Fortnightly Focus #9 – reflecting and resoluting (?)
While I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas break, towards the end of the holiday I had one of those awful “I haven’t done anything I had planned to do in preparation for the next term” moments. Thankfully, a trip to the gym sorted that out, although part of me still feels a little guilty for doing so-very-nearly absolutely nothing over the two weeks.
Anywho, to reflect on the first term:
There were many positives to it – I thoroughly enjoy teaching my two adult groups and I feel that we’re making good progress in terms of linguistic content and skills-based work. I think this is perhaps more true in the ISE II group as despite having had very few lessons with them, I get the impression that they’re now feeling more comfortable with the exam – at least in terms of what’s expected from them, if not with the linguistic level too.
I’m also really enjoying the teen groups I have this year. I have one academy class who are preparing for PET and they are wonderfully engaged, chatty and amusing. It’s a pleasure to prepare lessons for them 🙂 I’ve struck lucky with my conversation groups in the local school too – although there is a range of ability and attitudes towards English in each group of 8 learners, we generally have a good laugh together and I feel that by working with smaller groups, I can build more of a connection with each individual, even though I only see them for half an hour once a fortnight.
Whilst I enjoy working with larger groups of learners in the bilingual programme, I know that there are still a few whose names I struggle to remember – check out one of my resolutions below! Having said that though, many of them still call me Carmen, as she was their secondary teacher last year. Another issue I have with these classes is that I find my presence a little unnecessary – their mainstream teachers are more (than) capable of teaching the content in the bilingual classes without any external support.
I was also going to reflect a little on the ideas I had of areas I’d like to work on this year – however, I wrote the list at the start of the year before I knew what my timetable would be and some of them feel irrelevant, whilst others, somewhat depressingly, I feel I haven’t made much of 🙁
So, moving on to think about my resolutions:
One of them, fairly key in my mind at the moment, is to take a more balanced approach when reflecting on my teaching. If you’ve been following my Fortnightly Focuses (Focii?!), you’ll see that I’ve been struggling with a couple of groups this year, which had really been getting me down and making me question my career choices. However, when I think about the group which it feels I’m making the least progress with, it accounts for 8% of my weekly contact hours. Elly Setterfield blogged about having SMART objectives which make you SMILE (check out her post to see what the acronyms stand for) and gave an excellent example of how you could put them into practice, aptly with a problem class of 7-10 year olds! I have a feeling that this resolution will be a tricky one to achieve though…
I also loved Lizzie Pinard’s post from yesterday on setting effective goals and reading about her own resolutions – being specific when wording objectives is key to helping you achieve them. So, relating to the point above about working with larger class, my goal is to be able to name all learners correctly(!) by the end of February.
A third edu-based resolution is to continue doing something which I started to think about last year after reading Sandy Millin’s post on lesson-planning. Seeing the detail that went into her plan, I adapted my own lesson plan template and included a couple of tips for myself to think about when prepping lessons. For my VYL classes, this included the question, “Am I doing anything NEW with them?” Whilst (V)YLs thrive on routine, they also need to be kept on their toes as they can easily become bored with the same activities / songs / stories, so I’m going to continue including a new element to our classes each week. This week, it’s the song Can an elephant jump? Linked to this idea though, is also a more critical approach to activities in the YL classroom – what’s the benefit? Is it just for fun, or are the learners getting more from it?
Finally, I have a couple of non-teaching resolutions which I’ll include now (always good to remember we have lives outside the classroom!). One is to finish any crochet projects I start – I currently have two on the go – a baby blanket which is a (now belated) Christmas gift and a bag made with ringpulls. A culinary resolution is to not waste pulses – here in Spain you can buy jars of cooked pulses, but generally my partner and I only use half a jar in a recipe, so the jar sits in the fridge until it starts to fizz a little…
Wowsers, quite a long post for this Fortnightly Focus! Fortnightly Focus #10 is on assessing writing with adults. One of my start-of-the-year goals was to use Jing to correct written work with adults – something which I started doing in December. In the academy, we’re also starting to work with B1 and B2 learners on peer-correcting writing, so in the next week, I’ll be introducing them to the system and trying it out. In a couple of weeks’ time, I’ll reflect on the three approaches (traditional, teacher-marked vs. jing feedback and a corrected version in Word vs peer assessment).