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    Observation report-1 Observation report-1 Document Transcript

    • Observation Report 1 Intermediate Reading and Composition David Atterberry 01/19/12 There were 16 students in class on the day I observed. The class took place in Kolthoff 139. Class started by the students exchanging their homework journal writings. They were instructed to read and respond to their partner’s journal entry. The students wrote independently for about ten minutes before the students exchanged journals again and read the response their partner wrote to them. After a couple minutes to read the responses, the teacher asked the whole class if anyone said anything funny or surprising. The teacher called on individual students to talk about what they read briefly. I thought this activity was a good way to get the creative juices flowing in class. While the topic of the journal writing was personal (what did you do last weekend?), the writing seemed to serve as a way for students to practice producing written work while not being afraid of making mistakes (as the journals were not “corrected” but discussed). I could see the journal exchanging being good for class rapport as well because it allowed students to interact with classmates in a casual, personal way. Even as a native speaker, I found free-writing/journal writing tasks in my English classes to be beneficial, if only to “clear my creative spring” as one of my professors once put it. After the journal activity, students were put into four groups to go over their homework assignment. The teacher numbered the students off to put them in groups. I found this method of grouping to be quick and effective, although I would vary the way I made groups over the semester to ensure a variety of groupings. The students were asked to compare their answers to the homework and come up with a consensus for each question. The homework questions were about a reading in their textbook about advertising. Students were also asked to justify their answers based on the reading. While listening in on the group discussions, I noticed they were doing a great job defending their answer choices by using the text. After about 8 minutes of group discussions, the class came together and the teacher gave each group four cards labeled A-D to denote each of the possible answers to each question. The teacher then asked each group to hold up the letter of their answer to each question. If the group was correct, they received a point (written on the board). For each question the class discussed why they chose the answer they did, whether it was correct or not. This discussion seemed to lead to a closer analysis of the text they had read in their books. The students seemed to enjoy the homework correction game; it seemed like a fun way to examine the students’ work, and the activity lead to some good discussion of the text and vocabulary. Later in the lesson, students were shown a series of commercials via Youtube that corresponded with ads they read about in their textbook. After each commercial, the class would discuss why the ad would be successful or unsuccessful and where they thought the ad was shown. They were making some great connections between culture and advertising. The students were shown three different McDonald’s ads from three different countries and asked to write in their journals for a couple minutes about what
    • each ad was saying (the message) and which ad would or wouldn’t work in their native country. The discussion that followed was interesting to watch because most students agreed on which ads would work in their own countries, but there were some dissenters. I thought the activity presented the text that the students had been reading in a different way that engaged different senses in an authentic way. The students were able to make connections between culture and advertising by connecting what they had read in their textbooks to the actual advertisements. The last activity the class did that day was related to academic dishonesty at the university. Since the students had been talking about their own cultures related to advertising, the discussion progressed quite easily into talking about what is acceptable or unacceptable in their cultures as far as academic dishonesty. The students were presented with a “quiz” with various scenarios of cheating and plagiarism. They were asked to read each scenario and talk about whether it is acceptable or unacceptable in their own culture and whether they think it is acceptable or unacceptable in American academic culture. They were also asked to state consequences if they thought something was unacceptable. After discussing in their groups (the same four groups as the homework game) the whole class went through the answers according to what is acceptable in American academic culture. I thought this was a good way to present the university’s policies on academic dishonesty because it engaged students in a way that they could relate to (their own cultural policies). The activity also seemed to reinforce the idea that each student’s culture is valued in the class, which seemed like an important idea to foster at the beginning of the semester. Overall, the class seemed student-centered and the teacher acted mainly as a facilitator of discussion among the students. The students had a lot of time to express themselves verbally and in writing. The teacher employed a variety of techniques when calling on students for answers in class ranging from calling on individuals by name to calling on small groups as a whole to asking the whole class in general. With all these methods, the students seemed engaged in the activities and materials, and it felt like the class flowed well. There weren’t many “awkward” silences or uncomfortable moments. The class activities varied from individual work to small group work to whole class work. I think having a variety of activities allowed a majority of students to participate at a level they feel comfortable. The small group activities also seemed to act to facilitate building relationships among students within the class. The class was at the beginning of the semester, so I think it was beneficial to foster those relationships early to build rapport and cohesion among the students in preparation for the rest of the semester.
