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Getting there


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I was feeling happy to be preparing for class, all enthusiastic.

I set up my folders with handouts and photos of last year from A-J, sticking colored labels on each, and also copied my worksheet for the day and the presentation rubrics.

In class there was a new face, so I began explaining about eemsophia and wondering about how to get a US id. I asked students who managed it all in the first term, but they'd forgotten, then one dependable student reminded me of their wonderfulness and said they hadn't bothered with an address, but it all went fine. Thank you!

A few late-comers, but the chime went, so I smiled and said let's begin then, hope you all had a nice summer, beep, beep booooo here we go! In came two latecomers, (omg, they start chatting with students as they wander down the aisle and my momentum is skewed, the focus is gone)...please sit down quietly and do not talk when you come late, I reminded them, (sorry, they said), and I said, ok, if you're ready let's begin....took another two minutes of chiding and tiding time, names, and then, at last! I began to explain the basic outline of the course with grading.

  • four group presentations with a group grade 60x4
  • four vocabulary sheets (incl. one test made by me) 40x4
  • one summer assignment graded first by themselves, then two other students with time for revision inbetween, then finally me 100
  • Totalled and divided by five for a grade out of 100, with five percent off for absence and two percent for late-coming.

Any questions? Anyone need this again in Japanese? Ok, so the lot in japanese again, and it was 9:30....everyone looked so aghast, and one locus of inattention started to fidget and sort of whisper, so I suggested we all take a moment to stretch, wake up, be quiet and focus for some individual work. We then welcomed three new students, making sure everyone heard the names.

Split the rows into A and B, relocating a couple of people who were three to a table, saying it was hard for me to see what they were doing and support them if they have a question, and distributed the worksheet, asking A and B to do half the worksheet task 1 each individually, linking up phrases applicable to a good presentation which I got from 'in company intermediate' by Mark Powell, Macmillan.

As I wandered round explaining to link up words on the left and right, look up meanings in a dictionary and check pronunciations, and so on, to people who were at sea with the worksheet, one student was like, oh god, i don't understand, i can't do this anyway, sort of thing and beginning a disturbing conversation with the people around. Look, I said, before you ask a friend, try it out yourself, use your dictionary, the paper, it's an attitude thing. Respect yourself, respect the teacher, put in some work. I reminded them that this was individual work first. Other students were racing ahead, some were so fast they were doing both, so I said, ok, please take time to check your answers and check pronuciation because you're going to read out the answers to the other group person sitting next to you. Some people stood up and went off to check, others just talked with the people behind/in front.

Right, I said, now try the wee conversation: A For a good presentation you need~. B. Yes, and you need ~. filling in the answers of the other person as you go. Hmmmm confusions, and some attempts to do it as I modeled again for individual pairs....but how do we know if the answers are correct? asked one student.

Here I missed the chance to ask back, how do you know if my answers are correct?, instead chided they might have made more of the chance to stand up and compare with more than just the people next door, to stand up and network with other strong English students in the room....'get off your butt and go check with five or ten other people you respect', is the wording i seem to remember using, which in retrospect embarrassed me, so i apologized for the strength of my language....:P

OK, so then to make sure everyone gets a chance to hear the pronunciation and check up finally, we chorused the five conversations, with me shutting up at the answer moment and students filling them in as we went along.

Great, so, here we are with ten criteria for a good presentation. Does this remind you of first term? Where we measure something you can't measure (the economy), so we set up criteria, decide what is important in the process, or could be used to measure (economic indicators)??? And then we rank, deciding what are the most important criteria, remember? Great, so please make a ranking of the three most important criteria for presentations in those ten, and take a moment to work quietly noting your justification, using the mini-phrases provided in Exercise 2.

Everyone began to do this for about five mins.....Ok and before the break I'd like you in groups of three or four sitting where you are to share those thoughts, using discussion patterns we learnt last term, of validating what other people say, repeating what you agree with, and then adding your thoughts, let me model here with this group....chose a group in the middle left, rather than the right near corner, and we modelled nicely, then I moved round groups getting them started, hearing if they were giving it a go.

Humorous moment where one person in favor of the importance of a strong voice spoke so softly in their group that nobody could hear them...one of the others put up a hand to indicate they hadn't understood, so I asked for repetition. Another group, in responding, two people piped up at the same time...you go first, said one in japanese...."After you", i said, oh, they said, is that how you say it? nice wee learning moment.

Anyway, break now, but before you go, please don't sit down when you get back, but make groups of three or four to move round workstations and look at peer work, also someone help me set up the workstations, volunteer please, OK TAKE FIVE!

Sadly nobody volunteered to help, so I was moving tables and things on my own, until I asked a couple of people to move (they would move away but not help....). When the break was over I was just about finished, so I asked for students to remain standing up and send me group leaders. Some were fine, a clump of people was dithering, so I said I'm going to count backwards from ten, otherwise if your group leader doesn't come for a paper your group will not get credits. Scrambling for paper, some groups took too many....not well organized, but with the chairs and desks all moved it was hard to see which clumps were well formed groups or not....

Ok, please go to a workstation, you have the next forty minutes to have a look at them all and make individual notes of what you noticed, then pool the ideas and group leader note them for me on the white sheet with your names. This way I could double check if then noticed things I wanted them to, or not....

It was agonizing sometimes trying to get some groups not to take the files away from the workstation back to a desk, or to actually put materials back in the files before they move on. But here I think i am focusing on the tiny number of failures, compared to the majority of groups and processes which were great. In the final five to ten minutes i collected workstation files, handed out rubrics and said I wanted them to study the rubrics, make a vocab sheet on new words in the rubrics/today's worksheet, and to write a short threepoint justification of whether the rubrics are ok/need changing to be handed to me next class, using phrases from exercise 2 of the worksheet if necessary.

Whew, out in time, with desks back in order, the newcomers helping me clear the board and straighten tables while i gathered up my sheaf of stuff. Then we spent fifteen minutes in the corridor as I explained the vocab sheet (how to learn the translations, for discussion and reports to learn synonms or definitions, and to learn full sentences for collocation, natural phraseology) and summer assignment, and how to use rubrics. In English first, and then again in Japanese, since they requested it. Please help me by speaking English in class and doing the preparation, I explained, this class is about you thinking, not me telling. If you have any probs, email me.

And here at home i have just approved four new members of eemsophia, so methinks they have managed to get in.

I feel exhausted! EXHAUSTED! I feel like it was a bit of a chaotic class, and I am wondering how to get the students involved who are blocking speaking English in discussion tasks, blocking working per se. I did at one point threaten someone, telling them to pull up their socks, that the grade included attitude in class....I don't like doing that, but I am wondering how to get them going...at home, hubs says have you heard of the 80:20 theory, where however well you do, you only ever manage to do 80%. I think he's trying to make me cheer up. It's not that I'm not cheering up, it's like I'm trying to think how to do better, make the process more appealing. I remember that I have some whacky figure like 30,000presentations are made on the planet every minute, and that I need to start off not with my worksheet, but with triggering some of student's own personal experiences of presentations. BASIC, I hear some readers pointing out, you numbskull....always so much to juggle in a class, I defend myself. I do well, and I always do better!