Same focus, different approach


Learners’ reflection notes from 9A

With a group of 3 or more students interaction in a mixed level class seems to be easier to balance. But when you have one or two students things can really become something else. 1-2-1 with a teen can be challenging if he/she does not like talking much. And two students in different levels even more challenging because I can’t really pair them up for speaking tasks. The number of students or the interests of the learners can change the dynamics from one group to another. In the first week I focus mostly on getting to know their level, what they are capable of doing and their interests and ideas about learning and English. So, like I shared on my last post, setting the goals means to make clear from the beginning that we are here to learn and improve their ability to communicate in English by respecting their levels and thinking of their needs. That said, in order for that to happen choice comes in different packages depending on level and number of learners in a class.

Group? 1-2-1 class (9E)

There is only one student. I’d been his teacher before. Actually I’ve been his teacher in the morning or afternoon since he enrolled for the English classes. When I first started working with him though, he was in 6th grade, now he is in 9th grade. He is then, in his fourth year of learning English. He was never the talkative type in English, he prefers written to spoken tasks. He also like doing grammar and vocabulary exercises. He likes video games, The Walking Dead series and Guns n’ Roses. He said he is not into reading, but likes comics and reading about video games.

There was no point in doing the ice-break activity, and as we know each other so no point talking also talking about the role of L1 and L2, etc. He loves being the only one in class by the way but not a fan of talking. However, he never really refused doing anything, but when comes to speaking no many words come out of his mouth. I remember when he first started in 6th grade that he would get very anxious because he couldn’t understand everything he heard. He prefered to read than listen. When I would push him a bit, he would shout a bit angrily in Portuguese “I don’t understand anything.” and go back to his shell. Now, he politely asks to repeat and check vocabulary when he needs too. Because of that, I was honestly surprised when he asked me about the Walking Dead series and started a conversation on something even if it was a short one. As he feels more comfortable with written activities, we worked on the school textbook. It starts with grammar work on past continuous and simple past. After doing the exercises and checking it together, I asked him to point out what kind of mistakes he made. We agreed on what he needs more practice with and moved to a videoclip of Nico & Viz which has a lovely storyline. My first idea was to work with the other videoclip “Am I wrong?” but I know his musical taste all too well and he really does not appreciate this kind of music. So I skipped it.

  • He watched the video with no sound. Focus on the storyline.
  • then, he shared his impressions and what he thought the story was about. He watched it again.
  • He got important aspects of the story: how much the man missed his family, he thought of his family, he was building a machine but he could not pin down what kind of machine it was.

9D Profile

L1 was born and raised in England until he was 5 if I recall corretly. He’s been in our school since he was in 6th grade too. I was in fact his first teacher and although he could talk to me in English at all times, he was always a sweetheart to his classmates. So patient and willing to wait for others to respond in whole-group moments. His mom is my colleague and one of my best friends. He does most of his things in English (games, books, music, videos, etc.) at home He uses Portuguese for social interaction and school work. As far as language knowledge goes, he can communicate like a native in English, but he is in the Project and the Language school because his mom wants him to be able to keep practicing his English. My job is to check what areas he needs improvement and work on them.

L2 is in his second year of study here. He does do anything really in English apart from the coursebook work. He is a sportist. That explains a lot. He plays handball for the city and loves soccer. He never hears songs in English, nor does he watches movies or TV series. Reading? Only school stuff.

I haven’t met L3 yet. He just enrolled and will be joining us next week. I heard though that he loves English and is a hardworking student. He is also L1’s cousin. I can’t wait for next week’s class.

In both classes, we talked about movies, sports, games, music, Tv series and books. Doing this gives me a pretty good idea of what topics they really enjoy and which ones they are not much interested on.

After finding out more about L2 and catch up with L1, I played the videoclip “Am I wrong?”, only the sound, no image. I asked them to 1) rate the song. L1 gave it 3 stars and L2, 2 stars. Then they 2) listened again and took notes of words they were able to identify in the song. They did this 2x. 3) L1 noticed that their accent was different and he had trouble understanding what they were singing. He reported that at times, it sounded like another language, not English. 3) I dictated some lines of the song focusing on the sense groups. When we finished, we discussed the verses and I asked them to 4) rate the lyrics. This time L2 gave 4 and L1, 3 again. They are both not very much into music. L2 likes a new genre popular among people nowadays but it is in Portuguese and L1 said to be listening to a DJ and liking instrumental music. I’d like to offer L2 more contact with English songs and see if that raises his interest in doing something in English outside the class. Clearly they are not really a fan of this melody, but L2 liked the content of the lyrics while it didn’t matter to L1.


Group A Profile

L1 is in his 4th year of studying. He had been my student in the afternoon in 2013 and 2014. He is talkative, not always in English but with a little push he makes the effort to keep up in English. He likes reading, video games and music but hates doing any sort of grammar exercises. He also prefers talking to written activities.

L2 is in his third year of English. He is participative and likes speaking activities in English. He also said that likes looking at the lyrics of songs.

L3 and L4 are in their second year of English. None of them talked much.

Group A is formed by boys right now, but a girl, a former student of mine said she is going to start next week which might change the dynamics of the group. For the first meeting, they did not say much about themselves. The ice break activity did not work as 3 said not to have their cellphones with them and or unable to remember any song or accept my offer to hand them a device to search online.

Because of that we moved to the song “Am I wrong?” by Nico and Viz.

  • Rating the song (1): They all gave 4 stars to it! It seems the boys enjoys this kind of music.
  • Listening (2x) and making notes (2): Although listening more than once gives them a chance to get more familiar with the song, it does not necessarily improves comprehension. They did have a few more words than had written before.
  • Dictated 6 verses from the song focusing on sense groups (3): After dictating each sense, we worked on the pronunciation of each sense group with the right intonation.
  • Recited the group of verses in a way that asks a question and invites reflection (4): It is actually the first time I remember reciting it like I was reciting a poem with much emotion and gesture to express the sentiment that these verses expresses.  AS I did, I also translated the group sense without letting them think of the translation but the message that it I wrong
  • The listened to the song again (5).

We had about 5 or 6 minutes left so I gave them pieces of paper to reflect on how each step (1-5) was useful in L1. Here are their responses and mine:

(1) Mine: Find out their musical taste and get familiar with the song.

(1) Theirs: cool; to learn better; for us to rate the song; learn the song.

(2) Mine: Get familiar with the song and check how much they can understand of it.

(2) Theirs: learn more English; for us to understand the words; because listening one time we do not understand. That’s why it is important to listen two times; listen and find the words.

(3) Mine: work on pronunciation and fluency.

(3) Theirs: Learn the right pronunciation and the meaning of the words; practice listening and the repeatition of the phrases to improve our pronunciation; very interesting; learned the right pronunciation of the words.

(4) Mine: notice how things are said on a daily basis, we just don’t say words, we say them with meaning and emotion. Introducing them to Poems through music.

(4) Theirs: cool, learned that music also has poetry; it facilitates comprehending meaning; learned how to say things using the right intonation which is like in a poem.

(5) Mine: show them that now they can comprehend much more of the song.

(5) Theirs: listening just once, we don’t really understand it well; to check if we could understand the song; cool; identify the most meaningful part of the song.

I just collected their notes and shared with them mine as we were running out of time.

There is one last class to meet tomorrow! Then it is time to work on the syllabus taking into consideration what the school curriculum is and the students interests are for each class for at least the next two bimesters 🙂


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