize that you are serious they will be as well.
I think also the ESL instructors have shown that they can make a hard job look easy. One trainer actually gave a lesson on how to give instructions. After the lesson, I realized that some teachers make their jobs so much harder by talking too much. Furthermore, I have come to realize that the teacher must do their job, but it is the students who need the practice in speaking not you, the teacher. I believe clear instructions that are based on an interesting lesson that challenges the students will work. I also have liked the feedback session. There have been times when I thought things did not go very well but the instructors always remained very positive. I think it made me think that there are always more positives than negatives and if anything you should just be constructive. Most of the practice lessons I saw, mine included, needed some work on but the feedback was always positive and constructive. Even things that didn’t go well can be positive as long as the teacher learns from the experience.
The question I am left with is where do I find more information to continue where I left off. This course has sent me on the right path. It has given more a lot of information that has expanded my teaching knowledge. It is now my goal to continue this. First of all, I would like to keep everything fresh in my mind so this means continuing to read books and articles because I am sure I can refer back to this course. I would also like in the future to be more fully qualified in teaching.
The TEFL lesson that was just taught I feel went satisfactory. There were many aspects in the lesson that were a positive learning experience for the students. I think I tried to keep the students’ attention all the way through the lesson. I think this aided the students learning because I didn’t give them a chance to start talking about any other non-English language-related subjects. During the ‘use’ stage of PPU teaching method, there was a lot of free talking, so I felt some accomplishment. The overall feeling, if an observer was to look at the whole lesson, is to say that the objectives were certainly on their way to being achieved. These objectives were for students to use adjectives to describe people’s feelings, There are some points, I would like to pick up on in relation to students not fully achieving their goals as such I will include them in this essay to fully explain. I must say though that if I were a student in this class, I would have felt the lesson moved along at a pace that kept me attentive. With this attentiveness hopefully, the students would have attained that new information.
I think the ‘use’ stage, which involved the students telling an interesting story, was a significant part because this is the stage that showed me how well all the prior practice and ‘presentation stage’ went. Looking from the student’s perspective, they were ready to tell their story after hearing the teacher give an example of a model story, which made them more aware of what had to be done. I think as a student this would have given me the inspiration to think of an interesting story that had a beginning, climax, and end. The students knew what their task was and they went about it with the right attitude. Once they had their stories they stood up and told each other by going in pairs and telling their stories with the other students using the new vocabulary which I had taught, to help them along (conversation prompts). The students were up and talking and exchanging stories that would provoke feeling, which is what I wanted them to do. I think by giving them five minutes preceding the activity to write and think about their stories was a suitable idea because when I looked at some of their writing, some of the students were very slow to start. I think as a student you need this time and the teacher has to remember that it is fresh in his/her head plus the teacher has had time to think about the subject, the students have not. I think also that once the activity started, it was right to leave them to get on with the activity by themselves without really interfering with the students’ conversation. I periodically joined in with the pairs just to check they were okay which I found didn’t interfere with their talking that much. This exercise worked because I modeled the activity well before the students stood up. I modeled with two students giving my conversation prompts, which moved the conversation along. The conversation prompts were another good idea. The students certainly had some interesting stories to tell. There were a couple of points that hindered the process though these were firstly not making sure the students moved around and changed partners. Some students gathered together a little (more than two) which I didn’t really want. The process would have been better if I had kept them in their pairs and for them to tell each other their stories then move on. I think getting them to move, would have been helped by me clapping my hands and saying ‘okay, change partners’. Secondly, I should have told them to talk to only five people. This would have meant the process had an ending, a goal for the students to reach. This would have kept them focused I think.
Another aspect of the lesson that I think went well was the ‘practice’ stage where I gave the students strips of paper with situations on them. This was for the students to use with a dialogue using the adjectives they had learnt, to say ‘How they felt’. I think this is a great way to get the students off their chairs thus changing the lesson with a different technique and giving them a chance to speak and use the specific language associated with the lesson. As a student, I would have been glad to start using the language and mingling instead of sat down listening to the teacher. The students were up off their seat hearing their replies. I think, as a practice this exercise was adequate as it was controlled and was kept within the boundaries of the language that was to be used. Also what helped was the students were given a model conversation to help them practice with. This was modeled with the ‘teacher–student’ to help them. The conversation gave the students a platform to start, thus as a ‘practice’ stage (which is where the teacher can check and monitor). I think, as an exercise, this was fine. The only part that hindered the process was that the students kept hold of the strips of paper and they were not given a chance to change. The students seemed a little bored because they were saying the same sentence over and over again. I think, as a student, I would have felt the exercise was a bit tedious. The students’ strips of paper (situations) should have been changed after each pairs’ conversation, this would have created more thought and got the students more engrossed in the exercise. Moreover, it would have prolonged the exercise because they would not have thought the process was dragging on.
