Monday: “Easy” day of observing three of my classmates teach. The group of students was quiet and had sort of a strange dynamic…I felt a bit bad for my colleagues, who were trying desperately to engage them. But each person’s lesson segment went well enough and I was impressed with G’s lesson structure and flow.
Tuesday: We observed “real” teachers for an hour before having a session on “teaching listening skills.” Two of my classmates and I observed Jess (an Oxford House College teacher) teaching an upper-intermediate class; they were an energetic group with good English, and though Jess herself seemed a little scattered/flustered, she did some interesting matching activities and got the students talking.
Back with the big group, we learned how not to execute a listening activity and then focused on how to do it correctly. Some important points for teaching listening (as well as reading, the other “receptive skill”):
- Set up the context for the listening text. This could be through discussion with the class, pre-teaching vocabulary, introducing a few phrases and having students guess what they’re going to listen about…
- Give the students a clear task to concentrate on while listening to the text. Without a task, the students won’t know what to listen for and will get bogged down in the details or just space out. Like with reading, one can listen for gist, listen for specific information, listen for detail, and listen for inference.
- After listening, make sure to get feedback and make sure that the students understood the task. If they didn’t, explain the task again and play the listening once more.
Another important part of listening is to use authentic materials. That is, “real life” speech. This could take the form of a radio show, an interview, dialogues, TV or movies, or songs. Bobby (our tutor) introduced us to a really fun “music bingo” activity: we each got a grid of nine words that showed up in the song he would later play. First, we formed small groups and had to guess what the song might be about. Then we listened to the song and if we heard a word that was on our bingo grid, we had to cross it off. The first person (two of us, in this case) to cross off all their words was the winner. (Wish I would’ve known about this activity in Ukraine…my English clubs would’ve loved it!)
Thursday: Teaching 30 minutes to the upper-intermediate students. I was last to teach of three in a grammar lesson on question tags (“You’re from America, aren’t you?“) and I needed my colleagues to teach the class about question tags before my segment, which was about practicing them. Sasha and Denis did a great job familiarizing the students with question tags and teaching them the rules, which made my lesson go smoothly. The students had to do a long activity that included matching the correct question tags to statements, then working with a partner to match the correct answers to the question tag-statements. At the end, I asked each student to write a few questions tag-statements of their own; then we mingled as they asked and answered each other’s questions. I was happy with the entire lesson, except for a small part in which I should’ve done some language or content feedback rather than go over the answers to the exercise. (While I was teaching, I realized how fun it really is for me. I had a blast up there, talking about grammar and chatting with the students. I must be in the right field.) My colleagues and tutor gave me positive feedback and I was again given “above standard” for my lesson — yeah, baby!
Saturday: We had two main sessions. The first focused on “introducing new language”; that is, teaching a new grammatical or lexical (vocabulary-based) item. The three things that must be covered for any new language are: 1) meaning, 2) form (structure), and 3) pronunciation. After these three things have been introduced and studied, you can move to controlled practice followed by freer use of the language item. There are various ways to teach each segment in new language. The second session was all about lexis. “What is lexis?” you may ask. Well, lexis includes lexical items (fixed units with one meaning), which can be single words, collocations (word combinations that fit together, like “unrequited love”), or idiomatic phrases. We talked about teaching patterns of usage to students; for example, the verb “put” is always followed by a noun and a place (“Put it in the bin“). Looking at patterns — or chunks of language — rather than hard and fast rules will help students integrate their knowledge and intuitively understand how to use certain language patterns.
In sum, it was a decent week of class. Next Thursday I’ll teach another 30-minute lesson and we’ll have a session on teaching grammar. I also need to work on Assignment 1 (more on that later).
[Read on for Week 4…]