Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Last week with Kanda


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

Third week with Kanda


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.