Light, Camera n Action: Dividing the group (HLLs n LLLs)

An introduction to the Project Light, Camera n’ Action here.

The focus in the program I teach in the morning ( Small groups of 9th graders) is on Oral communication, so the pressure to speak in L2 at all times is huge. However some students are in the program since 7th grade (or even before that), and some since 8th grade. And there are the ones that have just started this year. For the ones in the program longer, they have no problem in understanding most of what I say whereas the ones that had just started struggle to survive the lesson. I try different approaches and activities. For some groups where students are supportive in nature, it works well, as for other groups it’s a growing frustration.

When I read Sirja’s post it though, it was like a wake up call. As if I had written it myself. I’m so glad I got the chance to read it.

One of the decisions I had to make though was to divide the group in two and put them in separate rooms. One student was so puzzled by my request to follow me to the room next to ours that he felt the need to ask if they were getting a new teacher. It was a fair question which I kindly answer by saying just to follow me that I would explain it all in a second.

#Room1

Support Team – Lower Level Learners working on a text from their textbook surely above they’re language level which the aim was to review time tenses from Simple Present to Present Perfect Continuous. No crying out about it allowed! They have to have the chance to at least be exposed to it and identify the different tenses. Have you ever had a chance to mediate reading? I did it 8 times this week and discovered interesting things that I ought to reflect on in the near future.

#Room2

Higher Level Learners (in some groups there were only 2 students in the what I called them Script Writers group) were given the tablet to access the webpage with the project guidelines and links, not surfer the net ( I forgot to give this instruction in one of the groups and they did, but for researching about famous people). One of the groups asked me for permission to research about the name of a famous person. As soon as we moved to the next door, one of them was assigned the role of Project Manager whose job was to make sure everyone contributed to the task and kept speaking in L2 at all times. In order to collect data, I placed my mobile phone on the desk and recorded the interaction.

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#9G at 7:30 a.m #9H at 9:00 a.m #Engaged #Negotiating #SpeakinginL2

Separating the groups affected the interaction between peers as recordings and their feedback confirm. It was especially impressive to hear the learners in #group2 exchanging ideas, negotiation all in English. It is the first time I hear them speaking in English with each other. Mostly they only speak in L2 with me, almost never with their peers.

For one HLLs have shown an unusual excitement and commitment for the project. Two, every stage will be assessed and they know that will reflect in their final bimester grade. And surprisely they didn’t mind at all having themselves recorded.

The LLLs also spoke more than usual to me and asked questions about the content, vocabulary. Something most of them don’t normally do. They have also expressed how relieved they are about having the opportunity to do that.

It was really exciting to watch them so engaged with each other and listening through the recording them negotiating meaning when they couldn’t understand what the other one was trying to say. The ways they compensated for their lack of words and accuracy at some points was also interesting.

Ps: By Higher I don’t mean upper-intermediate or advance. I mean higher comparing with each other. Like Sirja shared in her blog, there are students that can carry out a conversation and those that struggle to put a simple sentence together.

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7 thoughts on “Light, Camera n Action: Dividing the group (HLLs n LLLs)

    • Thanks for your support Sirja. There was a lot going on in the first stage. I hope to be able to look at it from different aspects – interaction, language use, quantity and quality in speaking, motivation, and so on. Another post coming soon.

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  1. Hi Rose,

    What a great project. I think showing your faith in the students, just giving them a space to create their own learning, really helps set up a dynamic where they want to prove you right. And to have students working things out in English to do project based work is amazing. I think I will set up a video camera in my next project based class and see how it impacts the dynamics.

    Thanks for the great post and much to think on,

    Kevin

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    • Thanks so much for the support Kevin.

      We audio-recorded the sessions. They are usually shy in front of a camera, but they didn’t mind the voice recording. I had the chance to stand outside of the room as you can see in the pictures from time to time and observe them. I took few pictures of the groups I was most worried with the quality of peer interaction. I was going to add a sample of the recording here, but I haven’t found a way to embed it yet.

      Re “working things out in English”: this is one of the reasons I recorded the session. I wanted to check few things:
      1) how my presence affected their willingness to use L2; most of my students (higher levels) have a sassy attitude;
      2) if this change would raise their interest in using the language;
      3) if having different levels affected their choice of speaking in English or not.

      I may not have clear answers about the aspects I was looking forward to when I decided separating the group and sharing power with the HLLs. But see the change in dynamics is clearly something I must look forward to keeping in future classes.

      Thanks for following the project and let me know about your discovers with Project Based. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Dividing the Groups: How do Ss feel about it? | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal

  3. Pingback: It all depends of the level of engagement | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal

  4. Excellent report. Really good stuff! Now that’s the way to steer the boat out of its shallow waters. Actually it’s an unwieldy tanker, but this kind of stuff will turn it. .

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