Reflecting on Learners Engagement during the 1st month of classes

9th GRADERS: FROM 1 TO 9 students in each class

We started the UP English project classes as we call it in our school on the week of February 25th. So it has been a month since then. As I have collected their notebooks during the forth week of classes, I decided to review all that was done during the four weeks. In which we provided music, visual material (pictures and video), games, time for them to think and produce language, help each other, work together, among other things as I intend to share in this post.

Week one

It was about “getting to know students” through a guessing activity – I created a powerpoint presentation. I added pictures I took myself and used Skitch app (an evernote widget) to handwrite info and symbols. I also explained what we are looking forward to achieving along the year and what tools we are going to be using (digital tools and traditional tools – a notebook). I have been organizing the tasks in two stages. The Prep stage is for students to organize their thoughts and write down what they want to use during the task. The second stage is the actual use of language. For those who are in a beginner level, it is helpful and for the others give them time to think and expand. In both cases, the registering in the notebook helps us all to keep track of the language produced.

Week two

Feelings and Emotions adjectives quiz. It is important for them to learn how to express themselves. So, the words in the worksheet have been reviewed every week in different ways and activities. I also used a song that had the chorus line:

When I’m calm, I feel good. And when I feel good, I sing.

The positiveness in the song really caught my attention and I want them to feel good and reflect about that. So, I elicited what they do when they feel good. I also think it is an important way for them to bring to their minds how good it is to feel good and do good things. It gave me also lots of information about them. What their personalities are like. Unfortunally though, I lost it all because my new tablet system crashed and I lost all the pictures I had taken during the classes. The musical drill was an attempt to call out their attention to the -s at the end of third person singular in the present simple tense. Even though, the worksheet I prepared had a visual dictionary for most of the verbs in the song, some of them didn’t pay attention to it.

The activity where they had to connect the parts of the songs without listen to the song proved to be hard for some of them, because they though it was about listening and copying the info or found it too hard to do. However, the other students had no trouble doing it at all and enjoyed the activity. We started the correction stage with the verb “Picture” that was in the visual dictionary “to visualize or imagine”. I asked them to close their eyes and picture something beautiful, then something scary and so on. It was fun. One of the options could easily had been used with the verb to picture. All posible ways was valued and explored. Every verb was treated in a way that made the activity more engaging as they participated in giving examples and showing their understanding of the meaning applied to that context of the song. There was also a gap filling activity that focused on recognizing some of the words from the song. Then, in the last part of the worksheet we used wordle and I asked them to write a short 5-line story using as many words as possible. And in some groups we were able to play bingo, also using wordle.

Week 3

The video I was going to show them at the end of the class shows the routine of an Indian boy called Amar. I wanted to connect that with the feelings/emotions vocabulary in order for them to express their opinion/how they feel about their own routine, habits and hobbies. It was a rich moment in each class as they learned to say how they feel and qualify the actions by changing the end -ed to -ing. They were really engaged in all the stages of the lesson and I was blown away by their interest in the video of Amar. They didn’t blink as they watched his routine and some of them later in the next lesson told me that it made them think of their own routine and how much they complain for nothing. They were asked to bring in the following week at least 5 questions about one’s life and culture. What questions would they ask if they could interview Amar? They also got excited with the possibility to have a teen like them from India to answer those questions.

Week 4

During this week, the notebooks were collected so I can personalize the interaction with them. I have their notebooks around me right now and I’m about to start to writing them message and checking if they have on the notebook all that we worked on in class and at home. In class though, we worked with the tablet/laptop to publish their questions online for the teachers in India to get acquainted with the questions.

Hanna0788The game I brought on the fourth week had as objective not just to review the adjectives for feelings and emotions, but also to give to them the chance to chose the words, organize themselves and have fun. I usually persuade students to go on with only in English in class when I play games, making the use or not of it, their option but with consequence. In this case, the group loses point and that causes the group to encourage one another not to speak Portuguese and contribute. The language learned during games in my opinion is pretty much incidental. I have seen many teachers favor using games with teens, but it did not improve their use of language ( unfortunally).  The experiment though was to continue with the rule of speaking English or lose your point until the end of the lesson. One of the things I noticed that shy students didn’t feel bad at all. As part of the group, their personal characteristic played as an advantage and they participated in the miming game either by trying to mime (not so easy for them at the times, but even not so shy had difficult doing it too) or trying to discover the word. The talkative ones though that love talking away and in Portuguese was a disadvantage for the group and the group had to remind him/her to talk in English and that forced them to do it.FxCam_1363951339182

