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Master's final project focused on the research of methodological improvements applicable to ESO students who have learning difficulties and lack of motivation.

By Vanesa Juárez

Treball de final de Màster centrat en la recerca sobre millores metodològiques aplicables a grups d'ESO els alumnes dels quals tenen problemes d'aprenentatge i de motivació.

Trabajo de final de curso centrado en la investigación sobre mejoras metodológicas aplicables a grupos de ESO cuyos alumnos tienen problemas de aprendizaje y de motivación.

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  2. 2. 1 INDEX Introduction Presentation of the Final Project in the English teaching specialty in the Obligatory Secondary Education............................................................................3 Centre and group where the innovative didactic suggestion is applied .........4 Proposal of the educational innovation Objectives and justification of the project...................................................................6 Theoretical Framework Dealing with lack of motivation .......................................................................9 Teaching-learning strategies of the project.....................................................9 Observation and proposals of every session ...............................................................11 Session one – 4th /April o Observations ........................................................................................12 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................13 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................15 Session two – 11th /April o Observations ........................................................................................17 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................18 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................20 Session three– 18th /April o Observations ........................................................................................21 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................22 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................24 Exam Unit 6 comments ....................................................................................26 Session four– 25th /April o Observations ........................................................................................27 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................28 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................29 Session five – 2nd /May o Observations ........................................................................................31 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................32 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................33
  3. 3. 2 Session six – 7th /May o Observations ........................................................................................34 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................35 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................36 Session seven 16th /May o Observations ........................................................................................37 o Methodological and didactic suggestions............................................38 o Description of an alternative session for R3........................................39 Conclusions....................................................................................................40 Bibliography..................................................................................................42 Appendices Appendix I :.......................................................................................................44 Appendix II :......................................................................................................45 Appendix III :.....................................................................................................46 Appendix IV: .....................................................................................................47 Appendix V: ......................................................................................................47 Appendix VI: .....................................................................................................48 Appendix VII : ...................................................................................................49 Appendix VIII : ..................................................................................................50 Appendix IX :.....................................................................................................50 Appendix X :......................................................................................................51 Appendix XI :.....................................................................................................52 Appendix XII :....................................................................................................54 Appendix XIII :...................................................................................................54 Appendix XIV : ..................................................................................................58 Appendix XV : ...................................................................................................61 Appendix XVI : ..................................................................................................62 Appendix XVII : .................................................................................................62 Appendix XVIII : ................................................................................................63 Appendix XIX : ..................................................................................................63 Appendix XX : ...................................................................................................64 Appendix XXI : ..................................................................................................65 Appendix XXII : .................................................................................................66 Appendix XXIII : ................................................................................................67 Appendix XXIV:.................................................................................................68 Appendix XXV ...................................................................................................69
  4. 4. 3 INTRODUCTION Presentation of the Final Project in the English Obligatory Secondary Education teaching specialty. The present project is a collection of didactic proposals that in the form of improvements of the methods often used to explain, practice and present the activities done in the English language Secondary Education class, tries to be an innovative way of teaching English, without changing the curriculum already set by the Catalan Educational Department. These proposals are aimed at a particular student profile that lacks academic motivation and shares the classroom with students with the same problem by the decision of an educational centre. During my Practicum I and II, I had the chance to observe three different groups of a same ESO year, each defined by its own level of difficulty, which was established by the student’s limitations that the teachers of every subject thought they had. In the case of the English language subject, the group Rhythm 1 (R1), the one supposed to have the higher level of the three, followed a course book in a traditional way, by explaining the contents of every unit and completing the corresponding activities proposed by the book. In Rhythm 2 (R2), the teachers tried to follow the same strategy, but the students lacked a lot of motivation and their bad attitude did not let the teachers make considerable progress. Rhythm 3 (R3) was normally more submissive in attitude terms, but their self-esteem was very low and they had assumed the idea that going to school was useless and dull, so their effort to pass the subject was minimum, and therefore, the teacher had to follow an easier course book and demand significantly much less than to what was demanded to R1. During my practicum, I worked with 3rd of ESO R1, but I had a chance to observe all the other groups of R1, R2 and R3 of different years. Many times I had the feeling that if the activities were presented more attractively and in a way in which the students could participate more as individuals, the tasks could become more dynamic and interesting, not only for them, but even for me as an observer and sometimes a second teacher, since I would get bored many times during the classes. I never had the chance to teach a R3 group during my Practicum, and yet, I would become very intrigued with 2nd of ESO R3 in particular, because I would wonder if those students had an age in which academic motivation could still be instilled through the idea that learning could be interesting, fulfilling, or even fun sometimes. A big change in the maturity of the students could be seen in 3rd of ESO R3, since they seemed to be less innocent than a year before, and therefore, more reluctant to change their negative
  5. 5. 4 ideas about school. 4th of ESO R3 was already a very difficult group in which many students had very deeply assumed their academic failure and their poor prospects for the future in economic terms, especially those who did not believe they would get their Secondary Education certificate. So, from these reflections during my Practicum at the educational centre I was assigned, I got the key idea to start and develop this Master’s Final Project. I decided I would make research to learn about methods and activities that could beat more successfully the lack of motivation while being effective enough to teach the same content and skills indicated in the official curriculum that students of 2nd of ESO are supposed to learn in their English language subject. Then, I would go every Thursday to the centre, observe what 2nd of ESO R1 would do in terms of activities and instructional explanations, and then compare it to what it was done in 2nd of ESO R3. Finally, I would try to become creative myself and transform the activities observed in both groups taking into account the research I had made, and design proposals to be applied to 2nd of ESO R3. This seemed to me a very enriching task personally as a future teacher, but also a useful project that could motivate other teachers to be always creative with the preparation of their lessons, especially if they are aimed at difficult students that need their teachers not only to learn English and accomplish the official curriculum, but also to stimulate and inspire them, so these students believe more in themselves and get motivated again with their academic experience. Centre and group where the innovative didactic suggestion is applied The educational centre I was assigned for my Practicum I and II, and in which I take my observations in order to develop the present project, is the IES Miquel Crusafont I Pairò, a small Secondary Education centre placed on the outskirts of Sabadell. It is a CAEP centre (Preferential Educational Attention Centre), which means that it is a centre located in an unfavourable social and economic surroundings and in which students generally have difficulties to achieve the general objective of the basic education due to their social and cultural conditions. The centre decided to have only two administrative lines in ESO and one in Batxillerat, but choosing a grouping based on rhythms which made diversity attention easier to work with in the case of the ESO students. A R1 group is made of the approximately thirty better-focused students of a year, whereas a R2 group holds the others that are supposed to create more trouble in class and have worse academic results. Because of the difficulty found by teachers when dealing with the latter, a third group is created, R3, and holds the ones that are not that difficult to deal with in terms
  6. 6. 5 of attitude, but are supposed to be much slower than R1.The R1 group is assessed mainly in terms of concepts and through the grades students get from their written work along the trimester and from the unit exams. In the case of the R3 group, students are assessed taking into account mainly their attitude and the effort shown to complete activities in class. Exams are not taken so much into account and students know it, which could be a reason why the R3 group normally does not study to pass these tests. The group to which the innovative proposals of this project are applied is 2nd of ESO R3, which normally is formed by 8-10, – there are two students from the Open Classroom (Aula Oberta) who only attend from time to time. I also observe the group 2nd of ESO R1 and compare what they do in class with what the group 2nd of ESO R3 do. The English lessons of the R3 group take place on Wednesday at 9:00, on Thursday at 13:30 and on Friday at 12:30, whereas those of the R1 group take place on Monday at 9:00, on Wednesday at 10:00 and on Thursday at 11:30. I was only able to go to the centre on Thursdays and observe only one hour a week of both groups.
