Reflection on an Article
Students learn (language) for various reasons from those who need English to study in university to those that just want to talk to more people from around the world. But what makes them achieve what they set out to do which is speaking English competently? You could say it is a goal, their intention, their aspiration to be this person who has no problems with language. The only difficulty is, do they really know what their targets are? These can be for a course of English language, for example, thirty hours or the end product over a longer period. I will try in this piece to explain some points regarding learning goals in relation to the article by Greta J Gorsuch.
First of all, I have to talk about the teacher and their role in the classroom with regard to student learning goals. What do the students think they are there for? Is the teacher there to do everything? Is the teacher there to spoon-feed the students so to make it easy for them? These are the sorts of questions that might be asked but is the teacher there to do everything? Greta’s article mentions that teachers are ‘traditionally the primary source of information and inspiration’. It is true that the students can be sat waiting for the teacher to speak, the idea that the students do not speak unless spoken to. They can actually feel afraid to ask further questions or just get the exercise done. This is where concrete learning objectives can try to make the students come away from relying on the teacher to create goals for themselves as students and as such putting more emphasis on themselves (students) and what they want to achieve. Greta says, ‘language students themselves are the best source of information’. To be a language learner does not just involve coming to class and listening to a teacher then going home. It involves being a language learner for life in and outside class.
It is here inside the class (not to mention outside) that the teacher if they want to create a learning environment they should encourage these learning goals for the students. Some teachers do not have ‘effective strategies’, Greta says. I agree with her as they can go into the class and teach a great lesson, but there could be more from the students. Greta mentions, ‘simple goal clarification activities’. This, I think, is the ‘use’ part of the lesson where the teacher actually gets the students to show that they have achieved their goal if only for that week by speaking and presenting what they have learned. This incentive, I think at least, gives students that pleasure of reaching a goal and then setting another one. The satisfaction to think that they set a target and have reached it must be beneficial in scaffolding their learning for future progress.
Greta’s ideas for future progress relate to giving cards out, getting the students to fill in their goals, making sure they are achievable and realistic ones at that. The only part, I think, that they must do is share these with other students. I think this honesty in class will get the students to realize what they are in class for. They must also be kept focused on these goals. Greta says, ‘ during the next few weeks, get students to look back at their card, and rewrite their responses’. Again, the teacher should never shy away from keeping the students focused on their goals. If one student does not feel they have reached their goals this is a great time to focus on why. It is true that a student may do, for example, thirty hours of study and then go up another level. In this student’s mind is that they are now a level higher, so their English language must be a level higher. This idea could be far off the mark, thus having students with achievable goals makes the students fully aware that they have reached that goal or not, and when this goal is relayed to the teacher he or she can give advice on what they can do next.
To conclude, it can be said teachers have to do their job but just as much the students have to do their job too. This does not mean forcing them; it means giving them that focus. Hopefully, the students will realize that a new foreign language is part of their life not just in the classroom for a few hours every week.
After the workshop, please take a few minutes to jot down any ideas, teaching tips or techniques, etc that were covered, and which you felt were useful to you. How was the content of the workshop relevant to the courses that you teach? What did you gain from attending this session?
The main point I got from this workshop was about having objectives in my lessons. If I do not have objectives, and objectives that I want the students to achieve the lesson does not really have a flow and a definite conclusion. Sometimes a teacher can go through the exercise book and feel they have achieved their quota of the language learning book but has not really focused on the students achieving a goal for that lesson which is to be using the vocabulary, grammar and language speaking associated with that lesson.
I think what I got from this workshop was to be more focused on the students’ needs, their use of English language and achieving goals. The workshop made me think more about the book I use. I recognized more how the Interchange book is structured into cycles. This is that the students have a snapshot, conversation, grammar focus, and listening to assist them with their learning and thus at the end of the cycle, it should give them a freer practice to make sure they can use their newly acquired English language.
For myself, I try to get as much as I can out of each English language lesson I teach. With the information I have been given by the workshop host, I see our team of teachers are finding their way to the end of a cycle. However, there may be a question about objectives being reached for each student. I think from what the workshop talked about is that teachers should try to focus more on students’ objectives. This is the acronym SWBATs. The crux of the workshop was Students Will Be Able To’.
I think SWBAT is a focal point for me. I should be able at the end of the cycle in the book as well as the end of each lesson be able to see and hear the students using the grammar and vocabulary which I have been teaching them, hopefully without major problems. I need to know that each student knew their objectives at the start, worked through the class and hopefully achieved them by the end.
To conclude, what I took from the workshop was that teachers should remember to focus on their objectives while giving students objectives, so in the end there is a purpose to the lesson and a feeling of achievement. Thus, all students will achieve their goal of ‘students will be able to’. and teacher will be asking each other, ‘what are your SWBATs for today’s class?
Reflection on the Article
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?
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.