Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This is the last week of the Kanda program. Wow, time really flew and I have to say that it really felt like I taught this class by the seat of my pants. If it wasn't for this action research, I think that I would have been lost in my own teaching. Having a focus of raising students WTC and understanding and its relationship with L2 Self gave me a focus when I normally would have skidded off track. I think that teachers do action research a lot but not formally. We think about our practice and sometimes we take notes and write down what happens. But then the focus, the problem posing part of action research, gets lost somewhere in all of the daily stuff that we have to juggle. Working to answer a question does help not only to become aware of what we are doing, but also become aware of what we are not doing.
This is my second action research study, and I feel that there was so much that I didn't do right. At times, I felt that I didn't let students have enough control, at other times, I felt that I wasn't properly scaffolding my lessons. At different points of the process, I noticed that my students' intrinsic/l2 self/investment whatever you want to call, would fall only to rise unexpectedly somewhere else. If I were to do this all over again, I would try not to pay attention to what other teachers were doing in their classrooms. Worrying about what others did decreased the options available to me. Also, I would give students a menu of choices so they could chose what they wanted to do. Allowing students to choose is basic needs assessment, but it surprising that we just overlook it and jump right into lesson planning without consulting the students. Lately, I feel that I have a hard time thinking of fun and creative things to do. I need to pay attention more to where I get my ideas, what works, and what can be reused or recycled from different courses or materials.
Last week our class visited Whole Foods where they researched different foods in order to create a healthy menu. This Monday, the students will create their new menus and present them to the class. On Wednesday, we've reserved time to complete the class' post-questionniare and gave students time to work on their final presentations, which they will show people at a trade fair on Friday. This final presentation will culminate a lot of work by the students through the program and is the reason why so much of the teaching work was integrated.
Again, I'll give just a brief summary of the classes and a reflection.
On Monday, I began the lesson by asking the students to discuss what they saw at Whole Foods and what surprised them, and what the learned. After pair discussion, I one person from the pair to report what their partner had said. Then, I organized the class into their teams. I gave each team member an evaluation sheet and distributed some supplies and paper. Before letting them begin on their project, I showed a video of Chef Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare show where he visits a restaurant to help them reorganize a new menu. After the video, I checked with each team to make sure they understood the assignment, and then I let them begin work on the project for approximately 40 minutes. After a class break, I asked each team to elect two captains who would present their team's menu. I explained that the rest of the class would now become judges based on presentation, healthiness, taste (imagined), creativity, and price. Each group came up and gave 10 minute presentation. I asked questions after each presentation and then allowed other students to ask questions, which one or two did. We then wrapped up the class. Wednesday followed the same format. We opened by talking about our experiences as a class and what we learned and what activities we liked. Then I gave the students most of the hour to complete their final presentations. When we were thirty minutes from the end of class, I asked the student to put away their stuff and take the post-questionnaire. I also had to ask some students from Jame's class to take the post-questionnaire as they had taken the pre-questionnaire.
I used Bloom's taxonomy to carefully plan my lesson activities this time. As usual, I opened up the class by having the student talk about a topic that would help them Remember the content of the project from last week. Then I had them work on Comprehension by having them share their partner's story. Then we used a video to Apply the menu to a real world event, and then we had the students Create their presentation. Finally, students Synthesized by giving a small presentation and Evaluated it using the rubric. It's rare that a lesson can cover all of Bloom's taxonomy, and granted that some are loosely based or out of order, but it did help me plan and helped the students understand the usefulness of the project by having all of the elements there. However, I did notice that some students were not participating in creating the final project as much as I liked, so I gave them seperate tasks and stopped by to check on their work. Also, there was a low amount of speaking in English. I think that the problem with project based lessons is that students revert to their first language in order to complete the project.
In order to gather more information on the students' I decided that the weekly student reflections just were not working right. I think that the students might have responded better with a different format than the Google site. Voxopop which allows students to record their responses would have been better as it would have let them focus on their speaking and listening skills. So instead of relying on their reflections I decided to interview four students who I felt represented the range of proficiency in class and also had different levels of WTC.
Kenji is very proficient but has low WTC inside of class and low WTC during assignments but high WTC when speaking with people one on one.
Kanari has an intermediate proficiency but she states that she doesn't enjoy speaking and she might be more motivated by her Ought than L2 self.
Miko is intermediate speaker and has a high WTC and she seems to be highly motivated by her L2 Self but has some Ought Self motivation too.
Minami is a lower intermediate speaker who has low WTC during class but high WTC away from class. She is more motivated by her ought self.
