I’m in between courses right now and working on a bunch of training-related projects. But I’m also…teaching! Whodathunkit. I’ve got a single student in a lower level writing class for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week for the next month. Part of me would rather just focus exclusively on my projects, but I’m sincerely happy for the instructional hours. It’s not healthy for a teacher trainer to spend too long away from teaching. I don’t have a reference and citation for that. It’s just a thing I believe. Maybe Tessa Woodward mumbled it once.
Okay, so the blog…I’ve got a whole slew of epic, mind-blowing, world-shaking but unfinished posts in my ‘drafts’ folder. Trust me. I do. This, though…this isn’t one of those. This is really simple and rather blunt: I just want to report on how I ran exercise E on page 5 in my afternoon class today. I had this strong urge to just ‘write down the bones‘ of what I did. So here I am. I’ll talk about the why and wherefore in the next post. It’s time to describe how I did exercise E on page 5 now. Here we go.
There it is, exercise E in all its simple and straightforward glory:
That picture is of a photocopy I made of the teacher’s copy of the student’s book. This is a book that gets handed down from teacher to teacher when assigned to this class. It has the odd penciled-in note here or there, but it’s not really annotated, answers aren’t filled-in, nothing like that. I don’t like that – I don’t want the same thing in my hand as the student has in their hand. Hence the photocopying.
I need to be able to write ALL OVER the materials I’m using. Write, note, scribble, mark the paper in some way, releasing feedback-vibrations from my brain. I need to dig in. But with a light touch. Shouldn’t take more than a minute or two. I want to float through the exercises and probably have the answers in there..in there is best, embedded into the rest of the tracings. Rather than in an answer key neatly laid out in another book. Written into mine, which is in my hand in the room, with the scribbles that connect this me and the me who saw this coming down the road. You see some evidence of all this above. That’s relatively neat looking compared to what I often do.
That picture of the done-over exercise, the result of this process, may look vaguely ‘schematic’ but it is NOT evidence of me ‘planning’ exactly how I’m going to run exercise E. Rather that’s me ‘preflecting’ on exercise E. It’s me taking it in and knocking it about (‘it’ being a) the bolded vocab words b) the sentences they’re embedded in c) the simple dynamic of ‘matching’ d) the language in the definitions below. All these things, and probably some other stuff, in a fuzzy-logical 60-120 second process. I need to have taken ownership, you could say, of the stuff on these pages of these course books I’m given if I’m going to be able to use them in the ways I think are
best most satisfying.
It’s something I feel I need to do in order to set the groundwork for the in-the-moment decision making that happens in class. Which turned out something like this (in 13 turns):
- After the previous task (detail questions on a reading passage) I had the student close his book as I told him that he’d done really well with the reading task.
- I asked him “now that you read that article, what do you think is next? [+ wait…until S says ‘Um..I don’t know…read more?’]. Well, I think there were some words that you should look at more closely. So, you’re going to focus on some vo…vo….voooooo…” until the student said ‘vocabulary’, and maybe gave me a look. ;P
- I had the student open to the blank back page of the book and write numbers 1 to 4 and then I told him I’d dictate four short sentences.
- When he was ready, I said “Can you explain the rules to me?”, careful to say it in a completely relaxed, naturally paced, relatively quick manner.
- As you might imagine, he started writing a little bit and then looked up at me and said, “again, please?”.
- First I shook my head, and my eyes said ‘no soup for you!’. His reaction to this refusal was a big ol’ laugh. Oh my god! Leally?! Back in my head, I was thinking no repetition would be nice, but in that moment I decided against it. I told him “Sure, I’ll say it one more time. And for 2, 3, and 4, I’ll say it twice. And you need to ask for the 2nd time. If you really think you don’t need it repeated, don’t ask!”. “Ok!”, and he dove back to the page, pen at the ready for dictation item #2.
- So we did that, and I watched him closely, and he did pretty well. If memory serves what he ended up with was something like: Can you explain rules to me? I feel very uncomfortable. You made a lot of mistake on the test. All of great children respect him.
- Next, I had him guess which words in those sentences would be the vocabulary words. He identified these correctly.
- I then had him compare his sentences with exercise E. He read those, looked back at his sentences, but didn’t immediately notice the gap. He also clearly wasn’t trying to fill it immediately with the answers from page 5. I was happy to see this, and I prompted him with thing like “a lot of is plural, so…what’s missing? it’s small, but it’s a MUST” and “WHOSE grandchildren?” in #4. He made comments like ‘oh, grand sound same as great for me!’. I tried to be patient and acknowledge these things. The little things that “come up” are JUST as important as “what we’re doing”. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
- Next, we moved back to exercise E on page 5. I directed my student to read the definitions for himself once, then to me out loud. I told him to focus on his pronunciation when doing so. I gave some very immediate corrective feedback prompts in a handful of spots, most of which I’d predicted in my minute or so of looking at the exercise earlier.
- Then I had him read them out again. It was better and he corrected himself a few times. Me: “mm-hhm, mm-hhm”.
- Finally I had him match them. As usual, we sort of did #1 together out loud, then he flew through the rest (this is a very short 4-item exercise!).
- After confirming the answers, I prompted some brief discussion with questions like ‘have you ever said #1?’, ‘had #3 said to you?’, ‘what rules do you break most often?’, ‘who is the most respected person in your family?’, ‘what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve experienced in the US so far?’.
That was how I ran exercise E on page 5.
Like I said above, all I’m doing here is describing what happened. In the next post I plan to reflect, analyze, unpack, contextualize. I might even cite a few experts and quote some folks.
I think I might quote and/or mention Adrian Underhill and ‘Demand High’, Thomas Farrell, the Lexical Approach maybe, teacher cognition and decision making, and…some other perfectly preposterous pretentiousness. 🙂
All that in the service of something very real and very important: understanding what in the world I’m doing when I do what I do as the teacher in the classroom.
Or, in the off-handed sounding yet sophisticated language of tripartite reflection offered by this blog’s favorite CELTA graduate Anne Hendler: I’ll being engaging the so what and the now what (the above being the what) parts of a reflection cycle.
In the meantime, if you have any comments please leave them below!
Also, as a lil’ random bonus in this blog post, a quick snap of some things that went on the board during the same class that I kinda liked:
This also now gives blog readers who have lived and taught in Korea no excuse not to comment on this post. I need to hear some nugget of your experience/perception of Korean drinking culture. It would be cruel to deny me. It would also be neat if it were something my student could read or hear about and potentially react to. 😉