My second reflective practice blog is going to show that it’s difficult for me to learn from my own mistakes.
I had a case study lesson with my Upper-Intermediate Business Group consisting currently of 2 people.
The task from the coursebook is:
Work in groups of four.
1. Establish the current situation for Cyclepods Ltd. (we have already read a text about the company’s situation).
2. Individually, or with a partner, decide what you think the company should do to resolve its cash-flow crisis and increase its profit margin. Prepare your arguments and be ready to give your opinions.
3. Choose one person to lead the discussion. As a group, discuss all the options you think the company has. (I need to mention here that we covered functional exponents for leading and participating in decision-making discussions 2 lessons before).
4. Decide on two best options and present them to the class.
5. Have a class vote to decide on the best option for the company.
6. Turn to File 12 on page 139 to find out how the company actually resolved its situation.
Before approaching this task we read about the company and discussed its strengths and weaknesses, unique selling point, target market and current problems as an open class. So we did point one in the task.
Then I told the students that they are going to be external consultants invited to the company to help to avoid the crisis and they need to discuss possible solutions. My instructing turned out to be a long speech describing the situation. I wanted students to turn to each other and start pouring their ideas and discussing them energetically, but what happened was that one student turned to me and started suggesting something. As I wanted them not to tell me what they think but to share opinions with each other and discuss it together I had to tell them to imagine that I wasn’t there and to turn to the partner. It actually helped and they started to discuss the problem together.
I had to distract them to put their ideas on the board so that we had visual support for the next task.
Of course, the students didn’t use the phrases we had learned before because I forgot to remind them to do it (looks like a bit of analysis here).
When they had no more ideas I asked them to choose 2 best options for the company and they discussed it and came up with 2 ideas.
Then I asked them whether they were interested to know what the company actually did and getting the affirmative answer I told them to go to File 12 and see what was suggested and what outcomes they got. I asked students to comment on how close their own ideas were to the experts’ suggestions and whether or not they were surprised by the results.
In feedback we discussed whether it was difficult or not for them and students commented that it was difficult since they don’t understand much in marketing or finance.
How I felt
I became really nervous when I realized that I’d forgotten to draw the students’ attention to the necessity of using the target language and it led to being angry with myself. I also felt quite awkward when I had to tell them to speak to each other not to me and when I interrupted them to put the ideas on the board. And of course at the end I wasn’t satisfied with myself at all.
How students felt
The students might have felt uneasy in unfamiliar topic and maybe kind of stupid when I stop them to tell them to do something in another way.
1) So, the first problem I see here is that the students didn’t use the language I wanted them to use. Obviously it happened because I forgot to remind them about it. Why did I forget to do it? I suppose, because I was unsure how the following stages would go since I hadn’t thought them over very thoroughly at home because while I was preparing at home they seemed quite easy and actually only at the lesson I realized that I can’t do it as I had planned.
2) Another problem was that the students didn’t have a lot of ideas though the ones they had were great, the process of thinking and finding the ideas turned out to be quite hard. During the feedback the students told me it was difficult for them. I think the reason is that it wasn’t the sphere they feel comfortable in and since they work in other departments and deal with other situations it’s difficult to find some solutions in 10 minutes. And I was told millions of times that before giving an activity to the students I must make sure they know what to say and how to say it. What’s the matter with me then???
3) Students didn’t feel comfortable speaking to each other and ignoring me probably because of traditional understanding of the role of a teacher. They are not used to speaking to each other without any role-play task, dialogues or something like that. I’ve come to understanding that they rarely interact to each other without any tasks, just to agree or disagree or ask each other about something, I mean, without any task. This conclusion is a real eye-opener for me. At CELTA my tutor gave me a positive feedback about letting students interact with each other naturally. But I did it only when it happened by chance without my encouraging (just one student started to disagree with another and a small open class discussion emerged). Now I see that if I had encouraged natural conversation more in my current group they would feel comfortable to speak to each other in English all the time and even without a task, without me asking them to speak. My DoS recommended me once to include myself into the discussion with the same or similar role, not as a teacher. I might want to implement it but it has also some drawbacks like students still keeping their attention on me not on each other and also me taking their time to speak. But its great benefit is that the whole situation stops being a classroom situation when a teacher stops being a teacher – that leads to the conversation becoming natural. What do you think about this idea?
4) One more problem is that the description of the task was long. It happens to me quite often. I want to describe a situation to provide students with all the necessary information for them to imagine themselves in the situation. As a result students look a bit puzzled. So, it makes me conclude that too much information isn’t good for their understanding.
5) And one more problem I see is that I had to distract them to create visual support for the next task. If I had created the lesson differently I think I would have had one student leading the discussion and taking notes of the ideas and it would eliminate the problem.
1) During preparation for the lessons it is a good idea to anticipate problems and think about solutions. Not to neglect this point it might be reasonable to set aside about 10 mins to be spent on this – at CELTA it saved almost all of my lessons but having more than 25 hours a week I started to ignore this.
2) I believe that it’s worthwhile to offer students tasks which they are able to do, to ask them for ideas which they have and provide necessary help if you are not sure about it.
3) I believe that it is really important to encourage real conversation between students which can make them feel in their element to speak English at any time and not to feel controlled by a teacher in the classroom.
4) To set a task easily and resulting in students’ complete understanding of the situation I need to be brief and it might be a good idea to elicit something from them which will enable me to see that the situation is clear for them and it’ll definitely help more to tune them into the task.
5) I think here comes the case of anticipating problems again, so see the action point #1.
1) When you finished preparing for a lesson spend 10 mins anticipating problems and creating solutions. Or do it while preparing for each stage of your lesson.
2) Ask myself whether my students have something to say about it. If no, either offer them some hints and ideas already prepared to discuss and chose the best ones (if the activity is really good) or forget about this activity.
3) To encourage natural speaking I’ll ask students to talk to each other more often and I’m going to do something else at that time (prepare the board for the next task – that was an idea offered by my DoS for a bit another purpose but it fits perfectly I think); I’ll offer students more debatable topics and ask them to discuss them together and tell me their final decision only; I’ll try to distance from the students physically by going to another side of the room. And I’ll also google it – there might be some other suggestions. If you have any other ideas – let me know PLEASE!!!
4) Setting a task elicit as much as you can and be brief.
Some analysis of what has changed since the first reflective practice post:
Actually the task was more communicative, I fortified it with some follow-up questions just to chat about the topic, so I can say that in this action point I’ve made a step forward.
Monitoring wasn’t applicable since they were just speaking and I was sitting just opposite them and listening to them.
I’ve started to think whether an example or demo could help, but it looks like it would look strange for such a simple task.
Elicit the language they need for the task was a good idea in my previous post – why didn’t I do it the second time??? That’s a mystery for me(
About peer-teaching and peer-correction – looks like it wasn’t very necessary to do it in this task. Even after thinking about it for some time I find it unnecessary.
Well, that’s pretty it. I like the process of doing ELC immensely.
If you have any comments, suggestions, ideas, you’ve spotted some other problems or mistakes – I’ll be happy to read it all.
And I also would like to thank David Harbinson, Zhenya Polosatova, Anne Hendler, John Pfordresher, Anna Loseva, Hana Ticha, Josette LeBlanc for inspiring, helping, leading and sharing. It’s great help and you might be contributing in a good teacher in the future (I hope)))