Combining Teaching and Study

Joy, oh joy, one of the topics I chose for this semester serendipitously follows on from Motivation, Cognition and Metacognition, the topic I enjoyed the most last semester! While that topic was compulsory, The Psychology of Learning & Instruction is my first optional choice. I had originally hoped to enrol in Introduction to SLA,  but like many others, it’s only available in first semester.

My first assignment for this topic is a study of learners thoughts while engaged in learning. To create a class of learners, I am teaching Indonesian to two 25 year olds. This will be as challenging for me as it will be for them. They have both studied Indonesian to year 12, and while that was 7 years ago, their Indonesian proficiency is far above most of my previous students (excepting you, Trees). They both are adjusting to a CI approach after traditionally learning Indonesian with me in primary school (pre-CI) and various teachers in high school. I though, am adjusting to working with a ‘class’ of learners who all have very sound vocabulary and grammar knowledge. Both learners also represent two types of students I struggle catering for simultaneously in lessons. One, E, represents the majority of students in that she enjoys the lessons and is progressing well due to excellent levels of focus, participation and self-regulation. My other learner, B, is a 4%-er. She is highly successful when challenged, yet is easily bored when not. How fabulous is it that I get the opportunity to study student thinking, focus on juggling two learner types we all have in our classrooms, while also stretching myself through teaching advanced Indonesian! Steep learning curve for all three of us!

I began my lesson with explaining briefly how CI works, but when B’s eyes started glazing over, I cut it short. Probably makes sense to just add snippets to each lesson as necessary. I then handed out a piece of A4 paper, asked them to fold it in four and then number each square and write their name in the middle. In square one, I asked them to list all languages they have learned over their lifetime. I then asked them to circle the one they are the most proficient in and underline the one they are least proficient in. I had hoped this would lead to a discussion about the best way to learn a language, but as again I could feel the interest level dropping, I again kept it brief. Again, I will revisit this when appropriate. In the second square, I asked them to draw a venn-diagram for the two languages identified in square one and then think about emotions involved with the learning of each. B’s diagram for Indonesian & latin represented a true 4%-er! IMG_0637

Here is E’s:IMG_0700.JPG

In the third square, I asked them to think of a maximum of 5 every day inanimate objects. This was in preparation for the first planned task; one word image. I decided to do the thinking here to help minimise the amount of English once the lesson started formally. In the final quarter, I wanted to both give them to access long term memory and in doing so, hopefully give them a feeling of success. I asked them to write the English translations for the top 10 + sudah/belum. Unfortunately this didn’t go quite to plan, as E mixed up a few which hopefully didn’t confirm her self-belief about her level of proficiency. However overall, they both enjoyed the opportunity to discuss formal/informal aspects of Indonesian language. Maybe the are all 4%ers!!

I then established a gesture for not understanding (hand moving over head) and ‘Slow Down’ (dribbling a basket ball), before introducing the language “Apa Bahasa Indonesianya” to help reduce English during lessons. In retrospect, this proved invaluable as they are so used to using English in lessons as is typical in the traditional language classroom. A huge shoutout to Daniel Dubois for this tip. I will be reflecting on Daniel’s skills more and more as my lessons progress, and not just for his impressive management of all learner types.

I opted not to start the lesson formally with card talk as my two learners know each other very well, (friends since year 3), and instead started with a one word image (OWI). The reason behind this was to have a neutral subject that neither had any foreknowledge  of and to encourage them to bounce off each other. Firstly, doing a OWI with just two people was tricky and thankfully one of the suggestions given was a ‘home run’. I went through a selection of OWI questions to flesh out the character. These included size, colour, name, kind/mean, wealthy/poor, likes/dislikes & motion. All except for likes/dislikes generated so much collaborative discussion. They bounced ideas off each other, I couldn’t keep up! I had planned to do a write and discuss but postponed it till the next lesson as there was so much detail and they kept working on the storyline in dribs and drabs; so I am looking forward to tomorrows lesson to see if we can remember all the suggestions that were thrown out there and incorporate them more smoothly into a piece of writing.

In reflection, I wish I had organised a secretaries book for B. She will benefit more with the duties of a secretary during lessons. Multi tasking will hopefully provide a challenge while also giving me time to check in with E more often. The squeaky wheel certainly does get more attention! The notes will also help us keep tabs on what they talk about during lessons and as I am writing now, I will also suggest that B uses the opposite page to record any thoughts/feelings about how she is learning to supplement the questionnaires I send them after the lessons.

I incorporated just one brain break and will try to include a few more now that I have more idea of what will work. It worked well!
Here it is:

Finger tips

Make an x with your arms with your palms facing you. Lock thumbs together. With your index finger, try to touch each finger tip on the opposite hand one by one. Repeat with opposite fingers and then proceed through all the different fingers.

Here are my ‘field notes’ for my first lesson:

  • When compelling, was engaged in task however as soon as that finished she began over thinking again.
  • My difficulty was keeping both B and E engaged while catering for their different ability/confidence levels.
  • Both thoroughly engaged while collaborating on aspects of the OWI. Most engaging were: the name (Jessy Jigsaw), the object (a jigsaw piece), kind/mean & rich/poor.
  • Highly engaged when they sparked off each other and collaborated together.
  • Down time provided time for over thinking.
  • Overcome B’s attitude that because she can understand the conversation, she is not being challenged.
  • Overcome frustration that learning can only happen when pen and paper are in one’s hand.
  • Tackle the belief that it is the teachers job to extend and challenge students.

And here are my reflections to help with planning my next lesson:

  • Need to limit the amount of unfamiliar vocabulary for E while also challenging B without stressing E.
  • invite B to explain grammar, artist/secretary (book), reading, translating,
  • invite B to put target words into a sentence
  • search a list of high frequency vocabulary for future vocabulary targets.
  • Be more vigilant of E’s efforts to stay in the loop and comprehending.
  • Exclamations – include them!

I need to focus on engagement and motivation for students with differing needs i.e. proficiency, challenge & similar needs i.e. performance and achievement anxiety.

Any feedback on my reflections will be greatly appreciated. Any suggestions or comments to help with either lesson planning or seeking ‘data’, would also be warmly received!

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