The part of the lesson I think didn’t go as planned was the worksheet. There was ‘situation’ on the worksheet and ‘how did you feel’ in two separate columns for each. For a situation, the students had to write an adjective in the designated gap under the heading ‘how did you feel’ to describe how he/she felt in that situation. And when there was an adjective the student had to think of a situation and write it in the designated gap under the heading ‘situation’ on the paper. I gave the students the worksheet and then modeled it. I think once the students had this worksheet they started to complete it. They were used to being given worksheets so I suppose they knew the drill. The fact was that some of them thought it was a matching exercise, which it wasn’t; this made me realize I had got things wrong. By now they were confused and some were trying to write which I didn’t want. I think as a student once I got this paper I would have wanted to finish it in my own way, regardless of what the teacher was saying. I think this shows you what students do. Students can be sidetracked and lose their concentration thus their attention wanders away from the real point of the exercise. This experience tells me that a teacher should give clear instruction first before giving out a worksheet and reiterate it by having the students tell the teacher what he/she had just said. Concept questions I think could have helped.
Another aspect that did not go as well as I would have liked was the challenging of students and the giving of information. I felt as though I wrote some sentences on the boards that were not worth doing also I was repeating the sentences as though I thought the students needed the practice. From the students’ perspective if I had heard the teacher the first time he/she spoke the sentence I would be a bit puzzled as to why the teacher would want to put it on the board and repeat it. The students I think might have lost a little interest when it came to doing other stages in the class because the teacher was teaching stuff they already knew. I think that for the level the students were in, this process was demeaning their level of English and taking up valuable time. Such that by giving them basic sentences the students might have lost interest and felt as though they were not learning. I think as a student the basic process of learning is to feel as though the lesson is testing my abilities. I think they should have been brought out their comfort zone, which is challenging them with the material they do not know.
A final thought on aspects that did not go well was my use of language. Sometimes I don’t speak fluently and break up my sentences, which are not complete, and grammatical. This I think makes the language a little strange. I think from the perspective of a student who is learning a new language, is that they could find it hard to follow the teacher’s sentences. The sentences are broken up and leave the student a bit confused. I think there could be a few factors that explain my language. Firstly I have been teaching lower-level students, some twelve years old, where you have to be slow for them to understand you, maybe this played a part. Also, I think, maybe it is where I think if I speak slower and pronounce the word with more stress they will understand. The good thing though, and I have been told in feedback, is that I recognize the problem and I will try to rectify it in the next lesson. I think with clear instructions, which are kept to a minimum. To a minimum, I mean less teacher talk time where unnecessary language is used will help to make for a clear voice that sounds normal.
Regarding SWBAT’s during the lesson, I think they were achieved. If I look at the final ‘use’ stage I had the students describing their stories, which is what I wanted. This was an objective of mine. I am not sure that I achieved an overall goal of getting the students to achieve their objectives, which would have been to learn far more new material and new vocabulary. I think as a SWBAT of getting them talking about the subject of feelings, the students did generate some quality stories which they told very well. Their ideas for the stories were funny and interesting, although I cannot really say they were challenged. I had SWBAT’s for each stage but I think should make them a little harder and made sure they understood each one until I moved on. The challenging part would have been less writing of basic sentences on the board. The more adjectives I could have written on the board would have gauged the students’ strengths and weaknesses. The reaction would have told me how difficult they were. Thus if I had heard these new words in the ‘use stage I would have felt I was achieving and this would have told me that the students achieved their objective. I think this ‘use’ stage of the class, which was one of my SWBAT’s, informed my beliefs because it was a measure of how the students understood the lesson, although I think that students can still fall into the trap of using grammar and vocabulary they already know. I think maybe if you can have students demonstrate in front of the class and make them use the new grammar and vocabulary this will give you a fair measure of how well they have learnt during the class. I think overall every SWBAT was challenged but I could have made the lessons (SWBAT’s) a little more difficult as to challenge the students and also made sure at each stage I checked that I reached the SWBAT.
There are many goals I can now set myself from the reflection I have just done. I will plan a better lesson; firstly a more challenging lesson that has more questions coming from the students, such that I can measure their learning by the questions they ask and the amount of student interaction. I feel as though the objectives should be properly met at each stage and should be checked by me before I go on. Also, my voice will be clearer and I have to realize that I should speak as if talking to another English-speaking person (less the idioms and slang speech). I think the more relaxed and less worried you are going into the class the lesson will flow. I will make sure that the students feel that they have achieved in the class and that they have something to talk about once leaving the class.