  7. 7. 6 PROPOSAL OF THE EDUCATIONAL INNOVATION OBJECTIVES AND JUSTIFICATION OF THE PROJECT The majority of obligatory education centres in Catalonia have several lines of the same ESO year due to the big amount of students of the same age. In each line of an ESO year, they are taught exactly the same contents and procedures which are programmed by the teacher, which is normally the same one for all the lines. However, there are some centres in which, due to the huge difference in diversity and level of cognitive development of the students, they decide to divide the lines taking into account this difference of rhythm of learning. The same way that it seems fair that in a standard centre every line of an ESO year receives the same education than the others, I think that in centres where students are separated into rhythms it is fair to apply the same curriculum as well, in every subject of their curriculum. Another matter is the need of adaptation in terms of methodology, so that, in the rhythms in which students are less mature or have more concentration difficulties in comparison with other students of their own age, they can learn the same content and develop the same competences that they are supposed to acquire during the ESO years in an easier way for them. This is not always the case in centres in which students are separated by rhythms, since teachers many times confuse the idea of adaptation with a change of contents so they are easier for the slower lines, especially when they are teachers that have spent many years teaching this kind of groups trying to apply the same methodologies they apply to the faster ones and are disheartened by the poor results they get. At this point, teachers assume the erroneous idea that these adolescents belonging to these lower rhythm groups are totally unable to be good students, due to their lack of concentration and, in many cases, their ability to take to pieces the class because of their belief that school is not useful for them and it is just an obligation they have to endure as they can, even if it is misbehaving every time they get bored. The problem with these students from lower level rhythms is generally one of lack of motivation, which does not let them see the need to make an effort to get good marks in their studies in order to have a better future when they finish school. In fact, there are a few students with this profile also in the higher level rhythms, but because these groups tend to be bigger in number, these students may get neutralized in attitude terms, although they never really follow the class as their classmates, and lag considerably behind. When that is
  8. 8. 7 the case and they cannot follow the level, they do not complain as students from lower rhythms many times do, because they feel too embarrassed in front of their classmates. It is true that the lower rhythms sometimes admit the participation of students from the Open Classroom (Aula Oberta), who are adolescents that have a real cognitive problem that does not let them follow a normal class rhythm for their age. These students need a specially adapted curriculum and many times, an extra educator next to them to be able to follow what the teacher is explaining. However, the majority of students belonging to the lower level rhythms are capable enough to follow a normal class, but they just do not see the point because they have never had good study habits and do not know what it feels to fulfil academic challenges, normally not even from the Primary school years. This should not be a reason to let them achieve their Obligatory Secondary Education with a poorer acquisition of the contents and basic skills they are supposed get when they are sixteen years old. Since these students cannot be motivated in terms of getting good marks because they do not have confidence enough to stick to long-term rewards, as it is getting their ESO certificate, they could be motivated in a different way, by showing them that every day, in every class, they can achieve more immediate rewards, such as learning something interesting and prove to themselves they can acquire it and use it with a particular purpose. English is a subject these students find particularly difficult and boring, since they cannot use this foreign language in a practical way until they have learned the features of the language itself. That is why teachers usually follow traditional methods of learning English such as asking the students to translate a lot of vocabulary with a dictionary, or complete many fill-in activities in a book, even if they know these methods do not really work unless students memorize such vocabulary or practice their grammar in oral activities. But to ask the students to concentrate and work on the same book for 50 minutes – which is not very advisable anyway but that could work with students which are motivated by the idea of passing the subject – does not work with students who are sent to these slower rhythm groups and who lack any kind of academic motivation. In the English class, these students soon get bored and lose concentration during a task; they do not see the point of what they are doing and stop working and desperately look for possible distractions such as talking to other classmates, drawing pictures on their notebooks, or even getting up and walking around the classroom with the excuse of throwing something to the bin or having something “very important” to say to a classmate that is sitting on the other side of the room. The students of lower rhythm’s groups need a better set of strategies that can make them forget about their frustration with studies while they are in class. Normally, these students
  9. 9. 8 have been in this situation for years and not only with the English language subject, but with their general academic performance. That is why such strategies should allow the teacher draw their attention to the present moment and set more immediate and simple objectives that students can easily spot and want to achieve. The strategies chosen and the way in which they are adapted to a group in order to increase their attention and their motivation can vary a lot depending on the kind of students. That is why all the proposals suggested in this work are illustrated taking into account a real case, 2nd of ESO R3, which is described in the previous section. As I mentioned before, this 2nd of ESO group is considered to have a very low learning rhythm when teachers have tried to apply the same strategies used with the students of the 2nd of ESO R1. Also, it should be taken into account that in this educational centre students are used to a way of teaching that tends to be less audio visually supported, less related to the students’ personal interests and more monotonous and mechanical in terms of activities than it should be when adapting the curriculum to students that lack autonomy, motivation and an ability to concentrate on academic tasks. In this project, all the activities observed in 2nd R1 are therefore refined in all these aspects that can be useful to abstract students from their self-conscious lack of motivation and their self-beliefs related to what they are capable of doing with English. A strategy I now consider very important after observing this very same group during my practicum II is to make the students feel they are not doing conventional class activities. I do not mean that students have to believe they are just playing games, but they need to feel they are doing something different that can challenge them in a different way. When this has been the case, in some occasions during the practicum, I have seen students more motivated feeling that they had the opportunity to prove their capability with studies in a new way, especially if it gave them the chance to contribute in the class in a more personal way. When they could contribute in that way, they could feel as important as the rest of their classmates, something crucial to increase their self-confidence and contribute to a more positive creation of a possible self. I think this ideal situation should be constantly recreated in class so that, little by little, students consider the classroom a space in which they relate learning English with having a good time in which they can be themselves. The way in which the activities are prepared and presented by the teacher is very important to make students feel such relation, regardless of the content and the procedures indicated in the curriculum that the teachers are supposed to teach. Creativity and the need to keep improving when preparing the classes are also basic requirements to be a good teacher. These teaching principals want to be the base of the following proposals, along with a solid base of knowledge of the didactic methods that could work better in a specific situation, which in this case are gathered in the bibliography that appears at the end of this project and which are summarized in the following section.
  10. 10. 9 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Dealing with lack of motivation When preparing the alternative sessions in this project, I always kept in mind a set of principles dealing with the motivation of the students in order to reduce the effect of previous academic failure and frustration on the student’s future performance. There are two main ideas that define these principles. The first idea, and a one that the teacher always needs to take into account in class, is that students get more interested in the learning of English if the topic seems new for them and is presented in an attractive way (Escaño, Gil de la Serna, 2008). The second is that the experiences that are lived in an emotional way are better recalled and remembered in a longer term, so what is learned in an emotional way becomes better consolidated by the students (Gallego, Gallego, 2004). In order to attract the students to the topic of the class, the teacher has to include significant communicative situations in all the sessions. They are perfect to get the student’s attention and to make them see that they have the opportunity to participate and be active in an environment that the teacher is presenting as interesting and comfortable for them (Besalú, Tort, 2009). In these class conversations it is when the students can get involved in a personal and emotional way and the knowledge can be cognitively better consolidated. This also helps to improve the level of the self esteem of the students, since it is in these communicative moments that the teacher has the chance to create situations in which the students feel valuable and become aware that what they achieve in class is useful for the rest of their classmates (Thorne, 2008). The objective is that students create new and more positive expectations about their experience with the study of the English language. To achieve that, the teacher has to encourage the students to talk about themselves and listen to others, and share their reflections and aspirations with the English language in a friendly environment (Fukada, Fukuda, Falout, & Murphey, 2011). That is why such significant communicative situations become basic to motivate the students. Teaching-learning strategies of the project In the present project I also include a series of strategies dealing with teaching and learning English in order to improve the dynamics and methodological results of the sessions. Consequently, these strategies will help the teacher achieve the objectives dealing with the students’ motivation. The first suggestion is that the teacher makes sure that there is an alternation of different kinds of activities during the sessions, so students feel stimulated and willing to participate (Besalú, Tort, 2009), and also that they have the opportunity to
  11. 11. 10 develop all the communication skills needed to learn English – reading, listening, speaking and writing. Also, the teacher could organize the sessions in terms of time, including some moments that were repeated and turned into routines, and in terms of space, so every task had its own class distribution and the sessions were more dynamic (Escaño, Gil de la Serna, 2008). Another important suggestion made in this project is that most of the alternated activities carried out during the sessions are significant communicative situations. Therefore, the classes could begin with a presentation of the topic – or recapitulation if started in previous sessions – to make it interesting and catch the attention of the students. Then, the students should be encouraged to talk about the topic and explain what they already know and what they would like to learn about it. This kind of class discussion helps students develop critical- thinking skills and their English communication skills in an authentic situation (Escaño, Gil de la Serna 2008). Another routine to be included in the sessions should be to finish the classes by getting the students together – it could be with the chairs in the shape of half a circle so they could see the teacher in the middle for a better experience – and all the students were encouraged to recapitulate and reflect about the session. This way, the students have the opportunity to comment about the sessions and feel they also have a voice. Moreover, the teacher can learn about the student’s experience with English and see what strategies worked and which did not, in order to improve for the next sessions (Ferreiro, 2006). One more important suggestion is to always make students aware of the objective of what they do in class so there is a chance for the students to get motivated and creative, and feel responsible about the current task (Bernaus, 1995). In order to turn the tasks into an attainable objective for the students, it is very important to make such an objective very clear, because sometimes it may not be that obvious for the students (Escaño, Gil de la Serna, 2010). It is advisable to give a realistic context to the tasks so they become enriching in regard to the competences and skills to be developed, and so the students feel challenged enough without feeling disheartened (Vilella, 2013). Apart from the objectives of the session, it is important that the teacher makes the students aware of the logical connections between what was learned in the previous sessions and what is going to be learned in the next ones (Mercer, 2001), and that he/she creates zones of proximal development that make it easier for the students to understand the new knowledge and to build their own learning process (Onrubia, 1993). It could also be interesting to involve the students in a discussion in which they give their opinion about the assessing objectives and tasks that appear in the exams, so they feel more encouraged to prepare for their evaluation (Onrubia, Fillat, Martínez and Udina, 1998). Another way to stimulate the students for the wish of more English language knowledge is to make evident the relations between what is learned at school and how such knowledge can be used in real life (Perrenoud, 1999).
