Thursday, December 10, 2009

A trip to autonomy

Today was the second class where I had them work on their own, choosing the order in which they did the tasks. Today’s class included a worksheet on the difference between ‘a’ and ‘the’, a reading exercise, another sentence correction task and their second paragraph with the theme of ‘favorite trip’. I think overall it seems that the students are doing well with this style of class, but it will take a little more observation to really see how they are doing. It might also be necessary to talk to some of them individually to see how they are doing. I think though that the paragraph and the reading are two things that are well-suited to such a class because both activities do not really require the full teaching support that say a grammar item may require. Of course, if I were teaching a reading skill, then yes, I would have to work more closely with the students, but the main reason behind such reading activity is to give them some practice in reading English that possibly many don’t do outside of class.

The sentence corrections as well, do not demand full teacher contact as I have noticed that most students when given the answer key automatically understand where the errors were made, and even some exclaim this fact with an ‘Oh, yeah!’, something which makes me happy to hear.

I think the only activity that needed my attention was the grammar activity on the difference between ‘a’ and ‘the’. Now, with the exception of one student asking me to explain this difference, no one else came up to me to ask for such help. Perhaps they already understood, or perhaps they did not think they could ask me. In the latter case, I will definitely tell the students that if they have any questions, they can ask me because I am there to help them. I could also provide a little more support by including a short explanation on the worksheet for such grammar activities. However, I don’t think that this would be necessary for all grammar points, for example simple present tense or adverbs, but for something such as this, I think I should have explained it before having them start or as I mentioned above, provide a concise explanation. In any case, I realize now that today’s grammar needs to be modified, especially if I decide to use again in such a class in the future.

I feel that this post is more of a defense for choosing to go with this style, but I have to say that until last week, the class has been teacher-focused in that I have clearly explained how to write a paragraph from topic to concluding sentence and have given them practice in using sequence words and in other grammar points, so they do have the tools to work on their own. I definitely would not start this type of class from the beginning unless I had a very clearly explained textbook that students could use on their own, but even then, I think that this type of class should be introduced at a later time once students have become accustomed to writing and reading some English. Perhaps I should even consider slowly integrating this style into the class and not starting it so suddenly so to speak because I am sure some teachers would consider what I did to be just that, and I would have to agree with you somewhat. However, what we are doing in class has not changed; I have just given them the freedom to choose what to do and how long to do it. Perhaps in that case, it is not such a problem. I just have to make sure that there is always enough explanation for the students and that students know that they can ask me questions if they need to.

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