The experiment didn’t prevent the students from talking at all. Quite the contrary, who is shy continued showing their shyness and the talkative just had to adjust to English. Another interesting thing was that they don’t know when they are speaking in L1. They do that naturally in L1, so it takes intense concentration for them to do the code-switching to the target language. Different from VYL when they are in the acquiring stage of language. That is what I often observe Emanuel at the age of almost 3 doing. He switches from one language to the other so easily and according to his desired heart and pick up language just as easy. Therefore, until they have used language extensively, using L2 should be encouraged to be used without pressure, but in a playful manner. The game seems to offer than a fun way to keep the L2 in mind. However I wonder how could I keep the same spirit in every lesson. Does it have any link to gamifying concept? Is it actually possible to make it work for the whole course? Or would it be appropriate to make use of it as a strategy once in while? Questions popping up. Do we actually diminish the potential of Game to just language? Are there anything else learners can develop during the game interaction more than just the language? Is actually the target language Intended by the teacher not as important as the language they would need for the interaction durante the game? Which one actually sinks in?

FxCam_1363606509001Then after the game, I drew their attention to the posters on the wall and we worked on speculating how Amar would be feeling in each picture. I got a lot of positive feedback from students. And of course, they loved the most the miming game in week 4. How couldn’t it be? It was fun. We laughed a lot. They moved around.

As part of my reflections, I enjoy spoting a topic in my reflection and search for articles. I found this quote very interesting as it summarizes nicely how I have come to believe in learning process.

“Learning … takes place in a social context, involving action, reaction, collaborative, interaction, intersubjectivity, and mutually assisted performance … Speech, speakers, and social relationships are inseparable … Language is socially constructed …Language use, social roles, language learning, and conscious experience are all socially situated, negotiated, scaffolded, and guided.” – N. Ellis & Larsen-Freeman (2006, p. 572) ¹

¹http://webh01.ua.ac.be/linguapolis/call2010/CALL%202010%20Alm.pdf

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8 thoughts on “Reflecting on Learners Engagement during the 1st month of classes

  1. Hi Rose,

    Reading this gave me an idea – you said your students were excited about the idea of learning about a teenager in another country. Do you want to do some sort of exchange?

    I have an after school class three times a week for the next 3 weeks until I leave Korea. We could do email Q&As or my students could make a video for yours or an audio recording? I understand if you don’t have the time to do this, just an idea so let me know what you think.
    Gemma.

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    • ps. great that your idea of losing your point if you speak Portuguese worked. I give my after school students 3 Korean tokens that they can use when they need to speak Korean, they get a sticker if they don’t use any and if they use them all (they never do!) they have to sing a nursery rhyme or some silly ‘punishment’ like that! I feel like they actually want an excuse to only speak in English but just doing it without the tokens might make them stand out from their friends, it’s great to see them naturally conversing in English.

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    • Let’s go for it Gemma. My students are very visual-oriented so making videos would be super cool. What about yours? What way would you think they would like the most? Videos too? This is going to be a very short week (the groups on Thursdays and Fridays won’t have classes due to a easter holiday). Then, I plan to spend those days reassessing the past month and planning/preparing the next 4 weeks.
      Shristri from India would like to skype with my students and answer their questions about Indian Kids. ( http://www.teachingvillage.org/2013/01/14/teaching-soft-skills-in-india-by-shrishti-choudhary/ ) I will run a poll next week for them to choose the questions for the interview. Whatever else I will be able to do will have to be thought of during the school break. I want also to review I book a bought about a year ago and was never able to use – a book that has lessons on culture exchange, etc.

      So the idea of expanding to other cultures is super cool. Thanks for thinking of that and I can surely fit that in. 🙂 The aim is to provide them real reason to communicate. I want to take every chance I have for that to happen. Did you see the material I found while I was researching about intense mental activity. Nothing really to do with the material I found. But it is actually interesting.

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      • Great! I just ran the idea past my students and they were sooo enthusiastic about it! They want to ask your students some questions – either in video or written form and then they also want to make a video to tell your students about Korea. We are going to start planning on Thursday then we’ll hopefully finish it by the following Thursday – 4th April!
        I didn’t see the material about intense mental activity, is it on another post? i’ll look now.

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        • Awesome! I’m happy to hear that they are enthusiastic. I look forward to their questions and videos. We can even start a page in the wiki especially for that. What do you think?
          It is not about intense mental activity actually, I found this while researching that. Here is the link,
          ¹http://webh01.ua.ac.be/linguapolis/call2010/CALL%202010%20Alm.pdf
          Interesting material.

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            • That wiki is a private one Gemma. But if you think it is a good place to organize the videos and podcasts (if students want to use podcasts as well), and where they are able to post their questions as well, we could use it. We could discuss at my wiki the possibilities on how to do put our plans into action. 😀 I’m so excited with the opportunity. Thanks for coming up with this idea.

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