Third Reflective Practice and positive outcomes

This is the third try of Experiential Learning Circle and I’m happy to share some positive results with you.

It’s still the same Upper-Intermediate Business English group consisting of 3 people. The coursebook offers functional exponents for presenting factual information within discussing outsourcing. I won’t write the tasks because considering my students’ knowledge and sphere I’ve decided to substitute the topic of outsourcing with something more familiar bearing in mind previous action points.

So, let’s start with

description

Before the activity I am to describe we talked about keys to success in making presentations and came to the point concerning visuals and how they are presented. Using Task Based Learning framework we made a couple of short presentations enriching them with new exponents and after that we came to the final task. Drawing up this task I thought about my students’ interests and everything I know about them and came up with some topics I thought they would really enjoy to present. So I told them that we were going to make short presentations and then I announced a topic for every person. To give you an example there is one topic: You have your own Italian language school and some prospective customers came to get acquainted with your school. You are holding a short presentation to describe benefits of learning Italian. (the girl who was given this task has already been learning Italian for some years and is totally in love with the language and the country). I think students were pleased with such approach, they got interested in the task and might feel kind of special.

After assigning the topics I drew students’ attention to the task itself pointing that they need to present themselves and their company/idea, create and present some visual information and refer to changes and explain cause and effect (because we had such exponents in our list and they actually fit in). The students had some time to prepare, after that I handed out small charts to fill in while listening to others where they were to write which phrases their peers used successfully and what they liked about the presentation.

I decided to use a piece of advice given by David Harbinson and we created a more or less close to real situation by exiting the classroom leaving only a presenter there and then entering again. I need to say that by this time I was a bit behind the timing and had to remind my students about the time (e.g. by saying that they have only one minute left) and I started to feel anxious about the timing. When we entered the room and sat down like it was a real situation the first presenter looked lost and worried and I assume she got nervous about the presentation. But she quickly composed herself and the presentation went fine. When the next person was to present she asked not to leave the room because there was little time left and she was right. I agreed with her and I’m sure that it wasn’t a trick which she might have used to feel more confident. I knew she had a meeting just after our lesson. So, the two more presentations went well and we finished by discussing each other’s presentations, but I paid little attention to the content feedback and more to the language one. And we left 10 minutes after the lesson was over which I felt guilty about.

Analysis

1) I totally changed the lesson offered in the coursebook, the only thing which was left was the list of exponents. And I am happy with this decision due to two reasons. Firstly, we saved time because it’s a short lesson (60 mins) and if we had done what is offered by the authors of the book we’d have spent all the time just getting acquainted with the phrases. So, task-based learning enabled me to give only necessary information and save time but also it made the lesson more communicative. Secondly, the topic given in the book is really boring and I wouldn’t have seen so much enthusiasm in my students’ faces if we’d discussed advantages of outsourcing in India.

2) Another good point was that students had a plan for preparation which clearly showed which target language and when they were supposed to use, that led to their successful usage of the phrases we’d learned. Yeah!) And I don’t think that it makes their speaking significantly less freer than without plan. If they really had such a speech to prepare, a plan would be the first thing they would consider.

3) Peer-assessment was a good idea which made the students to listen to each other, but I would give them both content and language tasks. I usually ask them to listen to each other and agree/disagree or something like that to give them communicative purpose. This time I wanted to implement peer-assessing into their task but forgot about communicative purpose. It’s obvious that the combination of both would be the best option.

4) The biggest problem I had during this lesson was timing (which I’m totally bad at). I believe that if I had normal lessons with this group I wouldn’t have a half of my problems. Well, another problem is that 2 students are constantly 5-10 minutes late, so I don’t want them to miss target language, so my warm-up and lead-in might take 5-10 or even 15 minutes and this is stealing of my and their time. That’d why I’m convinced that I did my best to cram all the necessary stages into the time given and I am not the only person to be blamed. But still, I need to work on timing and I think it might be next point to reflect on. The lack of time resulted in my student who had a meeting getting worried about being late and the partial failure of the experiment and myself being anxious about that and the lesson end being messy. As a result of that I didn’t have proper content, language and task feedback that makes me disappointed.

