Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Beginning of a New Semester

In my new office, coffee in hand, I am once again so grateful to be a teacher.

Every day, I get to do what I love--learn about English and the world through the eyes of my students. My new job as composition instructor is proving to be a fantastic application of my TESL degree. I teach two sections of composition for students already enrolled in the university (mostly native speakers), and one section of students who are in the top level of the intensive English program. My supervisor has has recognized my TESL training and assigned me to be an interface person between the IEP and the university's writing program. I help to coordinate the teachers who teach composition to IEP students.

I'm enjoying the change of pace with the native speaker sections, but I still have a soft spot for teaching ESL students. My teaching has changed so much from two years ago, when I also taught native-speaker composition. I now feel like I am able to build activities and assignments that are meaningful for students, rather than just doing group work because I heard it was good. I see an improvement in the way I give directions, the way I open and close class, and the way I interact with students who might be disruptive in class. The master's degree in TESL taught me the importance of planning and classroom management, which are relevant in all classrooms.

That's not to say that there aren't a million mysteries of teaching that I haven't begun to figure out. Here are a few that I'm thinking about:

1. Making small talk before class.
2. Corrective feedback during class activities. Both linguistic and content-focused.
3. Balancing student choice (motivation) with in-class scaffolding opportunities.

One success story to report: I gave my students the choice of two articles to analyze. Then, during a lab day, I set up two Google documents for students to work on collaboratively, one for each article. In the rhetorical analysis, students are examining how an author uses ethos, pathos, and logos, so I included in the Google Doc a table with ethos, pathos, and logos  in the top row. Students then documented examples they had found in the document, sorted by appeal. Within 10 or 15 minutes my students had collaboratively brainstormed 20 good examples. They even had side comments with some disagreement and discussion about the effectiveness of certain examples. I loved seeing my students work together, talk, and critically think about the articles. Plus, students have unlimited access to the document as they are drafting. Even students who had a hard time understanding how to analyze can use the Google Doc as a guide to get started. Highly recommended!

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