Interviews with these students helped me understand how the students saw themselves in terms of their motivation but also how they viewed their experience, which is also a component of the L2 Self motivation construct as argued by Dornyei.
With the data from the questionnairs, the interview data, and my own blogs, I hope to answer the main research questions posed at the beginning of week three.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
In week two our students studied education in the U.S. They visited two schools, a high school on Monday and a middle school on Wednesday. On Friday, for our site visit, we took the students to Monterey Peninsula College. The idea was to have them mix with other students and ask them questions. However, most of the campus was closed down on Friday and there were very few students on class. During the week, I noticed that my students were motivated to speak with native and non-native speakers in public, but in class they their WTC was very low and I returned to the old habit of talking to much when the students should be doing the talking. Also, I felt that my lesson planning really suffered because I didn't have enough time to prepare more interesting activities involving native speakers. For example, on Wednesday, I had students do a discourse completion activity in which they asked people on campus what they would say in a given social situation. For the students with high ability, this activity didn't seem to interest them much and my feeling was that they felt it was busy work, while the lower level students may not have understood the task. I thought the activity might have been better if the students choose the discourse completion task, but part of me is afraid that in doing so, I give up too much control, but I have to remember van Lier (2010) in which he states that scaffolding is only effective when it involves the learner's sense of agency and autonomy. When learners feel that they the task is taking them to new ground and they feel they have some investment in seeing where the learning takes them, then the scaffolding creates higher motivation and learning proceeds development.
This week, I began by trying to scaffold the tasks so students will have more classroom interaction time before going out. James and I decided that the second part of the fourth week should be devoted to the students' final projects, so we are combining the third and fourth weeks' activities. For our site visit this week, we had students visit Whole Foods to create an original menu. By giving students a mini project to accomplish, I hoped that the higher level students would be able to take the reins of their project and make the most of it, while the lower level students would find ways to contribute. On Wednesday, I assigned students into groups to prepare for the project and we visited the local library where they looked up recipes.
For the sake of brevity, I will quickly outline the lessons from Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then give a general reflections on the events.
On Monday, I began the class by asking students to discuss what sports or activities they participated in Junior High School. Then I had the students play a vocabulary game in which the students were given a worksheet with different slang words and played charades in order to guess the word. Then I had the students watch a video of different extreme sports in the U.S. Next we read about places around Monterey where people could learn different outdoor activities such as scuba diving, hiking, and Zumba. The students discussed these in groups and then using a worksheet, they went to different locations near the school to gather more information. However, some places were not open or didn't actually have the activity located at the store so I had to modify those activities.
We began the lesson with a short conversation about what the students typically eat or cook during their stay. We took a short tour of the garden, and then came back to the classroom. I then loaded a the beginning of "Super Size Me." Then I asked the students to discuss in pairs if they believed people or the restaurant is responsible for people gaining weight and finalized with s a short class discussion. Then I explained the menu project in which the students were going to build a healthy, tasty, cheap, and attractive menu. I showed them another clip of Hell's Kitchen to demonstrate how menus could be brainstormed in groups and that "Chef Ramsey" would come and critique their menu. We then walked to the Monterey library where the students spent an hour planing their resume with the help of a rubric that I gave them.
Friday James and my classes met at the transit plaza. We took the students to Whole Foods where they were given a tour of the store. It was so crowded and fast that I couldn't notice if the students were engaged or asking questions. However, they did eat a lot and took their time exploring the different foods. Some students reported later that they did indeed ask some questions. When the tour was over and the students finished researching their menu, they were free to go. James left before I did.
The week began pretty awful as the students didn't understand the slang vocabulary game and the outing to the stores went bad as some stores were close. Also, there was almost no volunteer talking in English and I could that student discussions soon slipped into Japanese between and during activities. Wednesday was much better. I began the class by taking the students outside and during class, even though I talked a lot, I felt the students were much more engaged in the activities. I think the difference was having something to work towards instead of just going through unrelated activities. Friday, the students enjoyed the walk through Whole Foods, but I noticed that some students just were not into it and I feared that they totally lost any investment in learning English. I began to think that students who experience an immersion context and don't feel like their personality or that their hard work slip from being influenced by the L2 Self to the Ought Self, which is much like being motivated by intrinsic factors and external factors. I can see now why Yashima deployed her L2 self questionnaire along those lines although I still feel that they are two different conceptions of motivation. I'd like to track two students who I feel have low WTC and low L2 self and see if I am right.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Last week I was a bit surprised that my students seemed really motivated to talk out of class but didn't really want to talk in class. My two attempts to build negotiation skills when speaking with native speakers seemed to fall flat on their face. Are my students WTC and self confidence higher than I think. The other community interaction teachers seem to think that sending the students off to talk to native speakers right off the bat is fine. I've voiced my concerns but then on Friday my warm up activity disintegrated as students rushed off to complete an activity that James created where groups of students asked the public about sustainable fishing. In one week the students have talked to professors at school, went out to talk to professionals at a non-profit, talked to native English speakers in panel discussions, and completed two scavenger hunt type activities. I'm wondering what is left for the students to do in my class. There goes my idea of social scaffolding too as students have willingly jumped into the deep end of the pool. Good for them, but that means I have to re-evaluate my entire action research study. Yet, as I noted above, the students seem to be reluctant to talk in class.