5) The idea of the beginning of such activities kindly offered by David Harbinson was partially ruined by bad timing. Still, what I liked about it was the feeling of the situation being real and it contributes into the task a lot. The student who experienced it obviously felt differently comparing to others. I’m convinced it’s worth trying again. What I didn’t like is that my students didn’t realize the benefit (I hadn’t explained it well) and looking at their faces I thought they didn’t enjoy it. I assume they found it a waste of time.

Generalizations

1) I believe that learners benefit from their teacher deviating from a coursebook and tailoring lessons bearing in mind students’ needs, interests, types of personality etc. You might only take the target language from the coursebook you’re using and it’s not a problem.

2) Providing students with a rough plan which slightly hints at the target language to be used is a good idea indeed. But it doesn’t diminish the importance of reminding students about the phrases!

3) While one student is speaking it is reasonable to give others tasks to build both content and language feedback on. This way the students have a communicative purpose and practice assessing each other’s performance from the point of view of the language used.

4) It might be a good idea to think about short version of language presentation in case anybody is late or even using this opportunity for peer-teaching so that time is not wasted at the beginning of the lesson. Of course, being flexible usually helps but I’d spent time trying to make the first stages as short as possible and being flexible was hardly possible without any losses in efficiency. What do you believe might be a reason for bad timing and possible solutions of this problem?

5) I believe that reentering the room for a task is good in setting the atmosphere and collecting thoughts together and also in providing the best conditions for the task. I believe that students need to be explained the benefits, so a talk might help. After each unit or two we have a short talk about what we’ve learned so far, what they can remember and what they enjoyed/ didn’t like.

Action Points

1) Approaching a new lesson consider how your students may benefit from your choice of material and activities.

2)Provide students with a good skeleton for their speech/dialogue so that they practice the language you want them to practice and don’t spend time on thinking what to speak about and in which way.

3) Make sure your tasks combine communicative purpose and peer-assessment. By the way, self-assessment is also highly beneficial.

4) I’ve already asked students to try to be on time explaining the reasons. So, implementing peer-teaching is the way out. Think about it at the planning stage.

5) Discuss the idea and its benefits and students feelings at the next feedback session.

The outcomes of the reflective practice

This time the outcomes are really positive despite some issues.

Firstly, I kept on making the tasks more communicative, though not communicative enough considering the absence of communicative goal.

Secondly, I tailored tasks to my student’s needs and interests.

Thirdly, I worked on ensuring that my students use target language by reminding, providing a plan and it was based on anticipating problems.

Also I tried to implement peer-assessment and it went well actually.

To sum up

Drawing a conclusion I’d say I’m partially content with the lesson and considering task set up (which I’m actually working on and reflecting about) I did quite well. The problems which emerged during the lesson I believe stem from other flaws (which I plan to work on and reflect about soon). Do you agree?

I think next time I will focus on another group and it will be the last reflection about task set up since I have a lot to reflect about.

Thanks everybody for commenting, suggesting, supporting and helping all the ways you do it. Write me, please, what you think about this post and whether you think I’ve achieved some results and what to do next.

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4 thoughts on “Third Reflective Practice and positive outcomes

  1. Hi Kate

    I think I missed everything in May (in terms of reading cool blogs, I mean) and now enjoying my ‘catch-up’ time. I love the idea to use the cycle and reflect on one and the same group, making the posts a little ‘series’, or a story which unfolds and shows how your reflection develops. Thanks you so much for sharing it. I really like your action point #4 (often do this myself in class, especially ‘peer-teaching’ to those who came a little late) As for #1 – have you ever asked the students how they would like to ‘deal’ with a book or a unit? It really depends on a group through, and might be an interesting discussion/discovery. Have a good summer!

    Zhenya

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