There were a few positives this week. I was quite harried as I was instructed by my supervisors to cram only 10 minutes of “speaking test” review into my normal lesson planning. I hope it was of some benefit to my students…anyhow.
The tweaks this week include:
Taking a standardized approach to my “Yu-Hak” lunch class. I tried to construct a coherent differentiated instruction model for this class. While I would give individualized attention to one group of students, the others were instructed to read a text at their level. I tried a few other activities as well. However, the reality was that when I was not directly leading the students, the class became disorderly. Thus, I changed plans this week and simply had students free write on a prompt highly similar to their upcoming speaking test. They brainstormed, and then wrote a four sentence paragraph. I provided feedback on the writing. Students corrected the text, then made a (very) short presentation on the topic, while the other learners completed a listening matrix.
Opening with a Pre-Lesson Quiz I used to begin my classes with a pre-lesson quiz. Such a strategy has sound empirical support (see Marzano, et al. 2003) as it forces students to activate schema and generate hypotheses. I let the activity slip from my repertoire over the months and years. I’m not sure why. It really alerts me to the need to have greater organization.
Lesson Time-Line This is, again, a bit anal. But, to provide students with a clearer sense of how a lesson will progress I intend to construct a power point slide charting what activities we will engage in and at what point in the lesson we will perform a particular task/activity. For example, I may display Funny Video: 5 minutes-10 minutes.
Focus on Speed and Intonation during the Worked Examples: I am a big fan of using and analyzing worked examples (not sure if my students are!). Though, for some time, I would simply have students read through the worked examples without attending to either speed or appropriate intonation. I have begun to focus more on coaching and modeling students on the nuances and essentially tacit aspects of using appropriate speed and intonation while communicating in English (or reading out loud as it pertains to utilizing worked examples).
New Rules No, I am not Bill Maher, but I felt the need to make a few additional regulations during game time. I have detailed some of these rules in previous posts. This week I added a new rule for the high level classes. To receive full credit the participant must pose his answer in a full sentence. Failure to do so results in losing one point.
Questions Plaguing Me
Who the hell designed the speaking test in my school? My students will have their semester speaking test beginning on May 20th. My god it is so far above their level. Here’s an example from the first grade selection of questions: How are people of a different color or look treated in your home country? This is inappropriate for students on a variety of fronts: a) home country—that’s an idiom, my students can barely communicate their opinions on the weather. Additionally, this idiom is something they have not been exposed through the curriculum. b) treated. I had to dig out the dictionary to translate this term…imagine my students perspective? c) Different color or look. Korea is largely a homogenous society. I asked my students how many foreigners they see besides me? The general consensus? No one. Not even at Hagwons.
The unfortunate reality pertaining to this speaking test is that it was probably assembled in haste, but it was certainly chosen in haste by my co-teachers. That is unfortunate. It corroborates an opinion I recently heard a friend express: Korea is a “last minute society.”
Where do I need to go to become a better teacher? Certainly keep priming the pump and finding modestly creative applications for the various constraints I face in my job. Probably the most joyful part of being a teacher—provided on has space to breathe during work. That is a blessing I currently possess. Beyond that, I need to refine my organizational skills. My note on “rediscovering” the pre-lesson quiz was a powerful illustration. I know the basic skills of solid organization. However, application is a different matter. What’s that Chinese proverb I once heard Ralph Nader deploy? “To know, but not act, is to not know.”