Monday: In our small teaching groups. Three of my colleagues taught while the other three of us observed. The group of students wasn’t very dynamic; whether that was due to them or to the teachers, I’m not quite sure. Probably a combination. I and A’s lessons were okay. G taught a great last segment that seemed to perk up the class (and me) a bit and really get them engaged; I was surprised that Bobby didn’t give her “above standard.” To my colleagues’ credit, words like “any,” “some,” “anything/one,” “something/one,” and “everything/one” are really hard to teach.
Tuesday: Bobby led a really interesting and useful session on “staging grammar lessons.” Obviously teaching grammar is a big part of teaching a language, but it is not easy to help students understand what the grammar means and how it works. There are three parts of grammar (and lexis) that must be taught: meaning, form, and pronunciation/stress. In a grammar lesson, these three parts can be effectively taught through “guided discovery.” In Bobby’s demonstration, this came in the form of a worksheet that included a sentence modeling the grammar, CCQs (Concept Checking Questions) to check the meaning of the grammatical structure, gap filling for the bare grammar form (e.g., Subject + _am/is/are___ + V-ing), and marking the sentence stress. This kind of thing is great because, rather than the teacher standing at the board reciting the rules and structure for a grammatical form, it allows the students to figure it out for themselves (and thus learn and remember it better). Guided discovery should take up the middle of the grammar lesson and lead into controlled practice of the grammar (for accuracy — think standard grammar exercises from a book) followed by freer practice such as writing a story or having a discussion.
I’m teaching grammar in my lesson on Thursday, so this session was really useful in thinking about how I will introduce and teach the material.
Thursday: 30 minutes of teaching for two of my colleagues and me. I taught the middle section. It was a grammar lesson on ways to talk about the future. For your grammar lesson of the day, there are four main forms of the future:
- Subject + will + V1 (bare infinitive = infinitive without “to”) — e.g., “I will go to the library now to learn about my assignment.” We use this form for spontaneous decisions as well as to make predictions about what we know, think, or believe.
- S + going to + V1 (bare infinitive) — e.g., “I am going to quit my job and go back to school.” We use “going to” for general plans and intentions (those in which no details have been worked out yet) as well as to make predictions about what we see or hear now.
- Present Continuous tense: S + am/is/are + V-ing — a present tense used for the future? Tricky! This is often called the “diary future”; that is, it is used to talk about a future arrangement for which the details have been worked out. If you’d write it in your planner or on your calendar, you can probably use the present continuous to talk about it: “She is playing a soccer match at 10am tomorrow.”
- S + bound to + V1 (bare infinitive) — e.g., “She is bound to get the job. It’s obvious that she is being groomed for it.” This is not as common — maybe it’s used more in British English? — but is used to talk about things that are absolutely certain to happen in the future.
So that’s what my section of the lesson focused on. It was my job to help the students figure out the rules for when to use which constructions and to do some controlled practice of said constructions. I was generally happy with my lesson; the students seemed to understand the differences between the future forms and asked some good questions along the way. I went about 3 minutes over my allotted time, though, and with that still didn’t have a chance to fit in any pronunciation/stress work, so now I know that for future grammar lessons I need to allow buffer time for spontaneous questions or explanations that may come up. That said, Bobby still awarded me “above standard” for this lesson. My colleagues gave me really nice feedback: they liked my breakdown and explanation of the language, my use of the overhead projector (OHP) and board, my eliciting and classroom interaction, and the overall structure/staging of the lesson. Bobby’s action points for me to focus on in my next lesson are to incorporate more pronunciation work, not to explain a grammar concept before the students work on a discovery task (I inadvertently explained “bound to” before the students did the discovery work), and to include an example/model in the instructions for almost every task (I didn’t use an example for one of my tasks).
BONUS: Working on Assignment 1. We’ll have four assignments over the 13-week course. The first one is called “Focus on the Learner” and it’s essentially a case-study/analysis of one student’s language skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We have to interview a student — I chose Giuseppe, an Italian guy that has been coming to the free lessons that we teach — and analyze their spoken English, then we have to procure a piece of writing from said student in order to assess their written English. It’s a massive task that requires us to learn about common mistakes made by the nationality of the student we’re working with in order to better analyze English skills. We have to write about our student’s learning style(s), preferences, and motivations for studying English. In the end, we give suggestions for how our student can work on his/her weaknesses. It’s good because it makes us go in-depth with both spoken and written language in order to see what and how mistakes happen.
Keep reading for Week 5…