    • Observation Report 2 Intermediate Oral Skills Laurie Frazier 04/02/12 I observed Laurie Frazier’s ESL 230 (Intermediate Oral Skills) class from 2:30-4:25pm in Kolthoff 140. The class had eleven students from around the world. The majority of students were from China, but there were a couple Arab students and one Spanishspeaking student. The classroom itself was right next to a fire pump room, and it got quite noisy sometimes. The noise did not seem to affect instruction while I was observing, but I could see how outside noises could be distracting for a class, especially an oral skills class where listening and speaking is the focus. The teacher started class by writing the day’s tasks on the board. I could see how telling students what the plan is for the class could be helpful. The teacher can reference the list and try to stay on pace with completing the lesson as planned, and the students can reference the list and know what to anticipate during the lesson. Allowing students to see the tasks for the class before class starts could help them feel involved in the progression of the classroom activities. By being transparent with students about the lesson plan, students can potentially more actively engage with the lesson. After writing the tasks on the board, the teacher asked the students about their weekend. She asked, “How many students spoke English over the weekend?” The class then talked about their weekends and who they spoke English with. Some of the students said they talked to sales people while shopping and another student said he talked to his American roommate. He said his roommate was complaining about school, which lead the class to discuss making small talk with people. This discussion transitioned well into the next fluency activity. I think spending time asking students about their weekends and how they used English outside of class engages students in a personal way. The discussion allows students to share their experiences with each other, and it allows the teacher to gauge which students are using English outside of class. The discussion also allowed the class to talk about casual speech in every day settings like the mall or at home. By relating the students’ experiences to speaking English, students may be able to feel like all their experiences are valued in their English learning, even if they are outside the classroom. The students then participated in a fluency activity where they stood in two lines at the front of the room. The lines faced each other, and the students were asked to talk about their listening homework assignment. The students were assigned to listen to a news report online. The students were labeled A and B, then partner A was asked to tell partner B about their assignment. Partner B was supposed to ask partner A follow-up questions to obtain more information. The student roles were clearly defined, and it was apparent that students had done this activity in previous classes. Before students began speaking, the teacher asked the class how they can be good listeners and examples of questions they could ask their partner to get more information. The example questions
    • were written on the board, so students could reference them during the activity if they got stuck. The class also talked about how they can use nonverbal cues to show they are listening and engaged in the conversation. The teacher started a stop watch with two minutes on it and the students began speaking with each other. After the stop watch went off, the teacher asked partner A to politely end the conversation. The teacher then asked the groups to tell the class what their partner told them about their assignment. The students switched roles, and the activity was repeated. After the two short conversations, each student was called on by name to tell the class about their partner’s listening assignment. During this activity it became obvious that some students did not fully understand what their partners were telling them (as they could not explain to the whole class what their partner told them). This lead the class to discuss ways that they can clarify if they do not understand what someone has said to them. I think this activity was effective in a couple ways. First, the discussion allowed the teacher to check that students had done their listening assignment. In addition to checking completion, the activity allowed students to share their experiences and which resources they used to complete the assignment (BBC.com, TED talks, ESL Lab, VOA news, etc). The partner activity seems to promote free speaking in class and allows students to speak with minimal apprehensions about making mistakes. It seemed like the students were really engaged in the discussions and had few apprehensions about speaking freely with their partners. After this observation, I employed a similar activity in my grammar class as a warm-up where students stood in two lines and were given incomplete questions. The students had to complete the questions by changing the given verbs into the present perfect tense. Then students asked their partner the question and they discussed. The questions were mostly, “Have you ever…” questions, so they were of a somewhat personal nature, asking students to speak about their own experiences. Just as in the oral skills class activity, my students seemed very engaged in the discussion and seemed to enjoy the activity over all. I liked how the teacher incorporated cultural aspects of making small talk and ending conversations politely in the activity. I feel like these elements could be incorporated in conversation activities in other skills classes as well, which would reinforce learning across all the students’ classes. This type