We're back from our second round of class and field trips. Last Thursday our class visited the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. We met the students at the Monterey transit center, but because of confusion with the bus schedule, we ended up taking a bus that arrived much later at the museum. Also, it turns out that the staff at the museum forgot we were coming and that parts of the museum were under renovation. However, the staff at the school was gracious and flexible enough take our classes on separate tours through the museum. Before the tour I reminded the students that our goal is to ask two questions to the tour guide.
Our tour started with a large piece of Jade that had been extracted from Lobos Point, a survey of the local indigenous wildlife, the different butterflies --including the Monarch Butterfly-- and the large collection of birds, including a stuffed California Condor.
During the tour I carefully monitored the students interaction with the tour guide and each other and operationalized WTC as the following: Student response to NS initiated questions, student initiated comment, student initiated questions, students assisting classmates, and other.
I observed only three students asking questions directly to the tour guide, however, students reported that they asked questions after the tour. They explained that during the tour they could not process the listening information while trying to think of questions. Also, the majority of students took notes, and seemed generally interested in the exhibits.
Because of the timing of the tour and the schedule of the bus, I left home with some students at the end of class. Wing and members of my class and her class decided to stay longer and ask questions or look around. I think its unfortunately that I didn't get to see the less formal time where students were looking around and exploring by themselves. Observing their behavior would have given me more insight toward their intrinsic motivation, WTC, and autonomous learning skills.
This week we are continuing with our Action Research Cycle by increasing the speaking activities, sequencing speaking activities earlier in the lesson, and experimenting with random seating. Wing will mirror these treatments except she will allow student to choose their own seating.
In the previous week, as mentioned above, we focused students attentions on increasing their WTC through structured tasks and speaking activities. We also prepare the students for their field trip to the PG Museum of Natural History through extensive jigsaw reading, question and answer practice, and schemata building. On Thursday we visited the museum and afterwords concluded that in order to increase students WTC and speaking production there needs to be more speaking opportunities and that interaction activities should come sooner in the activity sequence.
There are some important developments not related to the class instruction too. We are continuing to video record the Tuesday classes, and the class will be observed by a fellow student and by my practicum teacher, Professor Heekyeong Lee.
Warm-up (10 minutes)
I began the class by hinting to the different between two types of questions. What is the difference between "Do" questions and "Wh-" questions. Then in their present groups, I handed out a worksheet with different questions based on general science and from their trip to the museum. I asked the students to ask each other different questions to elicit their opinions and knowledge, and also to pay attention to the different types of questions on the list. Finally, we reviewed the answer to some of these questions in a whole group and asked the students the difference in the answers they will get form "Do" vs. "Wh-" questions.
Pre-task Speaking and Listening (15 minutes)
In the next activity, I handed out a model survey and explained that the students will answer the questions from the survey. Then, I assigned students to random pairs by using a lottery numbers. In partners, the students asked and answered the questions to the survey. When the students were done asking questions to each other, we reviewed their answers as a group.
Before the break, I put up blank paper on the walls around the classroom with different heading: location, science, and personal. I explained that after the break, the students will write example questions.
Main Task Writing Questions (30 minutes)
When the students were ready to begin again, I explained that students will write questions to create their own survey. I asked the students to write example questions on the paper that I placed on the walls around the classroom. Because students were having a hard time writing questions, I asked if they would rather continue with this task or begin writing with their partner. Some students said they would rather write with a partner, so I discontinued the group brainstorming activity. I monitored the class for questions and allowed some extra time for the groups to finish this task. Also, it should be noted that there was no random assignment in this activity because students needed to work with their team exploration partner for their final project, which this survey will be used towards.
Post Task Speaking (15 minutes)
Last, I asked the students to pilot their survey with each other by finding a partner and asking them the questions form their survey and then revise the survey from any problems they found. We finished this task in whole group where students asked each other questions using the ball game from the previous class.
Before leaving, I assigned the students an informal homework asking them to update me on what actions they took on their team exploration project and to confirm the location and topic of their project.
I think I took much more risks in this class in trying to improve students' WTC and lowering their anxiety. First, I modified the format of the lesson plan by raising student's awareness of different types of questions before conducing the warm up task. I think this helped to raise student awareness of the form and meaning of the language they were expected to use. At the end of the warm up, I assessed students understanding by asking them what the different type of answers they received for the different type of questions.
Second, I decided in the class that students should brainstorm their questions as a class rather than just their team. That way they could see the different types of questions that are possible. However, I underestimated the difficulty of composing questions quickly regarding their different subjects and the anxiety that might be raised in writing questions in front of their peers. Instead of continuing with the activity, I decided to ask the students what they thought was useful. They decided they would rather work with their partners, so I change the course of the activity based on their feedback.
Last, at the end of the class, I wanted to pull the students together for a group pilot of their survey. It seemed that a lot of the groups were still struggling to write their questions. I concluded that the class work was still valuable and that we might be able to be more productive using the ball game, which they already knew how to play.
Furthermore, I received some great feedback from my practicum instructor. She noted that the transitions between tasks needed to become more explicit and smoother, and that I needed be conscious of being polite in directing the class activities.
During Thursday's class the students continued to work on their survey and then go out to the community to ask native speakers their questions. Based on the reaction of the students to their experience writing and asking survey questions, Wing and I were concerned if this week's assignment had proved too difficult. In other words, we wondered if the anxiety in some students rose too far in trying to perform the survey. We also noted that students didn't understand the purpose of the survey and were confused about the team exploration assignment, even though we introduced the assignment at the beginning of the second week.
Therefore our research question for week four are:
1) How can we make sure the students are fully prepared for their oral presentation on their topic and have the necessary WTC to be successful?
2) Do students feel that their perceived confidence and motivation, overall, increased?
3) Given a similar situation, would the students choose to communicate outside the classroom?
Our plan of action is:
1) Give more time to prepare for their presentation.
2) Before giving their final presentations, students will read and reflect on their blog posts.
3) We will ask them to reflect on their experience as a whole, and write about their attitudes toward speaking with native speakers and going out into the community.