  12. 12. 11 Moreover, in this project it is suggested that learning strategies are taught to the students, so they have tools to deal with the English learning and feel more autonomous when studying. Some of these strategies are to categorize the new vocabulary into kinds so it is better memorized by the students (Nogales, Sancho, 2008), to take notes while watching a video or doing a listening, so the activity is not passive and the new knowledge becomes better processed by the students (Ferreiro, 2006), to make use of repetition but in a consistent way, so it is processed in the long-term memory of the students (De Jong Perfetti, 2011), or to focus on the vocabulary without forgetting the grammar, since that helps students to get more fluent with their English when participating in class (Hilton, 2008). Another invaluable learning strategy that the students should be taught is cooperative work. By working in groups, students that have more trouble working alone because they get more distracted or find the tasks too difficult to be solved by themselves can find the help of their classmates and feel more satisfied with their own contributions (Pujolàs, 2008/Torrego, Negro, 2012). Also, cooperative work is a perfect strategy to create a constant significant communicative situation during the sessions. A summary table of the theoretical framework can be found in appendix I. OBSERVATIONS AND PROPOSALS FOR EVERY SESSION The classes last fifty minutes approximately, especially those of R1, in which students come after the break and may not all of them be ready until 11:35 and not completely concentrated on the task until 11:40. The teacher also has to spend some time turning on the computer, in both groups, something that can take around 5 minutes. Both groups normally start correcting some homework, although if that is a rule in R1, it is not always the case in R3. So, while the computer is turning on, the teacher is usually checking table by table who has done the homework, and afterwards, prepares to correct the homework along with the whole group. All the R1 sessions described in this paper take place in a big room that can gather the thirty students comfortably, and they never get to work with laptops or in the computer room because there are more students than computers. In the case of R3, most Thursdays go and work in the computer room because it is a small group that never surpasses the fifteen students. In terms of attitude, the R1 group normally has more patience when dealing with activities in which one student participates at a time than the R3 group. In the latter, there are always a couple of students that disrupt the class on purpose because they get bored and restless or because they need to get the attention of the rest of the class. In the R1 group there are also
  13. 13. 12 two or three students that are normally told off by the teacher, but these are more neutralized by the presence of many other students that are behaving correctly. As for the materials normally used, in the R1 group they use the Interface course book, both the student’s book and the workbook, and sometimes photocopies from other sources chosen by the teacher. In the case of the R3 group, and by the decision of the English department of the centre, they use a simplified version of the Interface workbook called Interface basics, which is designed by the same publisher to help students with special needs. However, the teacher giving these lessons considers that this workbook is very limited and boring, so she prepares many photocopies from other sources, especially the Internet, where she searches for many other activities related to the topic they are dealing with at a particular moment. Session one – 4th/April Observations: Both groups had just started unit 6 from the book – called ‘make a difference’ – and before this session of the 4th of April, students had already been introduced to the first vocabulary topic of the unit, which is ‘jobs’. However, the homework that the R1 group corrected at the beginning of the class was a reading that had to do with the world’s water day and the water crisis, which is in the second page of the Student’s book of the unit. Most of the students had read the text and completed the activities in their notebooks for homework and, in general, it seemed a topic that students found interesting and had comments and questions to make about. On the other hand, for homework, the R3 group students had to bring a piece of paper with ten names of jobs they wanted written down and with the translation next to every word. The idea was that these jobs were new words for them that they had looked up at home, although most of the students just wrote the ones they knew plus others they had translated directly from Spanish and were wrong. Three students had not even done them, so the teacher gave them a piece of paper and a pocket dictionary and asked them to do it in class before passing to the next activity. The main task in the R1 group was to create a class discussion about jobs and what students would like to do in the future by using the Bureau of Labor Statistics website from the United States department of labour (appendix I). This educational website is nicely presented with the general question ‘What do you like?’ and some of the possible answers could be ‘reading’, ‘social studies’, ‘building and fixing things’, ‘maths’, ‘helping people’, etc. The teacher asked students to choose one, and then have a look at the different options at every field. If the students chose ‘law’, for example, the teacher opened the hyperlink and different options came out, such as ‘police officer’, ‘court reporter’, ‘judge’ or ‘paralegal’, and these jobs were commented among the whole class. Some of these jobs were totally
  14. 14. 13 new for the students because they were not the usual ones taught at this age. That seemed to make students more interested and willing to ask questions. Every job had a summary of quick facts including the median pay, the entry-level education, needed training or previous work experience, etc. This information caught the students’ attention, especially the median pay and the outlook, probably because the topic made them start thinking what kind of job they would like to have in the future, not only in terms of what they liked doing, but economically. There was a particular moment in which students got very much into the class conversation because many of them could not believe that to be a farmer it is needed to have an education, even though it was specified in the website and the teacher corroborated it. This was a perfect significant communicative opportunity to ask students to speak in English to discuss and overcome some worth commenting stereotypes. It was interesting for the students to see how jobs work in the United States, but maybe it would also had been engaging to talk a little bit about the situation of the jobs in Spain. The main task for the R3 group was to complete every multiple choice activity about ‘jobs and professions’ listed in a website called Agenda Web, which is a page where there are lots of activities gathered from different websites. Then, students had to type the score they had got next to the name of every website in a word document. They also had a table under the list in which they had to fill it with ten names of new jobs they did not know before doing the activities on the computer. Some examples of these online activities can be found in appendix II. Students were supposed to use an online dictionary when they did not know the meaning of the words and then relate the jobs with the tasks related. The teacher had looked for as many activities as possible in order to fill the whole hour, all very similar and a bit repetitive, which just had to do with vocabulary related to the topic. Students were fine doing this task at the beginning, since they appreciate a change of classroom and the possibility of using computers. However, after completing one or two activities, they got bored and some started looking for the attention of other classmates to entertain themselves. The teacher and me, because I offered as a volunteer to help, were going table by table checking that the students were actually working and had no problems to continue their task. Nonetheless, even though they were only ten students, two teachers were very few in order to help students that were working individually for the whole hour. Didactic suggestions: One main problem with this session given to the R3 group was that it was made of just one long activity, which was to complete a long list of online multiple choice vocabulary activities, a task that can become never-ending and dull for any student. Because of this, even though the teacher could have thought that these activities could be completed in a short period of time, the students would make it longer, because they needed to get distracted every time they did not feel motivated to continue and needed to start talking to
  15. 15. 14 other classmates. Another main problem was the difficulty of the activities. It may seem adequate to make students start with an activity that just deals with the names of jobs (see activity one, appendix II), and then continue with a more complicated one in which the students have to relate these names with a description of the work done in every job (activities two and three in appendix II). However, since these students have a very low level of English because they have never done an effort to study for their exams, they have a lot of trouble to understand these descriptions by themselves unless they use a dictionary. Because the students were using the computers, the teacher allowed them to use the Google translator, which is a dictionary that lets the users write a whole sentence at a time, even though it does not translate very accurately most of the times. Students did not have the patience to look up word by word in a proper dictionary, so they used the Google translator all the time and asked the teacher to help them understand the inaccurate translations in order to complete the activities. The whole thing became very repetitive and boring, for the teacher too – and even for me, since I was actively helping students because one teacher was not enough to help ten students individually –, so students opted for completing the activities randomly many of the times. It could be though that, even though students did not understand every word, they were receiving a lot of written English input. However, this input was never significant for them, among other reasons because the goal of the task was just to write all the scores got in the activities in the piece of paper, so they never got to recapitulate or revise that input, which was probably easily forgotten. The R1 session, even though it seemed to allow students to participate more dynamically and in a more significant way for them, it had its disadvantages for applying it to the R3 group in the same way. The teacher had to do an effort to lead and supervise the conversation drawn from the American Jobs website, but it worked because jobs and professions is an interesting topic and many students were paying attention and taking part in it. These significant communicative situations are perfect in order to get the attention and motivation of students, since students like being active in an environment in which they feel comfortable. Therefore, it would be advisable to encourage these situations with the students of R3 as well. Still, in the R1 session, there were many other students who were just listening patiently because they could not completely follow the class or were embarrassed in front of other students that they thought were better at English than themselves. Of course, it was difficult for the teacher to try to avoid that and help thirty students participate at the same time, and at the same level. There was no while-task during the presentation of the website, such as taking notes about some jobs or other information that the teacher could have specified and which could have been useful for the students to understand better the new knowledge that was processed. Such notes could have been used for the students to write a short text or summery for homework that helped them recapitulate and reflect
