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
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.
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.
The topic I have chosen for this essay is ‘the teacher’s presence/manner’. The reason I have chosen this topic is that during the SIT course I have noticed a few inconsistencies in my manner/presence. These issues have been picked up by my peers, the instructors, and me. I am pleased to say the issues that made me choose this topic are not problems. They are just points that need refining for me as an English teacher and I hope by explaining them will bring a better understanding of my classroom management. I have also embedded in the essay, the topic of challenging the students for the purpose of education. I also would also like to explain that I have been teaching an upper intermediate group of students ranging from level 9 to level 15. I would like to talk about my presence and manner in relation to dealing with certain levels of English. Basically, the teacher’s manner and presence should be natural and the voice natural but befitting the level that the students are, thus challenging them.
The main issue that I have come to find out in this course is my voice that seems a bit unnatural and modified for ESOL students with broken-up sentences and not complete sentences. I realize that as a teacher your voice is not only to transmit information, but also mood atmosphere, and emotion for the students. This is why I have come to recognize this subject through the impact of others, which has made it a learning experience. I think that my peers and instructors have dealt with the issue very encouragingly. I had one lesson where I had to give a warmer. I was observed and given feedback. During the feedback, I was asked about my voice and why I spoke slower. I had to admit that I really did not know. It was also commented during feedback that I spoke like this outside the classroom. In the feedback session, I was also told by my instructors that I needed to lift my voice up although it could be fine for instruction there were still not complete sentences, which lost intonation. I must have never really thought about that much because I had another lesson this time a bit longer and once again I repeated myself with the slower talking as if the slower I talk the easy it is to understand. I think as a quick observation that I may speak slower to make sure I am understood although I have no proof that there are problems speaking faster. I think with clear instruction at a smooth pace, I can, once finished talking, step aside to allow the students to construct their own knowledge and understanding without slowly rabbitting on. Also with this understanding, I can be a skillful teacher who uses his voice and knowledge to enhance students’ participation and understanding.
Anyway back to my second lesson this time fifty minutes long. Again it was noticed my language become a little unnatural. I wasn’t using contractions or connected speech. It was commented that I speak normally to my peers so why don’t I speak to my students the same. This was good feedback for me. It was at this stage of the course that my voice and instruction in class became a focus of mine to understand why I did speak slower without complete sentences. I was asked if I had only done lower-level learners. This is true and I have been teaching kids of twelve and thirteen recently. So I think maybe this point was true. Maybe, I had got into a rhythm of using basic language that I never knew was fixed. So, I am glad this was pointed out to me. I guess you could also say that I may think that the students are unaccustomed to thinking critically and unable to learn difficult material. I think you must learn that the students know a lot more than they are given credit for.
Now I have recognized I have an issue to tackle I have dealt with it by becoming more aware of the situation. I haven’t shouted across the room but I have quietly mentioned it to a few people and during feedback, I have listened to my peers discuss it. The first thing I think of is the keyword ‘variety’. Variety for my voice because, If I can use my voice along with a number of parameters like volume, pace, pitch, and modulation, this will hopefully with practice make my voice more interesting. I think becoming more conscious of the issue of voice sound and facing up to it instead of denying it will make for a more relaxed classroom with good performances from the students and me because the language and instructions are clear. Moreover even simple exercises like stretching the muscles controlling the aperture in the back of my throat I think will work.
Also, I think now and in further lessons, I will limit my language to what is needed and be sensitive to what I am saying. I think that language can play a big part in how you are perceived by people and I would not like the upper intermediate group to think that I am not devaluing their level of English. I think that a teacher can dominate quite unintentionally. I would like to think that I respect the students’ level of English and I am appropriate to it. One of the steps I can take in the pursuit of getting the more natural verbal sound is to recognize students’ knowledge and experience. I should realize my talking and likewise, the students talking helps their understanding and knowledge. I should also like to point out that their knowledge is not so much given and received as constructed by themselves individually and collectively which is more of a reason to make my instruction clear and limit teacher talk time.
A few final points with regards to feedback I think my instructors have responded well and given me clear examples of the issues that need dealing with. I think they noticed that you could become a bit disoriented with the language, which is not natural. If the language doesn’t flow I think the lesson will become a bit stilted.
To conclude I think that some of the points raised in my essay not only have a bearing on me but also on the students who see and hear when my voice/manner/presence is employed constructively to inspire to help them find their own voices, to model a commitment to eloquent speech, and to honor the individual and collective knowledge that students invariably hold.
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?