of activity also has the potential to reinforce grammar points. In the class I observed, the topic of quantifiers and count/non-count nouns came up. The students also did some book work during the class I observed. They used the textbook Northstar 3: Listening and Speaking. Students were working on Unit 6 on the previous Friday, so they spent some time recalling what they had been talking about. They reviewed the vocabulary by writing the words on the board and defining them as a whole class. During the vocabulary review, students were then put in groups by counting off, and they took turns repeating the vocabulary words to practice pronunciation. The activity was teacher-lead, and the teacher talked about the connections (or lack of connections) between spelling and pronunciation with /sh/. They also talked about where your tongue should be placed during /r/ production and linking sounds in words like “wore on.” I thought it was a good way to target student mistakes in pronunciation while still focusing on the new vocabulary. This activity made me think about how little we focus on pronunciation in grammar. Oral Skills is probably the more
    • appropriate place to target pronunciation problems, but it seems like something that could be touched upon in grammar as well. Our textbook has one pronunciation activity per unit, but we often skip them and just address obvious pronunciation mistakes in a less formal way, by correcting students when they make mistakes and sometimes having them repeat the correct pronunciation. The students spent some more time defining the new vocabulary with their groups before the groups got into the reading and listening activity. The teacher asked students about what they had listened to for homework (a Jackie Torrence story) and they also made predictions about what would come next in the story. The class then listened to the story together and was asked to answer the main idea questions in their textbook with their group. The students were encouraged to say things like, “I didn’t catch that,” if they did not hear or understand the answer to one of the questions. The story recording was told by a woman with a southern accent, and it made me wonder if a lot of the readings have various accents, and how much time is spent considering different accents in the oral skills class. Laurie said that from her experience a lot of ESL listening activities include audio that is stilted and inauthentic, and the audio I heard during my observation was an exception. She also said the textbook they are using has included various accents in some of the audio, but they typically focus on the standard American English accent. I think it is increasingly important to expose students to various accents and dialects of English. With the world becoming smaller and smaller, and the English-speaking population becoming more and more diverse, it seems logical that we should prepare our students to be able to interact with many accents and dialects. Observation Report 3 Integrated Skills for Academic English Alyssa Ruesch 04/19/12 For my third observation I sat in on the ESL 3001 class taught by Alyssa Ruesch. I chose this class because it is serving a population of students that are already in the university, and the class has a different focus than the lower level skills classes I have observed/taught in MELP. The 2 credit class meets twice a week for seven weeks during the semester. The class is made up of 15 international students from various countries. According to Alyssa, most of the students are third or fourth year undergraduate students at the university, which is different than most other semesters this class is offered. Alyssa said the class is designed for first or second year students and it focuses on introducing students to life at an American university. The class uses Academic Interactions as a textbook, but they have abandoned it because it is not applicable to the older, more experienced students. I found this interesting because it is a real-life example of how flexible teachers need to be when designing a curriculum. Ideally, students would choose to enroll in a class that fits their needs, but it would seem that is not always the case. To adapt to the students’ needs, Alyssa and the co-teacher Kate have started using Power Point presentations based on topics that the students
    • are interested in. The students in the class had said they were interested in practicing pronunciation and writing for the remaining weeks of class. To start the class, the teacher wrote the agenda for the day on the board. Like in my second observation, I found this technique to be a helpful way to engage students in the daily operations of the class. The first task of the day was to debrief about the presentations they had done the previous class period. The presentations had been about various services offered on campus. The teacher asked the whole class what they had learned from their classmates’ presentations. Students seemed eager to offer their opinions and speak up when asked as a whole group. The class also discussed what the groups did well, and what they still need to work on. The students were pretty open and honest about their own performance and concerns about presenting. I thought this follow-up discussion to the presentations was beneficial for students because they had a chance to discuss their apprehensions related to presenting and the teacher was able to reinforce that those feelings are normal, even for native speakers. The follow-up discussion also allowed the students to be engaged in the whole presentation process, from planning to presenting to reflection. During this discussion a student asked about presenting, “What