Reflection on the Article “Hands-on” or “Head-Trip”….. How do you learn best? by Susan. L. Colantuono
Having read ‘Hands-on’ or “Head-Trip’…. How do you learn best? by Susan. L. Colantuono, this is a review and reflection on this piece of writing that relates to an experience of mine with reference to the SIT TESOL course I am taking. This article refers to the learning and the four steps in the learning process which are devised in order to learn and put your reflected ideas back into practice. From these points, I found that a German class taken by one of my SIT instructors was a good example that alludes to this article.
Today is the first day of my SIT TESOL course. Our class had two German lessons where the first German lesson I felt as though I was not contributing enough. I felt I was lacking intellectual acuity, and I reflected that the lesson was a little flat. It was lacking interest, emotion, and excitement. Now, the responses from some of the other members of the class were that it was amusing and fun. This made me think while reading that the learning experience I had coincides with the article ‘Hands-on’ or “Head-Trip” about people responding differently to learning. I found myself a bit isolated upon hearing some of the other people’s views. Even when reflecting with another one of our SIT instructors who asked for comments, my comment was that ‘I felt like the language learning experience is a long road’. By no fault but my own, this was a negative thought; I mean, not that I was wrong but there were much more positive views to compare against.
Referring to the four learning stages from the article, the second lesson taught by one of our SIT instructors, I felt more involved by writing more words down in my notebook and practicing more with myself as well as my partner. I listened more I suppose with more concentration and I also recognised I used some of the materials from the first lesson. I think I reflected on my experience and wondered about how I could make it different.
The issue here for me is that after reading this article I can take a step back and reflect on my experience and learn. Number one: in the learning process from the article refers to being the ‘concrete experience’ of having the lesson with the instructor. Number two: being the ‘observation + reflection’ that I didn’t get the best out of the lesson I could have and maybe I was not enthusiastic about the learning experience. Number three: the ‘abstract concepts’ being, was it to do with me? What was wrong with my attitude or was it the instructor who did a lot of repetition and did not make the class enjoyable enough for me? Number 4: the ‘concepts in new situations’ was when I heard other people say they enjoyed it, and there were few people who made me think that I should change my attitude. So, now here is where I must have reached what it says in the article a ‘hypothesis’ for my next learning practice, which I think I did in the next lesson.
I think that in any learning situation a learner should try to think positive and get the best they can out of it and maybe this time I was not in the right mood. This reflection is good because I can now approach the next lesson with a better focus, which is better than just blaming it on the teacher or forgetting about it
Giving and Receiving Feedback – It Will Never Be Easy But It Can Be Better By Larry Potter
This is a commendable article for me as I think at times I recognise that it is hard to receive and give feedback. It could be said that most people’s feedback skills could be said to need a little practice. I think this is important because as a teacher you will need feedback from your students to tell you if they enjoyed and comprehended your teaching. Also, the students will want feedback on their learning. Each will need a positive, constructive base.
After reading the article, my first reaction is to think of myself who usually goes on the defensive when given feedback. The defensive, I mean that you are not really listening to the person giving the feedback. Larry Potter alludes to this point; he defines feedback as ‘information that can be heard by the receiver as evidence by the fact that he/she does not go on the defensive’. I agree with Larry Potter that feedback has ‘great value’ but only ‘to us if we can let the feedback in and effectively use the information’. I do like this sort of article because I can identify with points in the article that coincide with myself. An example would be when Larry describes Ineffective feedback as ‘judgmental statements’. I think I can give judgmental statements and upset people. I recently said a teacher was talking too much in class but forgot to look at the students who were okay with his talking. Other people said this is only level 2, the students do not talk much. I felt a bit bad for talking about the teacher. I think maybe I was too opinionated. Also, I think I get feedback a lot but may not use the experience, as I should. Maybe I think they are just making a comment and I don’t really ask them such questions as ‘Why’? ‘What do you think is better?’ I think after reading this article on feedback for future actions I should take time to realize that I could be wrong and that I should take in the information (feedback) that has been given. I think I should ask for clarification and realize that it is not a battle and the comment is to help and I should reply with what I think. Thus hopefully getting a discussion going.
