A focus for next year is how I can make my classes less teacher-centred. It’s something I’ve been thinking about this year, especially around the adult GESE group which I had as I found that they were perfectly capable of extended, interactive exchanges in pairs, but that they were less likely to interact as naturally when conversing with me (irrespective of it being in a one-on-one situation or in a whole-group setting).
I like this quote from an article in The Guardian with a tip for Demanding High:
The teacher gets students to listen and comment on each other’s answers, rather than designating any as correct or incorrect herself, at least until it is useful to do so.
It speaks to me on a number of levels: the idea of moving away from a teacher-centred classroom and passing more responsibility to learners for response and extension, the effect of over-affect or perhaps the advantage of distancing myself from the conversation and finally, the importance of focused, appropriate error correction.
Most of us have had a difficult class at some point in our careers. And by class, I really do mean class, rather than a tough learner within a class. I’ve had a couple of difficult classes over the past few years, most of which were comprised of wonderful individuals who just didn’t work well when in the room together at the same time.
Last year, I took on a group which had been difficult the previous year and had actually reduced one of their teachers to tears. This year, they’re with a teacher who is new to our academy and it made me think about how we decide who teaches those difficult groups.
At the same time, I’ve recently discovered a new brainstorming site, which allows you to collaborate in an online brainstorm. So, feel free to add your ideas below…
This year we’re working even more closely with a local state school, which is absolutely marvellous – a great way to forge friendships, learn from peers and get an insight into different ways of approaching education. For me, it’s the first time I’ve been faced with such a large group of students and I won’t lie, it’s not something I feel particularly comfortable with! We are very fortunate to have their mainstream teacher in the room with us and it’s a bonuc for a number of reasons – obviously discipline issues are dealt with by the teacher with more authority, but also it makes the work of monitoring large numbers much simpler.
Some initial thoughts on teaching large groups…
1. People get lost much more easily – both I think through sheer volume of voices in the class but also, and this may be a weakness on my part, because when you see someone is noticeably weaker, you feel even worse putting them on the spot to be listened to by 29 other people.
2. It’s incredibly difficult to remember people’s names. Fortunately I’ve been teaching in the school for a number of years, so I’m quite familiar with a lot of the faces in the sea before me…and perhaps that’s why I feel worse when I don’t remember someone’s name.
3. It’s not impossible to hear from everyone during the lesson – the nature of WGFB changes as you no longer want to hear from each individual after each activity, but there are enough moments of WGFB during the lesson that you can nominate everybody (even those souls mentioned in point 1, once we’re all a bit more comfortable!).
4. Everything takes longer. I don’t know whether this is because we’re working at an average lower level than we normally would in academy classes, or whether it takes longer because of the time it takes to monitor each group…hmmm, one to think about.
5. It’s difficult to keep/get everyone’s attention. There are always distractions – someone’s pencil falling on the floor, a whispered comment…and it takes much longer to snap the class back to the focus.
6. It’s really noisy! Oh, the joy of a communicative class where students are merrily conversing in English – it’s happening (with snitches of Spanish when they think you’re not listening), but it’s very loud 🙂 And it makes me think about which activities I’ll need to adapt to make them more “big-class-friendly” – running dictations for example are a possibility, but with one person dictating to the group, rather than students working in pairs. Shouting dictations are a definite no-no!
7. It’s really good fun! 🙂
I’m killing two birds with one stone with this post! Firstly as it allows me to throw out another piece of paper with thoughts from last year written on and also it’s good for one of my new year resolutions!
At some point last year, probably during my quest to make use of more routines, I started a list of some activities I could do in class to revise language. So here’s my list…
- Question word O+X
- Where’s the ghost? (good for prepositions)
- Character Builds (great for any age and level)
- Star Word
- Freeze! (What were you doing when…?)
- Alphabet Race
- Guess the Question
- The Boss Says…
- Disappearing Sentence
- Sit down if…
- Different types of Dictation
- Vocab boxes