However, this week on Wednesday, our class completed a discourse completion task and on Friday they went out to Monterey Peninsula College to complete a survey and walking activity there. This journal will briefly narrate the events of both classes and then reflect on the events and plan for next week.
1) At the beginning of the class I outlined the menu for the days events. Then I asked students to find a speaking partner and told them that today's topic would be about their experiences at Stevenson's Middle School. I asked the students to talk about what they learned there and what they will do for their next visit later in the week. Sekiya sensei also announced to the class that there might not be computers and profectors for PowerPoint presentations, so they may have to think of some other strategies for giving a lesson. I asked the students if they would like part of my class period to work on their projects, and they said yes.
2) After the warm up conversation, I gave students hand outs to students who could not complete their online reflections. I then told them that they are expected to complete the online journal and if they can't log in, then they should come to the workshop next week.
3) Then I told the students a story about how I poured soy sauce on my rice during breakfast at my host mother's house in Japan and how I offended her accidentally. I told them that in language, we should think about culture when we speak to other people. Then I played a clip from Mr. Baseball where the pitcher accidentally doesn't tip his hat to Tom Selleck and causes a fight between both teams.
4) Next I divided the teams by their closest class members and handed out a worksheet with examples of pragmatic problems between a teacher and a student that I made up. I asked each team to read the discussions and then discuss what they noticed about the discussions.
5) After the students had a brief discussion about the made up pragmatics. I asked them to turn the sheet over. On the other side I wrote down some pragmatic problems and asked each group to write four different answers to the situation. E.g.,
Pay a complement: You want to give someone a complement for losing a lot of weight without hurting their feelings.
Furthermore, I told the students that they should write four answers with one being a really good answer, two being not so good, and one being bad. After the students wrote their answers, I asked them to find four people on campus and ask them to tell you which is the best way answer they were most likely to say. Sekiya sensei also said to ask the person if they would say something in a different way. I gave the students 15 minutes to complete the survey.
6) After the students were finished, I asked them to share their answers with the class.
7) I gave the students the remaining time to work on their presentations.
1) James and I met all of the students at the bus stop at the transit plaza. We took the bus to MPC and got off at the lower stop.
2) When we reached the main campus, James gave the students direction to complete the survey that was given to them in the survey class. I also gave them a map and a "scavenger" hunt task to visit different places on campus and find different information. I told the students that the first team to come back with all the information would win a souvenir from me (four kitchen magnets about Monterey).
3) The students then went off to complete the task while we waited. A group from James' class was the first to finish my scavenger hunt task. I also stuck around to update students and help them figure out what they wanted to do after the class while James left back to school early.
Wednesday's class sounds good on paper, but there seemed to be a disconnect between what I had planned the students to do by warming them up in with partners, working in groups through reading and discussion, and then sending them out to survey students around campus. I was in a rush to complete the lesson plan earlier that day, and despite repeated vows, I wasn't able to plan ahead as early as I would like. However, I don't think the lesson was as bad all that. My impression is that the students didn't find the task useful and were not invested in it. The students who had higher abilities didn't care and the student with lower abilities were confused. Sekiya sensei and I seemed to be the only ones who cared. So, indeed, the end was very anti climatic, but I do think that the students learned how to do a discourse completion task correctly, and maybe if I had more time to think of better situation, or better yet, if I asked the students to create their own discourse task, they would have felt more involved. So this class, I definitely didn't do a good job in maximizing learning opportunities.
The trip to MPC was a disaster. I think the survey that the students were given didn't interest them, my task was perceived as busy work, and the campus didn't have any classes so there weren't many college students for our students to talk to. We definitely should have had them do something else.
