Thursday, April 2, 2015

Quarter 3 Highlights

Quarter three at Melikşah prep school tested my endurance. I had 5 different classes of students, each with 20 names and faces to remember. I'm sure many teachers out there are saying, "Yes, and...?"

I can appreciate the challenges of teachers of large classes and teachers with 100s of students to manage. I did manage to learn each student's name within the first 2 weeks, even with three Dilara's in one section.

Current ESL/EFL methodology encourages a communicative approach in which the learner is the center of the classroom. In my philosophy, this manifests as me trying to get to know each student, and tailoring my classroom activities to fit the class's personality. In fact, I often have particular students in mind when I create activities. I think the personalized attention I put into materials development is one reason that students respond to my lessons. As an example, one of my classes during the last quarter was super chatty. They also liked to talk about each other and give each other a hard time (in a joking way). I capitalized on this tendency to teach qualifier + comparative structures--For example, ______ is a lot taller than ______.  I created 7 sentence frames following the example pattern, but with different adjectives and the option to replace "a lot" with "a little." Students filled in the blanks with their classmates' names, and then we read them out loud. The sentences were often funny, and because students were talking about each other, they had real motivation to listen. The speakers also had great motivation to use correct grammar, because a correct "insult"has more impact than an incorrect one. We had a lot of fun with that activity!

The past quarter had some challenges reminiscent of the struggles I endured during my first weeks at this program. Among the most challenging aspects for me is getting students to be quiet and pay attention, especially following group work. Switching the lights on and off, clapping, and even using my lifeguard voice barely had an impact. In a short class period with lots to cover, the time lost trying to get students back to attention really adds up.

Despite some of the ongoing classroom management issues, I found success in vocabulary instruction with the help of PowerPoint and Google images. For each set of new vocabulary, I made a PowerPoint slideshow in which the first slide had an image related to one of the new words and the following slide had the picture and a meaningful sentence including the new word. I found that the pictures helped students recall the words, and the sentences helped reinforce how to use the word correctly. We reviewed these shows at the beginning of nearly ever class hour, and I felt that students were able to bring these words into their productive vocabulary more quickly due to the repetition. In addition, I printed the pictures and sentences on separate papers and then gave each student either a sentence or a picture. Working with their classmates, they had to find the appropriate matches and sit together. I found this to be an effective get-out-of-your-seat activity to introduce the new vocabulary in a communicative way. Students were mostly able to find the matches on their own, which I assume is more valuable to learning than simply absorbing the teacher's explanation passively.

Overall, a successful quarter, even if I did often feel zapped for energy. I blame that on the springtime weather tease: warm and sunny followed by snowstorm and wind.

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