should we do when someone asks a question and we don’t know the answer?” This question allowed the discussion to go into the cultural aspects of presenting. The class talked about how it is perfectly acceptable for you to say you do not know the answer to a question in that situation. I think this discussion is beneficial to students because they will undoubtedly face this situation during their time at the university. After reflecting on their presentations from the previous class period, the class started talking about using citations in their writing. They had started talking about using in-text citations during the previous class period as well. The students said they were talking about summarizing, paraphrasing, and making direct quotations. The teacher then elicited the meanings of these ideas from the students. I really liked how after the teacher asked what these terms meant and no one answered right away, she did not immediately provide the answers. The teacher encouraged students to give ideas and she did not provide additional explanation until someone offered their thoughts. I think this technique works on a couple different levels. First, by refusing to just give answers to the students, they will get used to offering their thoughts and be forced to interact and engage with the content. Offering opinions and thoughts in a class discussion is a necessary skill for students to have at the university level, and by expecting students to participate in discussion models what students will experience in their other classes. Eliciting ideas from students also serves to foster critical thinking and recalling prior knowledge. It forces students to interact in their target language and participate in the discourse. Overall, I found the student-teacher interactions in the classroom very student-centered and teacher-facilitated. The teacher was clearly at the head of the class, but it was also clear that every student’s opinions and ideas were valued parts of the classroom dynamic. The rest of the lesson was about paraphrasing in academic writing. The teacher used a Power Point presentation to present the “chunking method” of paraphrasing. In this
    • method, a sentence is read for understanding, divided into “chunks” or thought groups, explained in different words, and then the chunks were recombined into a new sentence. As a native speaker, I found this method helpful, and I wish I had this instruction during my undergraduate studies. After presenting the method, students read an example passage on the overhead screen and were asked to break it into chunks, reword the chunks, and put them together in a new sentence. They also talked about putting an in-text citation at the end of the passage in parenthesis or at the beginning within the passage. During this activity and discussion one student raised a good point about relating the passage you are paraphrasing to the context of the whole passage it comes from. It was interesting watching a high level ESL class of learners because they were willing to raise issues like the connection between their paraphrased passage and the larger context. I think this could be challenging for a teacher who is not prepared for the discussion, but it also presents a very dynamic classroom where the discussion can be directed to suit the needs of the students. The last activity the students did related to paraphrasing included their homework assignment from the previous class. The students were assigned to read an article about using English in business. The activity in class asked the students to choose a passage from their homework article and paraphrase it using the “chunking method.” Students worked independently in Microsoft Word, and the teacher monitored their work via the teacher computer’s remote desktop feature. This feature allowed the teacher to monitor each student computer from one place in the room. It also allowed the teacher to share a student desktop with the rest of the class. When students had finished paraphrasing their passage, the teacher asked for some volunteers to share their paraphrasing via the remote desktop. The class then discussed what was done well and what could be done to improve the paraphrase. This activity also proved to be a good time to address grammatical and lexical choices in the student paraphrased passages. I think the biggest thing I took away from observing this class is the importance of suiting student needs and how beneficial student-centered teaching can be to creating a friendly, enthusiastic atmosphere for learners. By tailoring the content and materials used in class to meet student needs, the students are more likely to benefit from the course, and the teacher will probably enjoy the classroom interactions more than if students were not learning anything new. That being said, it raises a question of definition for me. How much should a teacher change their course content to suit student needs if it means completely reevaluating the entire curriculum? I think the choice to abandon the textbook and pursue topics that are more pertinent to the students’ lives in this case was the right choice because, from what I could tell, all of the students would benefit from it. They were all at about the same level of experience, and the change would suit all of them. What happens if the class is less homogeneous when it comes to learning levels? I think there has to be a balance between being flexible and meeting student needs and maintaining a planned curriculum in the case of mixed-level classes. Perhaps in most cases it would not be appropriate to completely change the syllabus, but smaller actions could be taken within the planned curriculum to help better suit student needs.