  16. 16. 15 about what they had been doing in class. On the other hand, it was good that students could concentrate on their speaking, but the other students that did not actively participate were totally passive, which makes the task not as effective as it could be. To create communicative situations is a group as the one described in this paper is a difficult task, because these students have been used to understand the English language as a subject that is difficult and dull to learn, probably from primary school. Also, some of them have bad attitude habits and ways to boycott the classroom when they get bored, by creating ‘accidental situations’ in which they pretend to have a problem that the teacher needs to solve, just to break the English classroom routine. Therefore, I would suggest that the teacher organized the session in terms of time, including some moments that were repeated and turned into routines in every session – such as a moment of recapitulation at the beginning of the class, or a moment of reflection at the end of it –, and also in terms of space, so every task had its own space and the session was more dynamic. When organizing the class in terms of time, it is important that oral and written activities, along with listening, video or computer tasks, are alternated, so that students see that the class is functional and interactive and they can feel stimulated and willing to participate. Description of an alternative session for R3: Taking all this into account, the 4th of April session suggested for R3 in this paper would take the steps explained as it follows. The class would begin with a presentation of the topic to make it interesting and catch the attention of the students. Therefore, instead of starting telling the students what activities have to be done during that session, the teacher would first ask interesting and disturbing questions or give new recent information about the job situation in Spain and how it could affect the students in the future. Then, she would encourage the students to talk about the topic and explain what they already know and how they think the topic is attractive. This kind of class discussion helps students develop critical- thinking skills (e.g., determining cause and effect relationships, hypothesizing, drawing conclusions, etc.), and their English communication skills in an authentic situation. It could be interesting for the student’s motivation that the teacher also mentioned the idea that the school is the tool of the student’s personal development and their future work in the society, since many students at this age do not seem to realize this fact. Of course, all this should be done using both languages, English and Catalan, so everybody could follow the class. The teacher could draw the topic to particular job or profession cases, so the new vocabulary came up in the conversation. The same Bureau of Labor Statistics website from the United States department of labour used in the R1 session or a similar one such as the
  17. 17. 16 British one shown in appendix III, which may have easier words for the students, could be used here as a visual support, but without going in depth with it too much. However, it could be asked to write down some information during the oral conversation, such as the main types of jobs named in the website used in class. In the case of using the British website just suggested, they could do six columns starting with ‘creator’, ‘do-er’, ‘helper’, ‘organiser’, ‘persuader’ and ‘thinker’. Then they could categorise every new job they encounter during the session and finally have a vocabulary schema that will help them study the new words in a more effective way. The next task could be to work with the computers individually. It should not be to complete a long list of random activities though, but just a couple that were significant for the continuation of the session. They could be ones that just tackle the name of the jobs, such as the number one in appendix II. Another example could be the one in appendix IV, which relates the names of the jobs with the names of the job places. Because they just have to look up only a word at a time, students should not have trouble with the online translator. However, the teacher should encourage the use of a different online dictionary, such as the wordreference.com, which is more reliable and comprehensive than the Google translator. The teacher should give a limited amount of time to do this task, so students did not fall into their old habit of delaying finishing the task. The goal would be that students had some jobs organized in the columns created before, in order to continue with the session. The next task suggested is called ‘Possible selves sharing activity’ (Fukada, Fukuda, Falout, & Murphey, 2011). This task has two parts, one that is orally carried out by the whole class sitting together, and the second is done in pairs. In the first part, every student is asked to brainstorm their possible future careers imagining at the same time if there are any settings or situations where they could use their English skills in those careers. A conversation pattern could be given to the students to make the task easier (A: What would you like to be in the future? / B: I would like to be a /an __________). Since the students will be participating actively and hopefully being honest about their future expectations, which is a personal and emotional issue, the new vocabulary gathered during the computer task will be cognitively better consolidated. In the second part, students have to gather as many ‘possible selves’ as possible from their classmates, by getting in pairs as if it was an interview, and writing down what these classmates would like to be in the future. The teacher should encourage as many different pairs as possible, so students also interacted with classmates they never talk to, so a friendlier work environment was promoted in the classroom. To enrich the ‘Possible selves sharing activity’ a bit more, the teacher could explain with simple English the tasks involved in the jobs that came up during the brainstorming part. So, if a student said ‘I would like to be a doctor’, the teacher should help the student to reach to
  18. 18. 17 the conclusion that doctors ‘take care of patients’. Or if a student said he would like to be a chef, the teacher could help him to find out that in English chefs ‘cook and prepare meals in a restaurant’. This activity is about the level of the more complicated online ones that the R3 students did (number two and three appendix II), but in this case, because these sentences are used in a more specific situation, they become more significant input for the students. Finally, in order to consolidate all the new knowledge learned in this session, the homework for the next day could be a short piece of writing to be handed in to the teacher, in which the students explained what they and some of their classmates would like to do in the future and what tasks are involved in those jobs. There are certainly many ways of presenting the topic of jobs and professions to students of 2nd of ESO, but this is a suggestion that tries to include the content and skills practiced by the R1 group session without disregarding the work that the teacher wanted her R3 students to do. Session two – 11th/April Observations: The R1 group had done the whole grammar page 72 of the student’s book for homework (Appendix V), with the help of the theory in the book next to the activities and also some explanations in Catalan of the ‘going to’ structure at the end of the book. The teacher had expected that the students would be able to understand the grammar of the unit by themselves, because she had already explained it during the previous session. However, the students needed to ask once more what was the meaning of the words ‘going to’ and their use. To make sure the students consolidated it, the teacher asked each one what they were going to be in the future. This activity was effective to get the students attention because it involved them in a personal and emotional way. Most of them wanted to say what they would like to be in the future so they practiced the grammar structure in English in order to be allowed to say it in front of the class. Previously to the session, the teacher had told me she had wanted to start the second part of the vocabulary of unit 6, which deals with ‘health’, but since she had not had time to prepare it, she was going to do a listening from the book and leave the vocabulary for the following session they had during the week. However, she asked the students to do page 76 from the student’s book by themselves for homework (appendix VI). This page included words related to health problems issues (headache, temperature, broken arm, sore throat, etc.), which supposedly the students had to look up at home in case they did not know them. The R3 group had some words related to the ‘health problems’ topic to be translated for homework. After checking they were correct, the teacher suggested watching a video with more ‘health problems’ vocabulary the students could listen to and see written on the
  19. 19. 18 screen at the same time (appendix VII). The problem she found with the video was that she wanted students to be able to follow it but at the same she did not want it to be too infantile. Therefore, I suggested using the video to do a dictation game in which the students tried to write down the vocabulary while watching the video. This way, students would see this activity as a game and they would be fully engaged with the vocabulary while watching and listening to it. That would reinforce their skills to focus and take notes in class. Also, by having the students busy writing what they understood, the task would not be so passive an activity as it is normally to watch a video, and the new knowledge would become better processed by the students. There was a bit of confusion among the students when the teacher explained the task, maybe because it had been my idea and she was still not sure about it herself. Since the objective of the task was not clear, the students got a bit frustrated at the beginning, and thought the task to be more difficult than it was. After the task, some students commented that the video had appeared a bit childish to them. However, some others expressed the idea that it could have been, but that they knew so little English that it was fine for them to watch it even if it was a bit infantile. This discussion was interesting in order to see how little confidence with English students from R3 had. The video included vocabulary such as ‘Band-Aid’, ‘bruise’, ‘bump’, ‘fever’, American words instead of the more British ones that the group R1 had for homework in the student’s book. Once every student had written every word of the video in their notebooks, the following task was to turn on the computers and do a couple of online activities very similar to the ones done in the previous session described in this paper (example in appendix VIII). To finish these activities took the students until the end of the session. As can be seen in the excerpt of one of them in appendix VII, one of the activities uses the word ‘temperature’ instead of ‘fever’, which was a bit confusing for the students, who had to deal with two different ways of naming something new for them. At a particular moment, the teacher explained the meaning of the word ‘constipated’, which all the students thought to be to have a cold. This kind of peculiar explanations about words shows that students can actually be interested in the English language if the topic is new for them and is presented in an attractive way. Didactic suggestions: The fact that the teacher has to repeat the explanation of some simple grammar concepts in the R1 classroom proves that students from R3 are actually as intelligent as those in R1, and that the R1 students keep forgetting the concepts just like the students of R3 do. The difference resides in that the students from R3 never get to study seriously before the exam because of a lack of motivation to pass, especially knowing that they do not need to pass the exams if the subject is assessed in terms of attitude and class work. As can be seen in the
