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Getting there


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Felt a bit burned out this morning, even to the point of actually filling marks in my files on the train during the morning commute. Guess it was the feeling of having everything prepared, from last week.

Lesson plan: Vocabulary Sheets,
Twenty minutes viewing graphs of 5 peers,
Five minute break,
Twenty minute viewing of 5 peers,
Listening exercise on the influences on the economy

I got in really early to set up the CD player for the listening, realized I needed an extension cable too (Why didn't they warn me in the office where you borrow these things???sniff) and asked a real early bird student to watch over the equipment as I dashed off to get it. Set out the envelopes and the coupons with the returned marked past vocab sheet and previous day's test at the back for students to pick up as they come in. Chatted with the two earliest students, sleepy too, they said, one's part-time job a bartender at a Japanese-style bar, cool! Personally explained the mistakes in the vocab sheet to students as they came in, then as the whole troop came in started to listen in here and there as they work.

Some explained they had finished, even though they came in later, so I rechecked: the guy I checked hadn't learned a single word, even though the checker had marked it all correct. What was this, I asked the checker.."Well, "he said, " I gave him hints". Not good enough, I said, redo the math with the marks deducted on the words I retested.
This happened here and there, as I double checked, not only are they not checking if the words are economics related, or if they are in there twice, which is why I have the extra work, but not all students are checking partners seriously, and that is something with 40 that I cannot police. So the serious students are at a serious disadvantage.

In retrospect I needed to stop the class there and then to talk about this problem, but I was tired and befuddled and disappointed all in one, and just handed out the peer example sheet I had again prepared and talked about the choice of vocabulary, rather than the checking procedure...Reinforcing the preparatory stage, but not the evaluative procedures...Obviously need to be more flexible to things going wrong, but since I hadn't anticipated the students not checking seriously, I felt at sea myself...Necessary here to invite student voices as to why they are doing what they are doing.

Now I was all confused, so I reminded them of graphs and asked them to check they had all written in a decent hypothesis. This confused them, as they had mostly prepared the homework, and didn't see how to rewrite it. As I wandered round I realized I couldn't ask them to rethink, and re-edit, but should honor their preparation, so I stopped short and explained the coupon system/the presentation of your graph five times/visiting of five different peer graphs in turn before and after the break.

Now again, I hadn't anticipated that there would be a mix up as to who was to stand up and go visiting and who was to sit and explain the graph, so the whole activity began with much confusion and hesitation. (The students are really not used to any of these communicative methods, methinks, and with forty of them to manage....)
One of the students suggested they should make a note of what graphs they had looked at, which was a great idea, so when they all sat down again I asked them to think back and make a short note of what the five graphs they had seen, and we all took a break. Obviously I am not managing the class as clearly as I would hope.

After the break it was the second group's turn to go visiting, and as I went round listening to explanations and offering suggestions I noticed some/many? students weren't bothering to explain their graphs or do the quiz earnestly, just handing out coupons like sweeties to friends. Plus a mountain of Japanese and chat inbetween. Some others were even quietly sitting their making a graph at the back of the room because they hadn't done the homework. Again, the shock of their not all being honest and earnest and focused on study which I presupposed confused me even more, ,,,

Before I start explaining just how to do an activity, I need to remind them WHY they are doing an activity, instead of expecting them to be thinking along the way I do. Motivational strategies of goal-setting missing here??

Well, the listening then was no go, we had to go over the worksheet on the economic influences on the business cycle, practiced the pronunciation of some key words like 'trough' and 'contraction'and just practiced saying some of the sentences. When I asked them, "Is this true?" "What do you think?" there was a general silence, students I called on to give an opinion evaded with an "I'm not sure." In order to get them to think about the why and wherefore, not least to add to their graphs, and build up for presentation argumenting, I asked them for homework to agree or disagree and add real examples to the statements we matched up.

On my way home I bumped into a group of about six of them, and asked why they were not even trying to speak English, even though I knew some of them are really fluent from stays overseas. "Well", said one, "We all have known each other for three years now, and it's really unnatural to be speaking English to each other." "Well", said another, "I'm kind of lazy". I argued that a classroom wasn't a natural place to be so could they please try, and that I was counting on them to be leaders in my class, with their abilities, and wandered off home with a pile of graphs and vocab to check.

The graphs indeed are interesting and varied, so they are working, I think it is related in part to my own lack of reinforcing where we are going with it. Lack of clear goal-related explanations. Then it struck me they may not have the course outline, because it wasn't printed in the course description manual, due to time constraints. So of course they might not have a clue where we are going. Although the Uni told me it had been posted on the bulletin board, who looks at that??