A Simple Lesson

It’s been a while since I did a simple classroom reflection, and I thought that this week offered a good opportunity to do one.

I did a nice, honest, solid bit of teaching this week. It was Monday morning with my level 1 group, and to help get things started I asked them to find three things they did over the weekend which were in common with someone else in the room. Anyone who finished early had to team up with their partner and find a third member, to see if they could find groups of three.

Nothing exceptional, or unusual there. A simple Monday morning warmer. To bring it together, and with the intention of leaving it there, I then asked the group to tell me what they had found out about each other. It was also a notable weekend for me, as my brother had got married, so there were lots of mini-talks about weddings and engagements.

As the group shared their findings with me, I started to note their errors verbatim on the board, for a brief feedback on errors. So far, so normal. I did mix it up a little, however, and I started to write a selection of answers on the board, most of the errors, but also a few correct ones, and what was going to be a simple error correction became a more competitive, challenging activity.

Instead of me talking to the whole class, or else eliciting ideas from the group, I got the learners to work in groups, threes and fours, to correct (or not) each sentence. The only rule was that each group had to agree the answer before the end of the time limit (seven sentences, so I let them have about 10 minutes, or so). Cue some frantic discussions about grammar, including a few lovely moments, like when one of the weaker learners got an answer right ahead of the rest of her group. The impact of introducing this collaborative and mildly competitive activity was to generate more energy, more interest, more engagement in what, basically, was just looking for mistakes in a bunch of sentences.

It was only during the feedback from this stage that I led from the front, and got ideas from each group, and “delivered” a lesson. And, of course, letting the weaker learner have her moment of class glory.

So nothing special, but it was a pleasant, useful hour where learners got to recap and review some useful language in a context of their own. What I think made this special was both the simplicity of it, in terms of procedure (erm… Read the sentences, discuss them) and in terms of technology: learners used technology they were comfortable and familiar with, rather than technology I was forcing on them: their own mobiles, paper dictionaries, paper, pens, all that hi tech wizardry. (It’s worth adding we were in a room with an interactive whiteboard, and enough PCs for one each, all of which were used in the next part of the lesson).

I think it lacked the checking of the learning at the end, some sort of activity where the learners repeated, or did a variation of the initial task, but this time paying attention to the areas which arose in the feedback, and trying to use any new vocabulary we had generated. But I think after the best part of an hour, I felt that it was time to move on to the main bulk of the planned lesson: I guess in my mind it was very much still a “warmer” rather than the main learning of the lesson.

I do think I will use something like this again, if the time, place and learners are right, and include some sort of opportunity to use the language correctly. Indeed the final reflection/what have we learned stage is still the bit I forget, which I is a shame, because this is important. Particularly when you do a lesson which is based on emergent, unpredictable language like this, I think a bit of summarising would be good. So I’m going to make a conscious effort to try something tomorrow around that, and if I get chance, I’ll let you known how I get on.

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