  20. 20. 19 oral activity with the R1 group in which they have to say what they would like to be in the future, the teacher is putting in practice a similar activity to the one that is suggested with R3 in the previous session described in this paper. What it is not understandable is that the teacher does not do it with the R3 group, as I suggested doing in the alternative session for R3, since for them it could have the same benefits it had for the students of the R1 group. Another strategy that the teacher uses a lot with the R1 group is to ask the students lots of homework that take a long time to be corrected in class, as it is the whole grammar page they correct at the beginning of the session and which takes almost half of the class, and the vocabulary page about ‘health’ that the students are asked to do for the next session. This may work with the R1 students, because they are used to it and they know they are penalized if they do not bring them all. However, too much homework is not always advisable if the students are likely to need the help of the teacher, as it could happen with grammar activities (Perrenoud, 2006). In any case, it cannot possibly work with the R3 group, since these students are not motivated to do a lot of work by themselves and need the teacher to guide them. That is another reason to believe that a variety of tasks should be alternated during the session so the students feel stimulated and feel they are doing a lot of work without needing to finish it at home. My suggestion to vary this session so that it is not as monotonous for the students as the one of the 4th of April given to the teacher before starting the session, resided in the idea of having a while-task during the video. This suggestion of lengthening the task of watching a video that the teacher only expected to be introductory, by turning it into a dictation game, appeared to be effective for the students to remember the new vocabulary longer, at least until the end of the session. It also compensated the distribution of time during the two tasks, the one of the video and the one on the computer, making the one of the video more productive, and the computer one shorter and less monotonous. Still, these two tasks could have been improved in order to be more effective and could have included issues done in the R1 group session, as I suggest in the next section. One of these issues is the practice of grammar, which as can be seen, is given a lot of importance in the R1 session, but is not mentioned at all in the R3 one. The teacher told me that the students had worked with the ‘going to’ concept in other sessions I had not been able to attend, so it is not that the R3 groups do not tackle grammar issues at all. Apparently, the teacher likes to have sessions with R3 devoted only to vocabulary, maybe because of the easiness of just focusing on one particular issue. It is not bad to focus a lot on the vocabulary, since there are Second Language Acquisition studies that prove that a good base of vocabulary helps students to be more fluent in their second language (Hilton, 2008) and also improves their pronunciation intelligibility (Bundgaard-Nielsen, Best, Kroos & Tyler, 2012), rather than a good base of grammar with poor vocabulary knowledge. Still, it would only be beneficial for the students
  21. 21. 20 if they had the possibility of remembering the new learned grammar concepts in every session even if it is briefly, so they are recapitulated and better processed in their long-term memory. Description of an alternative session for R3: As I explained in the didactic suggestions section for the session of the 4th of April, I propose to instil some routines for all the sessions. One of them could be done at the beginning of the class, in which the teacher, instead of explaining the main task of the day first thing, she could start an stimulating conversation about an interesting issue related to the topic of the day. So, in the same way that in the previous session I suggested talking about the work situation in Spain and how it affected to the students, in this one I suggest bringing the topic of health to the students in a way that can catch their attention. Another thing that would be advisable doing first of all would be to decide what vocabulary we really want the students to learn. If the video we want to play to the students includes American words such as ‘band-aid’, ‘bruise’, ‘bump’ or ‘fever’, then the teacher should make sure that she uses them when giving examples and that they appear in the rest of activities, since the repetition of a consistent vocabulary in the input throughout the same session increases the chances of being processed in the long-term memory of the students. Therefore, if the video is used in the session, examples of the pre-task opening questions that the teacher makes to activate the student’s schemata could be: “have you recently been ill?”,“what do you do at home when you have a fever?”, “when you have a cut on your finger, do you use a band-aid?”, etc. After the conversation with the students, in which the topic is then clear for them, and the new vocabulary has been commented on orally, then the video task is explained in a way the students find it easy to understand. The teacher tells the students that some of the words they have been talking about will appear in the video, and that what they have to do is to try to write down as many as they can on their notebooks so at the end of it they can say who has caught more. The fact that the new vocabulary has appeared at the beginning of the session should make it easier for the students to catch the words, and shorter, so there is more time for other activities during the session. Also, the fact that the goal of the task was explicitly described, instead of just saying that they were going to watch a video, probably makes the students less doubtful about the age at which the video should be aimed. Instead of continuing the session by going to the computers and working individually, the teacher could encourage them to work in groups – since the students attending the class are always around 8 or 9, never more than 10, the groups could be made of four or five students. This way, the students that normally have trouble working alone and get more distracted, will feel the help of their classmates and be more satisfied with their own
  22. 22. 21 contributions. Therefore, I would propose that the teacher prepared her own activity, had it printed so they did not need the computer, and gave a pocket dictionary to each group if needed. The activity suggested could be the “pencil in the middle” Llapis al mig (Pujolàs, 2008), in which every group has a piece of paper and every member has to write the answer to one question or problem appearing in this paper. Before writing it, the student has to read the problem aloud and make sure that his/her classmates help with contributions, until the whole group reaches a consensus about the answer. An example of an activity with sentences to be completed can be found in appendix IX. The activity would be comprehensive if the teacher asked the students to remember the meaning of ‘going to’ and asked them to use it every time they answered a part of theirs on the piece of paper by saying first “I’m going to answer_____”. This way, the students would be practising their grammar and vocabulary at the same time, and using their English in a realistic situation, that is to say, with an obvious objective. To finish this session I would suggest getting the students’ chairs in the shape of half a circle so they all could see the teacher in the middle, and have a last class conversation of not more than five minutes – using both Catalan and English – in which all the class activities could be recapitulated and reflected about. Some questions that could be asked are “what did we do?”, “how did we do it?”, “how did you feel?”, “if I did that activity again, what would you change?” etc. This reflection at the end of every session could be very beneficial for the students to be more aware of their work carried out in class and their own useful participation, and consequently, to increase then their self-confidence. Therefore, I would propose this final activity as another routine the students could get used to do after every session. Session three – 18th/April Observations: The R1 group session started once more with the teacher checking that everybody had done the homework. This time was exceptional because, apart from asking the usual homework, which was to correct the page 77 of the student’s book, the second grammar part of the unit dealing with the modal ‘should’ (similar to appendix V), the teacher had also given some optional homework. This voluntary homework was a photocopy with vocabulary activities to do with jobs on one side, and with sickness and health vocabulary on the other (appendix X). The students that completed the homework, who were the majority, got an extra point for the next evaluation. After checking the homework, they started correcting page 77, and surprisingly, one or two students asked once more the meaning of ‘going to’. The teacher explained that again, and afterwards, the use of ‘should’ so it became clear for the whole class. Then, the photocopy was corrected too. The main task of the session appeared to be to keep doing activities from the book in order to revise for the exam. The teacher asked to
  23. 23. 22 do page 117 from the workbook, which was to complete repetitive grammar activities dealing with ‘going to’ and ‘should’, and make questions if the students had any doubts. For those who finished before the end of the class, the teacher asked them to already start vocabulary activities from unit 7 from the student’s book. For the R3 group session, the teacher thought it would be enough if the students were able to complete the same photocopy that the R1 group had as optional homework (appendix X). However, the students found themselves again involved in a long and boring task translating lists of words from the photocopy with the computers. Therefore, most of them just completed the side of sickness and health, going very slowly, and wasting a lot of time by talking to other classmates instead of working individually. Didactic suggestions: The R1 session was spent completing and correcting many activities from the book, whereas the R3 was spent trying to complete just one activity that for the students seemed incredibly long. The R1 students are used to having to deal with a lot of mechanical activities, which they know are similar to the ones that will appear in the exam. On the other hand, the R3 students find having to do many mechanical activities by themselves very disheartening. They do not have the incentive the R1 students have, that if they know how to complete the activities they will pass the exam and therefore the subject. Still, the methods used to teach English to the R1 group are not always effective, because by passing these exams, the students may be learning English grammar and vocabulary, but not acquiring it and practising it in a real way. However, the teacher feels obliged to evaluate the students with these written exams decided by the English department of the centre and, therefore, to make the students practice with mechanical fill-in activities. As the DECRET 143/2007 set by the Catalan Government’s Education Department establishes, all the basic competences should be developed in every subject, including the communication skills, especially in the case of the second language subject. Taking into account that the English subject is given only three hours a week, actually a very short amount of time to learn a second language, it would be advisable to set different kinds of activities in one session, as I already suggested for the previous class. Every session should include at least one activity that tackled the practice of the speaking and listening skills and maybe a short one that tackled the practice of writing skills, even if they are not the main task of the session in question. Teachers should not forget that to get their students to acquire the English language in order to be able to communicate with other people is the main goal when teaching this subject.