Monday, February 21, 2011
1. What are students' self-perceptions of their WTC?
2. What are the teachers' perceptions of the students' WTC?
3. How can we raise our student's WTC in authentic speaking situations?
4. Does explicit conversation instruction influence students WTC in non-classroom settings? If so, how?
5. Are students’ self-perceptions as a member of an L2 community related to their WTC?
As mentioned before 21 students from the University of Kanda are visiting our program from Feb. 14 until March 11. Most of the students are female (only two male students), and their English proficiency ranges from advance to lower intermediate. The students major in a variety of subjects, including English at their university. The purpose of the program is to immerse the students into a content based course with different themes throughout the week. The classes, include presentation skills, data collection, American culture, and community interaction. I'm teaching the community interaction class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The sister class is being taught by James Atcheson. James is not participating in the action research, although he is helping by having his students contribute to the questionnaire and weekly reflection assignments on the class blog. In addition, Tony Kazanjian also ran a learner training workshop during the program orientation and two computer development workshops to help students learn how to go online and use Google Sites and to learn how to use Excel for their data collection and presentation classes. At the end of the program the students will create a presentation on a topic of their choice. In addition, I've asked the students in my class to collect photos and music to create a memory slideshow that they can feature during their graduation class. The mood of the class is very energetic and the students seem willing to interact with us and to learn about American culture while some students are more motivated to use English in and out of the class than others. Some teachers have also reported that students were unwilling to talk during whole class discussions, which matches me and Wing's data from the Osaka action research project. It will be interesting to see how this group matches up with the previous group.
My first class was on Monday, but the teachers started planning for the first class on Sunday. Because of the way the classes are set up, lesson plans from earlier classes, such as presentation skills, can effect my class as students will need to practice those skills in public. Also, students are expected to learn how to engage native and non-native speakers so my first class focused on building awareness in engaging interlocutors and selecting a pragmatically appropriate approach to engaging their interlocutor.
I began the class by showing a video about surfing and having the students to a warm up speaking task and introduced the class syllabus and the assignments for the class. Then I gave the students the pre-questionnaire for my study. We then shared pictures that they took form the previous class. Because the students were in another community interaction class on the previous day with different groups and different instructors, some of the students didn't have access to their partner's camera because those students were now in the sister class. I asked the students a number of questions, but as expected, they seemed reluctant to answer questions in a whole group. Their reaction was important to see how much willingness to communicate there was even among the proficient students (later I learned in the teacher meeting that students who were expected to lead were not and students were unexpected to lead were leading, according to Sukiya sensei).
I then ran another activity where students talked to partners using "roles" given to them on cards. The idea of the role play was to test how students would navigate different pragmatic situations so they could anticipate different reactions in conversations in public. However, it was very difficult to model and explain the purpose of the role play and my impressions were that the students didn't understand. My last activity of the day was for them to go out and perform a "Mission Impossible" where they asked people questions and gathered information. We finished the lesson with a "whole group" discussion in which students seemed to be more relaxed and willing to supply answers, but not in whole sentences. Usually their answers were in one word sentences.
What a week. I was really frustrated because I felt like my lesson plans were being soaked up by other classes who needed by do finish lessons or recap important activities that they should have finished in their class. Also, I felt like I was a mile behind in my lessons because most of the teachers had already had one or two lessons by the time I saw the students and that their Friday community site visit (where the whole group goes out and visits a location) was already planned without my knowing. That made me really angry, and I kind of confronted James about it and I definately complained to Kaite (the coordinator about it).
As for the students, they seem very capable to communicate in English. I thought only a few seemed overwhelmed by being away from their homes or that they felt uncertain about communicating. In fact, my impression was that each student could communicate at at least a very basic level and that they were more than willing to strike up conversations with people in the public. In class though, they do have reluctance to answer questions as a whole group and I think I'll try to stick to my usual write/think, pair, share when doing class activities or tasks. Also, I really felt like my lesson planning has been lacking because I've been split between teaching Sattar and my portfolio and Kanda. Though the students' WTC hasn't been so much an issue, I think that my lesson planning has been sub par compared to the other people.
So far this week, I think students appreciated the pragmatic approach to the community interaction class but the lack of scaffolding in the task set up and during the task itself has left them wondering what the point is. I want to set or prime them more with some stimulating listening, reading, or even writing exercise and then send them out to a specific location on Wednesday to do something cool. It's a little late in the planning, but I wonder if I can set up a visit to the art museum. This coming week's theme is education, so I'm wondering what approach I can use? Perhaps capturing something about American education? Students studying, people reading, signs, affordances? And then have them come back and report what they learned? Sounds fun.