“If you have failed, you must have tried something and must have reflected on it. Otherwise you wouldn’t be having this conversation with yourself.” #metellingmyself #development #self-discoverythroughRP #gr8tblogs&educators
That is what I have just concluded after having a long and rather torturous reflection on why my teens aren’t responding to lessons as I wish they would have been to. It wasn’t hard though to link it to the great and inspiring session given by great educators at AITEFL 2013 “Failure Fest“, and the #ELTCHAT challenge of sharing the lessons we learn through our failures and the posts that had already been shared.
Among many of them … here is my #1.
A bit more than couple of weeks ago I made the decision of not introducing new contents ( or moving on to new lessons in the CB) until students could use simple past tenses, and also focus on stories using simple past narratives. The decision involved a beginner teen group in their second semester of English – age range vary from 7th to 10th grade.
I chose to use Timesaver Elementary listening lesson on Oliver Twister to start with and it focus on literature, adjectives and regular simple past as they had already been working with simple past for while, and It was all going well until I played the audio. The vocabulary tasks were easy and engaged them. They used their dictionaries. They used adjectives to express their opinions of the characters’ personality and appearance. Discussed it afterwards, shared! They completed the summary of the story with the right verb. But they couldn’t grasp the main points of the story when I tried to elicit them. I thought the problem was (and it might have also been the problem) the fact they were low level and the low proficience in listening was what prevented them from getting the whole picture and connect the vocabulary clues from the vocabulary activities to help them reconstruct the story.
However, when we worked on the Bram Stoker story of Dracula designed for their level, they still couldn’t retell the story using the simple verbs and noting the key points, different scenarios, stages, characters involved. And they had done the tasks around each part of the story just fine (Reading and answering – a short text introducing the story; putting the pictures/dialogue in the right order- second part; and, complete the third part with And, but and then.) I think is worth to mention that I had worked in part one and two with them in class and the third part was assigned to be read and completed at home. There was a possibility that some of them didn’t really read the third party. True. But the fact is that only reading the text didn’t engage them with the story. It became just a gap filling exercise.
At that point of the lesson, I remembered what they had said the week before. They had asked me whether there was a video of the Oliver Twist story. And then, I realised that I #fail to take into consideration their need to visualize it. Just the words weren’t enough for them. Having still 30 minutes left to the end of the class, I doodled on the board some key points of the Dracula Story. Did that help? Somewhat. They argued with me that something was wrong with the picture in the second part and the text in the third part. For them It didn’t match who was bitten actually. They didn’t notice that Lucy, then Mina was bittten by Dracula and in different moments and places of the story. Only then, using the structured lesson planned in the CB all according to their level without any doubt I realised that my students need more support to engage with the story and tasks that encourage them to explore the meaning and visualize it.
While doodling, eliciting from them the names of the characters, the places, main events and key words, I couldn’t imagine what I was actually learning with the #failures I have been experiences in the last few weeks. Then, after reading Kevin’s post Music, Stories and Magic, and reflecting on the question they had ask me about the video, I realised that audiovisual tools (videos) are really important tools for them to make sense of the words. Movement and sound is something to take really into account when comes to my students. There is also is a need to read with them and providing meaningful interactions with the text – the importance of storytelling. So when using narrative texts, I am considering…
…using youtube videos to illustrate texts and facilitate the input process.
…using storylines/doodles as an exploration tool for students to recreate/retell/understand the story.
…using storytelling tools for students to retell/interpret with their own words and ideas.