  24. 24. 23 In any case, the teacher is not in the least forced to prepare the R3 students with lots of fill- in grammar activities from the book to pass an specific exam, so I would suggest that the teacher took the advantage of this and planned the session with more real English situations in which the students could use the language in a more practical way. As a rule, I think it would be beneficial for the students to reduce the amounts of vocabulary appearing in the activities, so they had time to process the new knowledge in class, and then they could put it into practice in pairs or small groups, or even the whole class sitting all together in the shape of half a circle, as I have suggested previously in this paper. This is more than advisable in this particular session, since the R3 students were not able to finish both sides of the photocopy they were asked to complete due to the long lists of words they included and which the students found dull to translate. It is true that some words had already appeared in the two previous sessions described in this paper, such as ‘broken arm’ or ‘cut finger’, but the teacher did not establish a relation between what the students had learned in the previous session and what they were going to learn in this one. The students were only asked to sit in front of the computers and complete the activities, the goals of which they did not quite understand until they had translated most of the words. It is a probable cause of school failure to expect that the students do all the logical connections between what they learned, what they are learning and what they will learn, even if for the teacher they seem evident. That is why it is important that the teacher always makes these connections, and also that helps the students learn to use the language as an instrument to understand the class experiences in a joint and coherent way. Another problem with the materials provided by the teacher, as I mention for a second time in this paper, is that some of the vocabulary appearing in the photocopy were things that the students had learned in the previous session but named with a different word, such as ‘temperature’ instead of ‘fever’, or ‘sticking plaster’ instead of ‘band-aid’. I would suggest two possibilities, either the teacher made an explicit connection between the words learned in the previous session with the ones they have to learn in this one, or that she modified the photocopy so the students saw they already knew some of the words of the activity and felt motivated to learn the ones that they did not yet. In the next description of an alternative session I opt for the former option (appendix XI).
  25. 25. 24 Description of an alternative session for R3: Since the R3 students had already done some vocabulary dealing with ‘Health and illnesses’, the first routine of the session to activate the schemata could be centred on asking the students what they remember from the previous session in which they tackled such vocabulary. The teacher could also ask questions such as “what is that thing you put on your finger if you have a cut?”, or “what do you use to know your temperature?” This way, the teacher is recapitulating the previous vocabulary while introducing the new one: “Who knows what ‘temperature’ is?”, “What would you take if you have a high fever?” etc. After this introduction to the session, the photocopy they are supposed to complete should look easier for the students. Still, to make the task seem less dull for the students, it could be carried out by cooperative work so, as I mentioned in the previous session, the students feel more confident with the activities by sharing the work with their classmates than just facing it alone. In this case I would suggest using the activity called “the number” El número (Pujolàs, 2008), in which the class is divided into small groups, but every student has a number of their own. So, when the activity is finished, the teacher takes a number written in a piece of paper from a bag at random and the student who has that number has to give the solution to the rest of the class. This way, it is made sure that every student has worked as much as the others because nobody knows who will have to explain it to the class until the time given to do the activity is over. To adapt this pedagogic strategy to our task, we could divide the class into two groups, and ask one of them to complete the first activity of the photocopy – the one in which the symptoms and the remedies need to be related – and ask the other group to do the second activity – the one in which the sentences have to be completed with a verb (appendix X). This way, the activity becomes less dull and can be completed in less time. However, so all the work is not done by the same student of a group, as it could happen, the students need to know that after this activity, one person of one group will go with a person from the other so they can put in common the answers of both activities and be able to deal with the next task. From the moment in which the students get in pairs after completing the activities of the photocopy, they all get an individual number and start the next task, which is to create sentences combining the answers of the first previous activity with the sentences of the second one. Then, if one student has the answer “cut finger – band-aid” and the other student has “put on a band-aid”, they can form the sentence “If you have a cut finger, you should put on a band-aid” and write it down on their notebooks. When the teacher explains the task, also explains the meaning of the modal “should”, which at this particular moment of the session should not be difficult to add to the task. This is so because, at this moment,
  26. 26. 25 the students are confident with the vocabulary, so to understand some new grammar is a manageable challenge. It is always advisable to create zones of proximal development like this, because it makes it easier for the students to build their learning process. By including the modal “should” in the task, the R3 students are including the practice of grammar concepts that the R1 students worked with in this session. After the teacher has let the pairs of students some time to write as many sentences as possible, then she can start saying numbers randomly and one student after the other can read aloud one of the sentences they have written. Still, the goal of this task remains a bit poor in terms of being significant for the students and a bit mechanical, far from the idea of creating real communicative situations. Therefore, the idea would be that the students could practice these sentences they have written in pairs in a realistic situation. The second side of the photocopy dealing with jobs is too difficult to ask the students to do it in what is left of time in this hypothetical session I am suggesting, especially if it is without a good scaffolding preparation as it has just been done with the topic of ‘health and illnesses’. However, what the students already know about the ‘jobs and professions’ topic could be refreshed and used to create this realistic context we need. This could be a great example for the students to see that everything they learn in the English classroom is relevant and can be useful at any time. Therefore, the teacher would check that students remember previous knowledge about the topic by asking questions such as “What is the name of the person that cures illnesses?”, “Do you think you are going to be a doctor?”, “What about being a nurse?”, etc. Then, she would explain the task to the students, which is to create a mini-dialogue in pairs including the sentence they have prepared before, and represent it in front of the class. For example – A: Good morning doctor/B: Good morning Andrea, what’s wrong? /A: I have a high fever/B: Well, if you have a high fever, you should drink cold water. /A: I tried that/B: Then, you should take an aspirin. We could also tell the students the objectives of this task and explain why it can be useful to have this knowledge and be able to use it one day in a real situation. We could say that now, if they are ever ill in a foreign country, they can go to the doctor’s and say what’s wrong with them in English. To make evident these relations between what is learned at school and how this knowledge could be used in real life can only be positive for the stimulation of the wish for more knowledge (Perrenoud, 1999). Finally, I would include the routine to recapitulate and reflect about the session I had already suggested for the end of the previous session. That every session ends with an opportunity for the students to give their opinion about the just received class is a wonderful way for the teacher to evaluate what worked and what could be improved. For the students, it means to be able to feel they also have a voice in their education, something that can positively contribute to their self-confidence and motivation for the subject.
