"You're only as tall as your heart will let you be, and you're only as small as the world will make you seem. When the going gets rough and you feel like you will fall, just look on the bright side: you're roughly six feet tall." ~Never Shout Never, On the Brightside
Thursday, July 9, 2015
June 17 2015
Two things that struck me as worthy of reflection during today’s class: a) if you want students to follow directions you must give clear directions and b) teacher silence is an important part of teaching. I have struggled with the directions part since I started teaching adults. It may be an overcorrection on my part for not wanting to seem like I’m dumbing down my directions or treating adult students like children. Since the majority of my experience has been with children, most of my direction-giving experience has been with children, and when I started teaching adults I was really conscious to change my language so that I didn’t seem condescending. What I’ve come to realize though is that beginning language learners, even adult learners, ARE somewhat like children. What I’d say to a group of children and what I’d say to a group of beginning language learners is quite similar, and after a few classes with adults I began to realize that beginning language learner adults really appreciated the comprehensible input similar to that of a school-aged child. I also realized (and still am realizing really) that if I don’t make that input comprehensible in my directions learners will fill in the gaps and make their own directions. Children will do this too, more naturally, but adults are likely to do what makes them comfortable if they don’t have clear directions. Case in point: I always try to get my adult learners to write something every class, so when we are doing dialogue practice from the book I will say something like “practice the conversation with a partner, then ask three new questions for your partner.” I see now why these directions were a little strange. In my mind the activity flowed nicely, allowing practice of new language patterns with the acquired vocabulary. What I failed to realize was how hard it was for adult learners to do this without first writing the question down. What ended up happening was they’d practice the conversation, and when they were done with that all nine of them started writing a list of 10 questions, somewhat related to the topic, on a piece of paper, and then answering their own questions. There was no dialogue happening at all. And the amateurish teacher in me thought that maybe this was good practice, after all they were using new language patterns and seeing that the language of the answer matches the language of the question, but there was also no talking happening. Had we had more time in class, I probably would have phrased my directions differently and made them ask their written questions to a partner. But I do see now the power of good, clear directions and how hard they are to give in a classroom setting full of different abilities.
The other take away from today was the point about teacher silence. It reminded me how much a talk in class and how much I really don’t need to talk in class. After today’s class, I took this point to my classroom and while doing a warm up activity, instead of me asking questions with “Did” and reviewing simple past tense, I decided to put the questions on index cards. I had learners draw a card from a hat and they had to ask the question to a learner of their choice, who had to answer it. I really did practice the five second rule, and was much more aware of how long it took before I wanted to react and “save” my students. I tried the counting to five in my head trick, and I was pleasantly surprised that when I did that, students were much more willing to answer in complete sentences, and take risks with their sentence construction. They weren’t always right, but when they weren’t I noticed other learner making the correction with a “be” verb or plural form, which I think was way more effective than it would have been had I been the one to do the correction. Sometimes shutting up can be the best thing for the classroom dynamic. J