What do we do at the end of the lesson to make sure our students feel that they have learned something?
Today I continue the conversation about the sense of progress: this time, very specifically teacher-oriented, with a huge list of different types of activities.
You can download the slides here. I have added comments explaining the less obvious activities and adding references. It was a bit problematic to find references for some activities that travel from teacher to teacher, so do let me know if I have missed a source!
I’ve made presentations about the Sense of Progress several times this academic year: presenting the training plan at home, doing an INSETT session, doing an external workshop for teachers – and for the IATEFL Liverpool presentation I’ve attempted to bring it all together and speak about a CPD concept which can help teachers focus on the sense of progress.
You can download the slides here. It’s a condensed version of what I said in the talk, so check the ‘progress’ tag on my blog if you’d like to read more about it (or drop me a message for a copy of the evaluation tools).
Me pacing the room to answer questions.
I had great questions and comments from the audience (and anyone else who cared to listen to me before and after the presentation!). For example, what organisational support is needed to make the change sustainable? How do I concentrate less on lag and more on lead indicators? How many years does it actually take for a CPD scheme to make a lasting impact? Exciting – seems like my next year’s plan is cut out for me!
And it’s the IATEFL time of the year again.
I’m thrilled to be here, to take part in the biggest event of the year in my professional field, to get a year’s worth of professional development in a week and to see all the nice people I’ve been lucky to meet here since 2016.
It’s a bit cold outside, but the conference is lively and bustling. For me, it started yesterday with the LAM SIG pre-conference event, and what a joy it was.
The topic (Evaluation) was very close to my heart, and I even got to be one of the speakers. I’ll write a separate post about it and put the presentation slides up when I have a bit more time, watch this space!
Here comes the conclusion of my short series. It’s not something I would do all the time on this blog, but what a great way to read a book! Sharing thoughts as you read makes it much more enjoyable.
At the end of the book, Stevick quotes Edward M.Anthony who distinguishes between an approach, method and technique: an approach is a language learning theory or assumption (e.g. language is a set of physical habits), a technique is an activity done in the classroom (e.g. choral drills), and a method is a set of techniques consistent with an approach. He then warns teachers against borrowing techniques without thinking about the approaches behind them – all of those ‘bags of tricks’ we like so much but perhaps don’t always understand how and why they should be used together. A good thing to remember, isn’t it?
Stevick compares a conversation in an EFL lesson to building a fire in a stove. Not something we’re so familiar with anymore – but it’s clear that the fuel should be there, and a bit of kindling (the language and the structure of the activity), and of course enough air for the fire to burn (the initiative). Of the types of role plays he lists, some provide much less air but a lot more support, and the others are all about student initiative: which is the way it should be because we pick and choose depending on the situation. I’ve sorted them according to the level of support:
- You say and then she says: scripted dialogues where the learners only have to rephrase what the book says. Useful for scaffolding and just as good for conversation as freer prompts sometimes!
- Cross purposes: each participant has a set of instructions that contradict each other and one of them has to persuade the other to win. Who doesn’t like information gaps!
- What if! The learners borrow characters that they already know: from books or films, or among mutual acquaintances. An interesting take on conversation, where the contents are scaffolded enough to provide some entertainment and focus on the language.
- Me Tarzan, you Jane: the participants only know the names or functions of their characters (shop assistant and buyer) and have to come up with a dialogue of their own. Could be useful when the group is very creative, otherwise may deteriorate into a very formulaic interaction.
- Simulations: role-plays with background materials which require preparation and follow-up and can take several hours.
So, at which side of the spectrum are you at the moment? Or do you move from one side to the other?
It’s interesting how Stevick explains the necessity of games in the classroom: they are not just a welcome change of pace. Games are necessary for short-term motivation: they have simple goals that can be achieved within one lesson (rather than an exam or new career) and can thus provide a sense of progress and meaning to classroom activities.
And a simple activity with Cuisenaire rods (other objects can be used as well): students are divided into several groups; one group builds a structure from the rods hidden behind a notebook or another tall object; then they describe it in English so that the other groups could build the same. It’s not as easy as it seems, and I really like the information gap and the competitive element here. Stevick also mentions the ‘psychological safety in numbers’: the competition is happening between teams, not individuals, and therefore is not as threatening. And the language components? Colours, prepositions, other ways to describe location – what’s not to like?