***In the first edition of this post I made the all too common error of construing description of an experience with the feelings that surround the experience. I have attempted to amend this error.***
I have no reflective practice (RP) meeting to attend this month and I’m feeling the RP junkie withdrawals. So, with your kind permission, I’d like to conduct my own personal RP session here.
On the whole the current session of classes I am teaching has come together better than ever before.
Both classes are very similar in level, age and cultural background. The material I cover and methods by which I do so are nearly the same. For these reasons the striking differences between the two are somewhat perplexing.
As of yesterday my winter session of 20 2-hour classes is half complete. I am teaching high-beginner (HB) and low-intermediate (LI) level conversation classes. Each class has a similar number of students, 11 and 14 respectively.
Both classes meet everyday for 2 hours. I teach HB Monday through Friday, and teach LI Wednesday through Friday. The LI class meets with another teacher who teaches the lessons on Monday and Tuesday.
The administration allows educators to set the curriculum as we see fit, so there is a large amount of freedom RE what to cover and how we go about it.
A previous goal of mine was to more clearly define class and individual goals as well as to conduct more frequent and thorough needs assessments. On the first day of class I communicated 3 SMART goals that I was hoping to help the students achieve in our short time together. Each student created a goal for themselves.
The HB class goals mostly resembled the following:
– I want to use more complete sentences when I speak
– I want to improve my pronunciation
– I want to be more confident when using English
– I want to be on time to class and participate actively every day.
The LI class goals resembled…
– I want to be better at speaking with native speakers
– I don’t want to freeze when using English
– I want to expand the vocabulary I use in conversation
– I want to improve my pronunciation
My observations (after two weeks)
A) the HB class seems to be quite at ease with each other, much more so that LI
B) student attendance is near perfect in HB, it is quite sporadic with LI
C) in the HB class students pay close attention to their output and work to change when errors are recognized
D) the LI students speak more freely but seem to have more errors in their speech and are more resistant/hesitant to acknowledging them (and/or find it more difficult to regulate their output)
E) the HB students seem to listen actively to the teacher and their peers, LI is more hit or miss
F) the HB students actively engage in activities and develop interesting and thoughtful conversations with each other
G) the LI students struggle to maintain basic conversations beyond their “comfort zones” (ie- the structures and phrases that come out easily/quickly)
H) more laughing occurs with the HB class as compared to the LI class
I) idioms and colloquial/everyday language comes to my mind more naturally with the HB class
J) At the beginning of class I give free time for students to catch up/warm up in English. The HB class enjoys this time. Every day the students sit next to different class mates and actively engage in small talk. The LI class is far more segregated and often relies on me to manage the conversation.
K) Students are aware of class goals. When I hear a mistake or error in speech RE these goals I raise my hand. Students in the HB class think hard and work together to work out what the error/mistake was. My hand has rarely gone up in their class recently. The LI students generally look at me with befuddlement. They repeat what they said and look confused at one another. They seem to rely on/wait for me to tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. My hand goes up frequently and for the same reasons with the same students.
After two weeks the HB class has made great strides. I can see improvement in every student. Improvement RE class goals and individual goals is marked. General retention of new language chunks and structures is high.
A couple LI students seem to have improved slightly, most make the same errors as when they first came to class. Retention of what is covered in class is low. Class goals are not being met and individual goals are vaguely being addressed.
That about does it for the description phase of my ELC (experiential learning cycle). There is of course far more that could be added. In the interest of time I will halt it here.
Next up – analysis
In the next post I will address questions that have arisen from these observations and try to analyze why these differences are occurring.