Today is my first independently taught ESL class at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. I’ve studied a lot about teaching and learning, so I’m anxious to get back into the classroom and test out some of the ideas that I’ve developed over the last two semesters. I’ve brought several important “principals” and “macrostrategies” to my classroom.
First, I’d like my students to develop their learning skills and become self-directed/autonomous learners.
Second, I would like my students to grow in their accuracy by concentrating on noticing and progressing in their inter language.
Third, I would like my students to collaborate and interact in groups and pairs, but I would also like them to develop peer-editing and self-evaluation techniques that match the goal of learning autonomy.
First, I want to be conscious of maximizing learning by giving students opportunities to share and explore relevant and interesting topics.
Second, I’d like them to develop a language awareness of different socio, cultural, and political influence that influence language discourse.
Third, I’d like to focus on using student writing to capture and complement my students speaking so that they can become more conscious speakers and thus more accurate.
Today is the first lesson. Even though my syllabus is complete and I have a website that all the students can use and refer to, I didn’t have a chance to complete my lesson plan as fully as I would have like to. In preparation for this class I created a class website where students can view the class syllabus, a class calendar, assignments, and resources. There is also a class blog site where students will post blogs for other students to read. I also have plans for students to create their own blogs using blogger.com where they can reflect on their speaking. I think these two spaces will be important for students to formally post their ideas and to internally reflect on their own learning process. The first step before finalizing the class syllabus and developing lesson plans will be to handout a student questionnaire to self-assess their own learning background and goals and to gather data for their interests, needs, and weaknesses and strengths.
I began the class by giving the students a self-introduction on myself including my teaching experience, my studies, my travels to Japan etc. Then I began the ice breaker activity by asking each student to take some candy from a bag. When everyone had a piece, I asked them to tell us something about themselves that no one else knows for every piece of candy they took. Students shared where they were from, what foods they liked, what sports they liked, where they have traveled and lived before, and why they were studying at the MIIS IESL program.
Next I played a video of an interview on TV of a movie star and asked the students to notice speaking strategies such as follow up questions, repeating/shadowing, and storytelling. Students watched the video and then we discussed the actor and the interview.
Then, I explained that in this class we would be having timed conversations in which students must hold a conversation for a certain amount of minutes. In this case, we chose 2.5 minutes. I asked the students to talk about a place they recommended their speaking partners should visit. All the students made it to the 2.5 minutes and some past the time marker. Next, the students related what they learned from their partner by summarizing where their speaking partner suggested that they visit.
Finally, I handed out a self-evaluation and questionnaire that asked students to give their opinion on their own language learning abilities and history. For homework, I asked the student to begin a blog in which they will write a brief language learning history about themselves and what they thought was good and or bad about it.
Well, it’s the beginning of the ESL session, and this class is my first official/solo class that I’ve taught since 2002. It’s great to be in control of my own class and set the syllabus agenda, assignments, materials, and lessons. I hope my students feel energetic about the class, that the assignments are useful, and that they learn something, of course. In considering what I want to focus on in this semester, I revisited some of my earlier work from the past two semesters. I’m definitely interested in peer-editing as a tool for noticing and correcting mistakes and I’m interested in building strong learning habits so students can become independent learners.
Today, I think the timed-conversations worked really well in helping the students break the ice with each other and to become conditioned to the tasks that I will ask them to complete for this class. Eventually, I hope to capture students’ timed conversations by recording themselves using tools such as Audacity or Garage Band so they can reflect on their own speaking performance. I also want them to write and try to capture and plan what they will say before they say it to help them smooth out their accuracy.
I was also struck about the amount of planning work involved in preparing for this class. I didn’t have time to complete all of my lesson planning for class so I was a bit nervous that I would flop on the first day. I’ve resolved to have a complete lesson plan for every lesson.