Learning can often be quite the joy. I am currently riding that wave. Who knows when the bubble will burst? Until then, time to enjoy the moment. Here are the following tweaks I made in my lesson planning. Things certainly feel smoother in my class these days. Perhaps the result of feeling as though I have made progress? I truly feel students—even when so many learners display such a negative and hostile attitude to instruction– appreciate a sincere effort. I often (but perhaps not enough) do my best to provide such an effort.
Improvements for the week
Greater Illustrations of my Warm-up Activity Every other week students complete a mindmapping activity to start the class as it helps calm the chaos and orientate students to the session. This week I have begun to implement a slower form of modeling. I provide an incomplete sentence stem which will serve as the basis for the mind map. Students translate the stem. Then I provide an illustration of a similar example students will complete during the actual warm-up. After this I give students sample answers for the practice warm-up. For my 2nd grade class, students completed the following practice prompt: In your life what are you biggest…problems. The real warm-up prompt replaced the word problems with worries. After this I had the student with the most words provide his answers to the entire class.
More Celebrities and less clip-art. I feel I’ve gotten more efficient in my lesson planning. When I first arrived at my present school in March 2012, I felt overwhelmed with over 9 hours of lesson prep. However, I have found various methods to reduce the total time (or at least distribute it through semester break and those beautiful desk warming periods which exams provide). Thus, it’s time to move beyond the quick ease clip art provides and use images which may evoke more emotion from students. That means various Korean celebrities..such as the image I found of Psy without his shirt…Korea, this is the flabby image you send to the rest of the world!
Dialogue Shift. I end my classes with a brief dialogue which illustrates use of the target communicative functions addressed during the lesson. Before I would simply have students state the dialogue. Now, I have added a few features, depending on the mood of the class (or requests from my Korean colleague as the case maybe). I shift between a few options. 1) We read the dialogue with the class split and focus on intonation after the teacher provides appropriate modeling (This entails 3 or 4 readings of the dialogue) or 2) We read the dialogue focusing on increasing speed, but maintaining pronunciation accuracy. Again, this requires at least four readings—one to acquaint, two at a normal pace, three at a faster pace, and four at a really (tongue twister speed) pace. Students often enjoy the challenge and hearing me read the dialogue as fast as I can during the modeling phase.
Different Color Bubbles. This one is kind of anal. However, I have enjoyed getting rather elaborate with my power points. I will typically use speech bubble inserts to illustrate various grammar points during the “worked examples” period of the lesson. I will also use the speech bubbles to allow the learning agent (an anthropomorphic animal in the bottom right corner of the power points I produce) to either elaborate on the target communicative function, or to model contextualized use of target vocabulary (which I recycle through the worked examples). Thus, this week I used different colors for a) each specific speech bubble used to illustrate the components of a communicative function and b) the speech of the learning agent.
Better Scaffolding during Guided Practice I have attended to providing a more clear explanation of expectations when students engage in guided practice. Typically after reading a series of worked examples, I will have students complete sentence stems orally using the TL items. For example, I recently reviewed “Will you do me a favor?” with my students. This was a somewhat complex communicative function as it required a series of responses. I provided clear scaffolding with the aid of a power point and had students use the structure clearly, such as:
A: Will you do me a favor?
B: Sure/ What is it? Maybe/ Tell me more?
A: [lend money]
By going a little slower and being a little more explicit students were able to complete the exercise more efficiently and with less need for (re)explanations on my part. The downside is that students didn’t have much opportunity to produce genuine speech. The primary work consisted of transposing the worlds “lend money (as in the above example)” into a question—“can you lend me money?” So perhaps I have scaffolded the exercise into something so simple that it devolves into the equivalent of rote learning? A teacher’s job is not easy. As the unit progresses I attempt to remove the scaffolds, but unfortunately many students are not up to a task requiring that level of autonomy—at least with the time constraints the present system in Korean and my school in particular promotes.
Questions Plaguing me
My school had their mid-terms this week. Since student composition of a given class is determined by test scores, the classes were rearranged to reflect the new test scores. What is your opinion of this decision—is it wise to make such shifts in mid-semester?