I feel quite rejuvenated from attending the recent Fluency Development Symposium at BUFS in Busan. Pamila Florea did an entertaining presentation on the value of free writing. I took her advice to heart and tried it myself. I felt it helped me generate a few tweaks in my lesson planning. Here they are in no particular order:
Trying a feedback session during the last five minutes of class. For higher level classes who are less likely to drown me in their sarcasm, I am going to attempt to get some basic FB from students on topics relevant to my pedagogy. Here’s an example: When do you feel it is appropriate to use Korean during a class from either me or the Korean teacher, some items for the oral survey include: Instructions, Translating Vocabulary, Translating Listening Text, Grammar Explanation, When the Class is Noisy–and approximately what percentage of such segments of the lesson should be in English or Korean. This is an experiment and i’ll see what develops.
More Precision in ratcheting up the difficulty during games or “practice” phases of a lesson. My students are apparently addicted to games. They remain relatively excited during “game time” compared to other periods of the class. I really like this game I got from ESL kids world:http://www.eslkidsworld.com/ppt.html. The game is rather simple, and not as graphic rich as those on waygook.org. Also, much to my students’ dismay, there are no “bombs” in the game. However, the reason for my fondness is that unlike most waygook.org produced games, this template allows for gradually introducing more difficulty. It has been my experience that when students receive a challenge in a more graduated form, they tend to have a greater receptiveness to learning. In many respects, that’s what great teaching is–staying in the ZPD. Anyhow, one illustration of this principle is using scrambled sentences featuring the target language points and increasing the length from 4 to 6 to 8 and finally 10 words for the most difficult problem.
A better use of graphic organizers. Shamelessly stolen from Paedar Calligan’s presentation on developing listening fluency, I have now made better use of graphic organizers in my lesson planning. After the central textbook listening activity of the lesson (we usually listen three times), students complete a graphic organizer focusing on the main idea with supporting details of the listening in a whole class activity (the GO activity is introduced following the first listening). Students have been a little more receptive and energetic since I added this tweak. It also serves as method to ensure that students have a solid comprehension of the main idea of the listening text.
Tossing the Ball. I have a “overseas travel preparation lunch class.” For the first session, I gave students a standard speaking prompt and noted students speaking errors. Since it is a small class I decided to have students focus on three main grammatical errors during their speaking and I would subsequently drill students on those errors before moving onto other activities. The activity I chose was to have the students toss a ball to each other and the student with the ball needs to make an utterance accurately using the TG. For instance, many students had difficulty accurately conjugating third person verbs…thus, I would prompt a student: “say three things your sister has” and so on. I did this with five students in the circle. While all participated, many spoke the L1 during the activity. I decided to add a reward and time pressure to this activity. The student with the most accurate utterance in 3 minutes of the activity will receive candy, the student with the 2nd most utterances, 2 pieces, and so on. This require another student to keep score, which could be good listening practice–theoretically–for that student. Also, as soon as a student possesses the ball I will begin counting down said student at five seconds. If he can’t make an accurate utterance during that time period he doesn’t get a point. Hopefully, this will smooth out my initial difficulties.
That’s what’s happening in my world…any positive developments in your teaching practice? What is your best experiences using graphic organizers? Do you make use of drilling activities in your classroom? Finally, what are the methods you have to obtain feedback from your students?