The information that is given in the feedback can be ‘shut out’ as Larry Potter says. We ‘lack the skills to send and receive feedback’. I agree with this point as I had a situation the other day. I thought of a lesson plan and mentioned it to a teacher and basically, I was told that it was wrong because the lesson wasn’t student-centered thus in the lesson plan the teacher would speak more which he or she is not supposed to do. The problem with me was I had thought about this lesson for a long time and had it planned. Now my first reaction when I was told it was wrong was to get a little angry, I felt as though it was an attack against me. Maybe I felt as though I was not good enough, my ideas were not good enough. So I felt a bit sorry for myself. I think the best idea would be to say ‘shall I forget about that lesson plan’, and if she said ‘yes’, say to her ‘what do you think then? I could have asked her why she thought is wrong and what ideas I should think of. I think I should have got to the bottom of my thinking as I might think up another lesson plan like this and have the same trouble again.
Reflection on an article
For this essay, I would like to reflect on the attitudes of listeners in regard to the classroom environment. Brenda Ueland’s article does not actually refer to teaching but completing the SIT TESOL course has made me think more about the person (teacher) you are. The article opens up some contemplation while getting the reader to reflect on the attitude the listener should have towards people. This is notable in my case because of the students who are trying to speak in class. Thus, the crux of the article and my essay is: Are you a good listener?
To begin with, I have to agree with the writer on the fact that when people listen, ‘ideas actually begin to grow within us’. My immediate reaction was to think of a student in the class with something to say and the teacher letting them speak, but encouraging those students to expand on their answers. The listener to the students helps them develop their ideas using their English language to a deeper degree. This is in stark contrast to Brenda’s opening line with proposes that ‘how we don’t listen to our children or those we love’. I think this is a bit far from the mark as I think people listen, the fact is sometimes not attentively. Not actually listening is just plain rude and to do it to the ones we love or your students would be very strange. Referring to a classroom setting, I think there could be a moment where the teacher does not listen to the students as attentive as they should. This doesn’t mean the teacher is being rude; they might have their mind on completing the lesson or the fact that the student has answered the question, so the teacher can move on. I think here is where the listener should take a step back to think about their attitude. I think that when a teacher has these moments in the class where the students have a chance to speak that the teacher can and should expand at those junctures because they have to be courteous listeners who provoke the students to speak more and grow stronger in their language.
It could be said that there are some lecturers (teachers) out there that love the sound of their voice and do stifle people and students’ attitudes that stop them talking and feeling like talking. Brenda’s article alludes to this, when she says’ these brilliant performers, by not giving us a chance to talk, do not let us express our thoughts and expand’. I think that as a teacher, one could get confused that they are doing a great job teaching, but why are the students not talking? As such the teacher never realizes that it could be them that they are the problem. I think that this ‘creative fountain’ in us all as Brenda puts it, has got to be given time and some teachers may not give time to let this creativity start working. Students can be given too much work that they are not sure where to start. I think with clear and modeled instruction with specific objectives the students know what to do and then they have focus thus they know what to speak about. This leads to what the main focus is about the listening issue to which the teacher can listen as Brenda Ueland says in ‘quiet fascinated attention’.
The formulation of ideas has to be a task that most students find difficult to do, especially with their limited knowledge of vocabulary as well as those that do have a wider knowledge. For them, remembering all this vocabulary is still a problem. For myself, I have had times when I know the word in Thai, but I just forget it only to find out later that, of course, I knew it. This goes along with sentences as well. I make this point because Brenda Ueland’s article mentions a person’s talking being a ‘little dry and meager and full-on grinding talk just now but presently begin to think’ thus ‘he will show his true self. It makes me think because I had a situation in my class where a woman was translating everything that I said. It was I thought stopping the students in the class from actually understanding me. Anyway one-break time a student wanted to tell me she was leaving at break-time for some reason. As the student who wanted to leave was trying to tell me her problem this woman came over, translated, and tried to tell me the student’s problem. As diplomatic as I could I explained to her that this was not her problem and I wanted this student to tell me herself. Being a forceful woman as she was she didn’t really listen so as she was hearing the student having problems she again tried to help. Again, I said I wanted to hear the student. Well, the student took about five minutes to tell me her problem and after trying real hard and me being an active listener she got her point over. I think by me listening and understanding that she wasn’t proficient in English and that I would have to take my time to let this student build up the confidence to tell me made for a more relaxed situation. Thus she was able to speak English and her vocabulary was enough for me to understand. I felt good because some students are not listened to because at that first moment they don’t have the vocabulary or are a little nervous.
To conclude this essay I would like to say some of the points Brenda said in her piece are important and I realize those points. It just makes me think about what relationship the teacher has with people be it friends or teacher-student relationships. I am not sure If Brenda had real problems with conversations that brought on her feelings to write this but it does make me think teachers should be more attentive which is a good thing.
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.
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.