  27. 27. 26 Exam Unit 6 During the other sessions between the 18th and 25th of April that I could not attend, the students from both groups R1 and R3 took an exam to be assessed from unit 6. Having a look at the two different exams, it can be seen the modifications that the R1 exam undergoes in order to fulfil the expectations the teacher has of the R3 students (appendices XII and XIII). Both exams follow the same structure with a vocabulary, a grammar and a reading section. There is no listening or speaking task, which means that they are incomplete in terms of assessing all the communication skills needed to acquire a second language. The activities in the R3 exam are simplified even though they attempt to assess the same vocabulary and grammar concepts, including words related to the ‘jobs’ and ‘illnesses’ topics, the future tense with ‘going to’ and the modal verbs ‘should’ and ‘must’, the latter modal having been studied in sessions I did not attend. Most of the grammar activities in the R3 exam are multiple-choice, which apparently makes the activities easier for the students to understand. However, the multiple-choice system can be answered completely randomly, which makes the activities fail as a reliable assessment of the real grammar level of the students. The text from the R3 reading section is the same as the one appearing in the R1 exam, but shorter. The R3 group did not practice their reading skills during the unit 6 sessions so, even though the text is simplified, the students had difficulty dealing with it in an exam situation. Therefore, this exam’s construct lacks validity for both groups: it does not assess listening and speaking skills, even if the R1 group practices them during the sessions; and it assesses reading skills, even if the R3 group never practices them during the sessions. Didactic suggestions for the R3 exam: Knowing that the exam is not the most important grade in order to pass the subject in the case of the R3 students, the teacher should be more creative and include more real English when designing it. Also, provided that the students could practice their listening and writing skills during the unit 6 sessions, I would suggest including fewer mechanical grammar activities and have different grammar concepts mixed in one activity so the students had time to do a listening and a short writing as well. The teacher should avoid creating an atmosphere of anxiety by explaining to the students that this test is just an evaluation to check the progress they are doing with their English. In fact, the teacher should involve the students in a global discussion of what kind of activities should appear in the unit test in order to make the students more interested in their own evaluation. She could remind them of all the different tasks they have been doing during the unit and explain that it is fair that
  28. 28. 27 similar activities appear in the exam for the teacher to know if they have improved from the last time they started working on such activities. It could also be a good idea to devote one previous session to the exam to talk about the kind of activities that the teacher is planning to include, and discuss with the students which ones they find more difficult, in order to repeat them in class if possible before the actual day of the test. Therefore, the students would feel more comfortable with the examination and more motivated to fulfil the expectations the teacher has made explicit and attainable for them. Session four – 25th/April Observations: In the R1 session, the teacher wanted to introduce the first grammar part of unit 7, the future tense using the auxiliary ‘will’, but this time she wanted to tackle the grammar in a different way than just following the book. She gave the students a photocopy that explained how to read the future of a person by having a look at the main lines of their hand (appendix XIV). It included a guidance to do a prediction of someone, and a prediction of someone’s partner. The students easily understood the use of ‘will’ and ‘won’t’ and it did not take a long time for them to be able to orally practice the predictions. The teacher also had the idea of making the students prepare a dialogue in groups that could be performed for the rest of the class. During the rest of the session, the students got into groups and started to prepare it so they could do the performance the next Monday. They thought of bringing clothes to dress up and decided it could be a wonderful opportunity to be recorded with a video camera. The majority of the students got motivated with the task, since it involved a change of routine from just working with the book to fulfilling an exciting project in which they could take decisions and use English in an authentic way. For homework the students were given a photocopy with a cartoon that showed a story of a man and a fortune- teller with no dialogues. The students were expected to write a short text explaining what they thought was happening in the cartoon. To start the session with R3, the teacher presented a very illustrative Power Point that introduced vocabulary and expressions having to do with the different stages of life, such as ‘grow up’, ‘move home’, ‘start school’, ‘leave school’, ‘get a job’, ‘get married’, ‘have children’ and ‘die’. She explained the meaning and use of every expression appearing in the slides, adding some examples in which the students were the protagonists. Therefore, in the case of ‘be born’, the teacher would ask the students to write the expression down in the notebooks, along with the definition and an example with the name of one of the students: ‘Andrea was born in 1998’. Then, the teacher explained the use of ‘will’ and ‘won’t’ and the difference with ‘going to’ in order to express the future tense. She explained the form on the
  29. 29. 28 blackboard and put examples such as ‘Andrea will come to my house’ or ‘Roberto won’t come to my house’. After the explanations, the teacher gave a piece of paper to every student and explained how to origami it in order to create a paku paku (appendix XV) which is kind of a flower paper that depending on how it is opened – depending on what colour and number a partner says – it opens and gives you some information or another you have written inside. The idea was that students wrote some expressions learned in the Power Point and practiced the future tense with ‘will’ acting as if they were fortune-tellers to their classmates. They were not very creative when writing their own future predictions, so they wrote very similar sentences to those given by the teacher at the beginning of the session. In order to practice the oral activity, one example could have been that a student asked to another ‘choose a colour and a number’, the other said ‘red and two’, and the other read from the paku paku ‘you will die in 2040’. However, students ran out of time when preparing the origami, so they did not have time to practice the oral part. Didactic suggestions: What the R1 students were preparing in this session could be considered a short English project (involving two or three sessions), which has the advantages of motivating the students into completing a particular objective and be creative in the process. The students feel they have a responsibility organizing their own parts of the play, they are developing communication skills, and they are learning to work in groups. Setting a project is a wonderful way to motivate the students and develop their skills to learn by themselves. Also, it should not be forgotten that the experiences that are lived emotionally more intensely are better recalled, so hopefully, the new grammar and vocabulary they learn during the project will be remembered in a longer term. It is very probable that the R3 students need more help from the teacher to progress in a project, but still, it is a learning strategy that should be used with them as well, so they eventually develop abilities they sometimes lack, such as work autonomy or decision-making. The Power Point used at the beginning of the R3 session was a very good introduction to the session, in order to illustrate the new vocabulary to be worked with. In fact, it could have been good visual support if the teacher would have started with the opening routine I have been suggesting in the previous sessions, the conversational strategy to catch the students’ attention and to start connecting their previous knowledge to the new one to be learned in this session. However, when the teacher gives all the examples of sentences made from the expressions directly to the students, she is disregarding the possibility of asking the students to try to construct them by themselves, and therefore, the chance of going through a
  30. 30. 29 cognitive process that makes the students better understand the new knowledge. The teacher should think their students capable of doing such a task, since they already have a starting, some tools and strategies already given and some previous knowledge, which makes it possible that the student makes the learning process of new knowledge. In this case, the students have the tools because the teacher has shown them the new terms and vocabulary they need to create the sentences. They could also have had some previous knowledge if they had been working with the modal ‘should’, as I suggest doing in the previous session. This is so, because the construction of ‘should + infinitive’ is like the construction of ‘will + infinitive’. Telling this to the students and guiding them on the blackboard by using some activation strategies such as asking them to try to finish incomplete sentences, so they have a starting point to construct with the language, is a better stimulus to activate their learning process than just telling the students to copy some examples and expect they completely understand them and are able to repeat them. As for the task with the origami construction and the oral activity to tell the future to a classmate, as good as it is for the students to be creative and practice their communication skills, there is no reason not to be enriched as a project with the students being recorded as the final objective, just as it is done with the R1 group. The whole task will be more interesting and fun for the students if they know that after writing their sentences and practising, they will be able to perform them as in a play, dressing up and being recorded. Of course, from my own experience trying to prepare similar activities during my Practicum II, I know that there are students who like to be recorded, and others that do not. Therefore, it should be optional and the teacher should explain that no one but her will have the recording, which will never end up in the Internet and will only be used to be played in class. If the teacher had time to play the recordings in class and the students watched themselves speaking in English, at the same time that they are congratulated by the teacher for doing a good job, the students could gain a lot of self-confidence and motivation to keep improving their English. Description of an alternative session for R3: As I have explained in the previous section, the session could start with a conversational opening routine with the Power Point as support material, in order to catch their attention and connect their previous knowledge to the new one. The next step could be the construction of examples by the students with the help of the teacher on the blackboard, also explained in the previous section. Once this is done and the students start feeling comfortable with the future tense with ‘will’, the teacher would explain that they are going to do a project that is going to last two sessions, the current one and the next one, the objective of which is to perform a play in pairs written by themselves. The story has to
  31. 31. 30 revolve around a situation in which a fortune teller tells the future to someone, and it can involve doing an origami paku paku, to read a palm – they could follow the photocopy used by the R1 group if they liked (appendix XIV) – or any other way they can think of in order to tell the future. It is advisable to give choices to the students so they feel they also participate in the elaboration of their own work structure, something that makes them feel much more responsible. This being the case, the teacher has to adopt a much more flexible attitude towards the work of the students, and her task has to be to guide, help and, especially, motivate the students during the project. During the rest of the current session, the students should choose their partner and elaborate the idea of their story. They should think if they could dress up with some clothes they may have at home or bring some objects that can give an atmosphere to the play. Then, they should write some dialogues with the help of the dictionary and the teacher when she is asked or simply passes by their table to have a look at the progress of the work. Five minutes before the end of the class, the routine of reflecting about the session should focus about the progress of the project and for the students to comment if they are enjoying it. Also, they could talk about their expectations of what they think their performance is going to be like and how well they think they will do it. The second session should start with the teacher recapitulating what they did during the previous session and how this second one will progress. The students should devote the first half of the session to practice their dialogues while the teacher goes table by table to see they are correct and to ask the students if they have any difficulties. During the second half of the session, every couple of students would perform their short play and would be recorded if they liked. This is normally a moment of fun but also of tension for the students who are performing, so the teacher should give them as much positive support as possible, and should ask the rest of students to do the same. When the plays have been performed, it is a moment to make a reflection about the whole project. The students could be asked how they felt during the performance, if they liked the experience, what plays they liked most from those performed by their other classmates, etc., always encouraging them to use the English language, even if it is mixed with Catalan. The teacher should guide the conversation so the students can compare their opinions at a time, and listen to their classmates when it is not their turn.
