Monday, July 26, 2010

Why do my students look so tired?

Do I give a lot of homework? Do my students hate me because of it? Will the rebel and just not participate in class? Why can't I get them to take peer editing seriously? All of these questions are related to each other. All of these questions point to one ongoing problem in my class...noticing. How can I get my students to notice, be aware of, and investigate language for themselves? I was a believer in noticing, which is why I tried to integrate a lot of peer review into my class, but somewhere, somehow, something went wrong. This dilemma leads to only more questions: Did I properly train my students in peer review? Do they even know how to notice their own errors? Are the task that I'm using providing the proper opportunities for noticing? Am I confusing these two issues. The difficulty of teaching effective peer review techniques and noticing errors is a topic that I'm interested in exploring more for my ALR project.

Today, Monday, July 26, is the first day back from the weekend. In our previous class on Friday, we took a field trip to Cannery Row and visited a culinary institute, where we talked to a manager about the program, the students, food, and especially fresh and organic produce. For today's class, we began to peer evaluate the students' projects in which they created a 2 to 3 minute Photostory 3 or iMovie presentation on a destination they would like to visit. To help them frame their conversation, I gave them a handout with four topic areas from which they could chose from. We also reached the end of the "travel" topic and began our new topic: Is this a Women's world in which we will focus our discussion around women in the workforce and an article from the Atlantic titled: The End of Men: How Women are Taking Control of Everything.

We started the class off with student news summaries. Nuria brought in a particularly interesting article on the legalization of marijuana and the arguments against and for legalization. The students liked this topic and we were able to hold some spontaneous conversation even though it took us over the allotted time for the activity. Next, I introduced some principals of giving presentations form the Zen Presentation website, which is often used by other teachers for the Fullbright and ESP programs.

I handed out a peer evaluation worksheet and went over the worksheet and asked if they had any questions. Some students asked how "position" statements are used in presentations and if their final project should be persuasive, and how stories can be effectively used in more formal presentations. We watched the first presentation and then discussed what we liked about that presentation. I forgot to make enough copies so during the next presentation, I had to run upstairs and make more copies. While the students filled out their evaluation, I watched the presentation again. We did this process one more time for the final presentation and then began work on the vocabulary building exercise that I had originally planned for the beginning of class but had left for the presentations to finish so that we weren't switching back and forth from topics. This jigsaw puzzle task had the students looking for specific word definitions by skimming the article and then sharing their answers with their classmates.

We then wrapped up class.

The main event/task for this class period was the student projects. There were two main objectives for the lesson and for the unit that I was trying to accomplish with the travel presentations.

1) I wanted students to have practice time with technology that they might be able to utilize for their final presentation.

2) I wanted give students a chance to peer review eachother's presentations for content.

In setting up the peer review lesson, I remembered two important points that I had discovered while writing my research proposal on peer editing. One, students needed some type of training to be effective peer editors, and two, they needed to know the rubric or traits in which they were being evaluated on. The previous Friday I had been in the Digital Media Commons helping my students with iMovie and at the same time, Bob Cole was giving Fullbright students a class on developing effective presentations. Bob shared a website with some resources and also suggested that students checkout the blog called Zen Presentations by Garr Reynolds ( I also developed a rubric similar to the one that we used for our Timed Conversation, but used the categories from Reynold's website to build the evaluation criteria.

I noticed that some students, during the presentation, just weren't using he rubric or even looking at it, and I think that's because I had too many criteria listed. I'm also skeptical that the Lykard Scale that I'm using for students to give an evaluation just isn't working and that a proper Holistic Scale rubric might be better suited, especially when their peer reviews count for grades. One student, who I won't name here, put all five's for her evaluation marks. When I asked her if she really thought that the presentation deserved all top marks, she said, "Yea, it was really good." I really think that I have to find a new way to train students to give effective feedback and usefulness of giving feedback in order to avoid this blase evaluation of their peers' presentations, especially if I'm trying to get them to notice grammatical errors or ways that they can improve their speaking performance.

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