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Getting there


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thursday Day Four

Everyone is back on track in learning mode, including me, in spite of posting up the crossword homework at the groupsite late last night. Lesson content was the same as Tuesday, Vocab checking while I learned some names and gave personal feedback, then students checking another person's worksheet as I explained how vocabulary shifts into synonyms and modals change when agreeing and disagreeing. After the break we split into groups of four to jigsaw group leadership skills, and finally I distributed the homework and a wee up-to-date article on the Japanese economy I found riding in on the train which I'll use next week. Need to load it up on the web.

So what was different? Well, everyone was on time with vocab checking, nice, so I had the extra ten minutes I lost on Tuesday to rerun the course grading scheme: vocab sheets for 40 added to homework/ minitest/ group discussion scores for 6o give ten days worth of marks out of 100. An average of 90+ over seven days (disregarding the lower scores) gives a straight A grade and an exemption from the final exam. Including the final exam as one score out of eight, 80+ is B, 70+ is C, 60+ is D, with everything else failing the course. Good to get it clear, it seems students were not so clear on that, which may account for the comparatively lower standard of homework preparation for class.

After this I asked students to take out a red pen and redistributed papers to be marked. I didn't bother asking students to answer particular questions, I just modelled myself on the board, but I set things up more clearly in terms of the overall structure of the lesson: "Today we are going to look at 2 techniques for discussion, one now and one after the break".

I started off by explaining this worksheet was about spoken discussion, not writing, although it's written down, and then doing a wee skit:
"I like icecream" "Me, too" "Me, too." "Me, too" each time moving a little further along to the side of the room to visually fix the different voices.
"Ok, [name]" I said to one of my students, "What was the topic?" and when I saw it was asking too much, I answered myself, "I like icecream""Right?" (doing acting and teachering at the same time here, but no puppets like you can use with wee kids, so kind of moving in the room, to illustrate my different roles). "So with a short discussion, you can say me too and not forget the main idea, right? But with a longer idea, you forget, so we repeat.
"I think the economy is looking up, because the jobless rate is dropping.""Me, too", "Me too" Me too" "What was the topic?" I pinged one of my best and brightest..."Eeeehhhhm" came the response, "Right, we forget, because it's too long. So we can repeat the topic as we agree so that we don't forget"
"I think the economy is looking up, because the jobless rate is dropping""Me, too. The economy is looking up. " "Me, too. The economy is looking up." "Me too. The economy is looking up." "Oops, we all sound like parrots, a bit stupid, right? So when we repeat so as not to forget the main idea, we change some parts, so as not to sound like parrots. Let's look at the homework sheet to see which parts of the idea we can change."
So then seeing how "Japan's economy" is paraphrased to "things", to "the economy", to "the Japanese economy", or how "looking up" is paraphrased to "on the move" or "more positive" made sense. "Ok, so when you learn your vocabulary phrases, section 11-15, you can learn definitions of economic terminology, or you can learn useful synonyms to sound intelligent in discussion"
Wow the beauty of the way it linked back into the vocabulary learning skills and how to choose and why to choose words and phrases!

"Right" I continued, "so if changing the nouns or words is about sounding intelligent, changing the modal part of the verb, may, is, does, seems to, is about agreeing or disagreeing with another opinion, while showing you're responding and listening. Let's move on to section 2 of the homework worksheet." (I noticed myself wishing I had taped this whole thing...)

Then I used the same technique of actually moving away from a first stated position to indicate strong agreement, exactly, further away, that's a good idea. and furthest away, you may be right..I suppose so, to kind of visually fix positions of agreement. Then as I highlighted each modal and how the agreement gets weaker, I would move to that place in the room, finally even stamping my heel (ah the resounding thwack of high heels to indicate a bit of polite disagreement, as i move from I suppose so to you may be right, to But the economy is (thwack) still in recession...) :)

Everyone took a break after this performance, and were ready to begin groupwork at 10:17. Again, with Tuesday's hindsight I didn't hand out homework first because it distracts from the task at hand. Instead I took a moment to sketch up a visual diagram of how to do a jigsaw task on the board, with four wee grids shaded in different areas, and a wee team of four people with three going off to get info at the other sheets with long arrows to show how the team splits up and reconverges to pool the info. I also reaffirmed that now was their time to practice speaking English, and not to show the paper, so there was more serious attempt to actually speak during the task compared with Tuesday.

Ok, I said, go for it, and wow they were working well, and I went round making sure groups understood the task, how to choose phrases they needed from below, and when the actual research process was underway, trying to prompt to not write everything but to make notes of the important info. This they are not used to, they were dictating everything and trying to write down the whole text of other groups, and I didn't have time to catch all teams to explain note-taking. Managed to get some students clued in, and learned some more names, finally when teams were back together and working on the jumbled sentences I handed out the homework and then in the last two minutes ran through the why and wherefore of the answers in Japanese while modelling the pronunciation of the salient group leader phrases.

Great work, and if any of you have time to spare after doing all the homework and the vocab and you love Economics, please take a copy of the article we will be using in class next week and read it....wowowowo, they all took one! Bingo!

Ooooh I forgot, after the break as a meta intro to the second discussion technique I talked about how I read in the Nikkei that the Japanese government has debated over forty times in the past year on introducing the concept of "loving your country" (aikokushin) into the national curriculum guidelines, and still had come to no conclusion......well, I said, that won't wash in a fast-moving company, imagine, what is it they need? Someone to move the discussion along, to focus the main ideas, and to set a time limit, in short, a group leader! And that's our second technique for discussion, how to be an effective group leader."

Meanwhile I had pulled out the day's NIkkei, trying to find the article, and all the students murmured and one commented "kakkoi", "kewl" that I was (able to) reading the Japanese economic paper, which buttered me up a treat! Yes, I digressed, "forget "Time " magazine, read the "Economist" (holding it up)or "The Financial Times" or the "nikkei weekly"" and one of my students had the "New York Tribune and held that up, which impressed everyone even more.

I remembered one of my students last year saying the course had helped them to begin reading (economic) newspapers, so it felt like that kind of moment, nice modelling and nice peer modelling....