  32. 32. 31 Session five – 2nd/May Observations: In this session, the R1 group started correcting a reading they had for homework (appendix XVI). The text covered expressions having to do with stages of life, similar to the ones that the R3 group did in the previous session described in this paper. However, this reading was very interesting because it also compared the expected life stages of the UK, Spain, Japan, the USA, Iceland and other countries, which meant that students were also studying content related with multiculturalism. After the reading, students were asked to do a listening about life ambitions, in which a girl and a boy explain what they expected in life and what they had really achieved after fourteen years (appendix XVII). The teacher played the listening twice, and in the second time, she stopped the track after every sentence to make sure the meaning was understood. After clarifying expressions such as ‘I didn’t become a DJ’ or ‘my dreams came true’, little by little the students got the information and were able to complete the activities. Then, the teacher thought of a different and motivating way to make students participate in the revision of the form, meaning and use of the future tense used with ‘will’ in comparison with ‘going to’. She said she would give an extra point to the student that would explain that in a perfect way, but the first to try would be allowed by a raffle. The teacher would write a number from one to ten and the first to say it would try. This peculiar way of asking students to remember grammar seemed to be quite effective and, taking into account the attention the teacher got, once the answers were achieved, the students probably learned better the grammar than in a traditional and sometimes boring for them oral explanation on the blackboard by the teacher. Finally, the students were asked to complete page 88 from the student’s book for homework, which dealt with the future tense with ‘will’ in a similar way to the page appearing in appendix V. As for the R3 group, in this session they did the second part of vocabulary of unit 7, which had to do with musical instruments. The teacher had skipped this part in the case of R1 because of its lack of difficulty and in order to have more time to make progress with the grammar of the book and introduce the present perfect, something that the teacher did not expected to do with R3. The work that the R3 group had to do was to translate – with the online dictionary in the computer – and answer a series of questions in relation to music that they were given in a photocopy (appendix XVIII). Even though music and musical instruments could be an easy topic to work with in English, the sentences that the students had to deal with were quite complicated ones. However, the problem with this activity was not probably its difficulty, but that the list of questions was very long and dull, and the students got bored
  33. 33. 32 and made the time to finish them longer than needed. Therefore, there was no more time in this session to do more activities. Didactic suggestions: In this session, the R1 group worked with the topic of ‘life stages’, the one with which the teacher had started the previous session with R3. However, with the R1 group, the teacher used activities from the book that dealt with multiculturalism. That perspective of the topic could have been tackled as well with the R3 students, but it was not, even though it would have been positive to develop cross-cultural and self awareness in a group in which there is quite an ethnical diversity that sometimes may create conflict in class (Philips, 2001). Another thing that the R3 students do not normally do is readings, writings or listening tasks. They may have been watching videos, such as the one of the previous session, but they only listened to individual words or expressions, and never to a real dialogue. The same was true of the writings and the readings: the English teacher assumed that if the students learned to write or read chunks of language, it was the same as writing or reading several sentences forming a text in one go. If the students do not practice these skills in a gradual way and always towards the goal of writing and reading more complex texts every time, it will be understandable that when they find a text in an exam, they do not have strategies to face it. The connections between how to deal with chunks of language in order to reach the real objective, which is to deal with authentic texts (readings and listening situations they could find in real life) are not always obvious to the students, so the teacher has to help them to make the connections. For this reason, I suggest including a writing task on this 2nd of May session, a listening task on the 7th of May session and a reading task on the 16th of May session, and then give ideas on how to deal with the practice of these different skills. As for the long music questions that the R3 students had to do for this session, I would propose to use them as an introductory task. Before the start of the class, I had suggested to the teacher that these questions could have been used to do an interview activity, in which the students asked each other as if they were journalists. She thought this to be a good idea, but the list was too long, and for when the students got to translate all the questions, the class hour had finished. That is why I would reduce the amount of questions so every student had to deal with fewer of them, they could practice them orally, and there was also time to do the writing task I want to propose.
  34. 34. 33 Description of an alternative session for R3: The session could start with the opening routine in which the teacher encouraged the students to comment on the first four music questions from the list (appendix XVIII). They would then brainstorm on music genres and also talk about new technologies such as the MP3 and other formats they knew. As for the other eight questions from the photocopy, so it is not such a long list for the students to translate them, the teacher could use the strategy of the Peer Tutoring (Torrego, Negro 2012). This is a cooperative work strategy in which one student that has some knowledge can teach it as if he/she was the teacher to another student that does not have that knowledge. It is very effective for the inclusive education because it has very positive advantages for both students, not only for the one that is being taught. It teaches the students some important values such as that we all learn from each other, and that the teacher is not the only one who has the knowledge in the class, so the students feel mature enough to help their classmates when needed and, also, let others help her/him without feeling proud. A student can use vocabulary that is easier to understand by another student, which becomes very positive for the latter in order to learn new knowledge; on the other hand, the student that is helping, feels more responsible and involved in the class, which increases his/her self-esteem. To adapt the Peer Tutoring to this session, I would suggest that both students taught and were taught. Therefore, I would put students into pairs and would ask each of them to translate four of the eight remaining questions from the photocopy. After the time given by the teacher to do so, both students would get together and one would explain the meaning of his/her four sentences to the other student, and then vice versa. This would make the task of working with the questions much more dynamic and interesting for the students, and they would not be working alone, so they would practice their communication skills. Once this was done, the teacher could change the pairs of students, so nobody worked with the same person again, and could ask them to interview each other with the questions and write the answers given by their classmates. After that, the task could be to write a report that looked like a short text with the answers of their classmates. The teacher could help them have a common start for the text, and then the students could work individually, facing the difficulty of writing a text by themselves. While they were working, the teacher could go table-by-table suggesting improvements to their texts but in a way that rewarded the already progress of the task, and consequently, motivated them to continue (Castellà, Comelles, Cros, Vilà 2007). If there was some time left before the end of the class, the teacher should not hesitate to congratulate them for their work and even make the suggestion of having the texts hung up in the class on a poster board with a nice title saying ‘music in the English class’ or something similar the students
  35. 35. 34 wanted to paint. To decorate the classroom with work that the students have done is a great way to create a nice environment in which the students get motivated to make progress every day. Session six – 6th/May Observations: Due to the education strike on the 9th of May, I decided to go to the centre on the 7th . The R3 group had the class at 9:00 o’clock and in this session they did not have access to computers. The teacher started revising the form of the future tense with ‘will’ on the blackboard and asked the students to copy the same in their notebooks. The main task of the session was to watch an extract from the film ‘I, Robot’ and complete some activities. This task was already prepared in an educational blog created to practice English grammar by watching films (appendix XIX). The pre-task was to answer eight questions about the future in 2035, the year in which the film is set. The students liked the activity and the fact that they were able to participate, even if they found it hard to do it all in English. Then the teacher asked the students to write an answer for question number two, in which they had to imagine their city in the year 2035 and think what changes they thought it would undergo. Some of their ideas were a bit negative sometimes due to the current crisis Spain is going through, but some students were very clever, with comments such as that “Sabadell won’t have shops because people will buy on the Internet”. After the pre-task, the main activity prepared in the website made the students watch the video and then change the sentences that were not true into the negative, as it can be seen in appendix XIX. The teacher, to make sure that the students did the whole activity, asked the students to copy all the sentences before watching the video. It took some time for the students to do so, and some students complained about it because they thought they were too many sentences. Then, they watched the video, but the scene was very difficult to follow due to the fact that what they could hear was the narrator talking very fast and saying information that was not relevant for the exercise. Then, the students realized that only by watching the images they were able to answer the activity. Unfortunately, the teacher realized that some students had not copied all the sentences, but still, she proceeded to their correction. For homework, the teacher asked them to turn all the sentences of this activity into the future tense with ‘will’ and write them in their notebooks. The R1 group started correcting three grammar pages similar to others shown in other appendices that they had for homework in order to revise the future tense with ‘will and