Friday, October 16, 2009

Speaking Listening Speaking Listening

Things have been very busy this week, but it was to be expected because we are still in the first few weeks of the semester. I think that from November, things will slow down a little, and I will hopefully have more time to post the same day as my class. Of course, the first few posts have also been quite lengthy, which takes time to write, but I think that eventually, I will be able to post them quickly. Honestly, I try to write notes during class (not this detailed of course), but I prefer to walk around and observe my students during activities, so it can be challenging to write anything until afterward, but it is not really a problem.

Well, yesterday’s class felt almost like a replay of last week’s class. I had two more new students join, but then, I had some students not show up, so I am not sure if that means they have decided not to take the course or if they were just absent. I will have to wait until next week to find out. I think that I may have to change the classroom, too, because there is a class in there before mine, and as I try to arrange desks to give the students enough space, and to give the space to get near them, I need time to do that. I asked students to help me, but I think the arrangement is something that should be done much earlier than 10 minutes before. I think that having so little time to arrange the room could cause me to start the class later than I want to, and also, having the room ready beforehand, you can feel more relaxed going in than if you have to go in just before class to do it. Therefore, I think I will try to find out if there are any other classrooms available and move there.

Once the desks were in order, and the students had their books (I asked the students without books to go and buy them before class), we started with a review quiz of unit 1. It was a simple fill in the blank exercise, but I may increase the level of difficulty in the future. After that, we looked at the second installment of word stress focusing on words whose stress falls on the second syllable in two-syllable words. Next week, we will review both word initial and word final stress before moving on to three-syllable words the following week. I am very happy to say that the students seem to have a good understanding of word stress so far, but we will see how it goes next week with the review.

Next, we started unit 2, which focuses on daily activities. There are only 12 units in this book, so we have to do them all. Personally, I prefer to have more chapters, so that I can choose those to focus on, but since I am giving them two tests, there is enough material for each class, so it works out well. Something which I am considering though is having them choose the next unit, something that may be interesting to try next class.

I began by writing some questions on the board and then had them listen to the CD for the answers. After we had looked at the answers, we listened to the conversation as a class with books opened, and then I had them practice with a different partner. I then did something a little different – I chose three groups to practice the conversation in front of the class, and then I asked the class to vote on the best performance. I think the students liked this, and maybe I will try again choosing different pairs each time.

After that, we continued with vocabulary. The activity was simply matching expressions to its corresponding picture. I then asked students individually for the answers, and had them in pairs to use the vocabulary and simply tell their partner what they do on a day of their choosing. I walked around to make sure they were focused on the task and to provide support if necessary. We then did a short dictation – they had to listen to the CD and fill in the blanks. After we had corrected this, I had them stand up and walk around finding three different partners to practice the conversation each time choosing a different set of words. Finally, we did another listening exercise. They listened to a short dialogue, more like an interview and they had to answer several questions. This was a little difficult for some, so I played it about 3 times before asking them for their answers.

I think that this class went well overall, but I did not have enough time to do a speaking activity that I wanted to do. I think I may be able to overcome this by cutting out one of the dialogue practice activities because it would be better for them to ask questions to their partner than just simply reading a scripted dialogue. Of course, you could try to have them memorize the conversation and then practice in front of a small group; I am not sure how well it would work, but it may be something to try because then they have to do more than just read a text, they have to focus on what they are reading. It may also be worthwhile to skip the vocabulary component as well because many of the words they seem to already know (this textbook is only level 1). In future classes therefore, I should try to focus on more speaking activities, but maintain the amount of listening activities because that is something that I wanted to include more this semester and a big reason for going with a textbook. Obviously speaking is important in a class, but a good balance between the two is definitely key.

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