Monday, September 09, 2013

successful (thus far)

I'm happy to report that my round-robin strategy was a success with both of my Monday classes. I had almost achieved the ideal classroom: my students today were focused, on task, talking in English, and working on their own. They maintained this blissful state of affairs for a whole hour, and even applauded when the hour was up. Class was blessedly noisy, which is just the way I like it.

Things weren't entirely perfect, as you might imagine. In fact, I initially thought the whole operation was going to crash and burn. The round-robin format took the form of three rounds, and Round One was a bit messy for both my 11AM-ers and my 1PM-ers: many of them hadn't seriously discussed their pedagogical approach with their teammates (as I had asked them to do), and it showed in their hesitancy and directionlessness. But in true Korean style, my kids pulled it together at the last minute, and by the time we hit Round 2, class was operating smoothly in both the 11AM and 1PM sessions.

I'm proud of my kids, and I'm hopeful that this approach—which forces them to take responsibility for their own learning while ushering me off the stage—will produce English speakers who aren't shy about speaking English.

As I'd mentioned before, the method I've adopted isn't without its flaws. One of the most major problems is that I still need to be there to model correct pronunciation. Today, to address that need, I patrolled the class and wrote on the board whatever mispronunciations I heard. Then, during our short breaks, I reviewed correct pronunciation with the kids. In future lessons, I'm also going to have to make sure that the kids are teaching each other the dialogues and expressions correctly.

In fact, that's one of the things I'll need to cover before we get too far into the semester: I need to teach the kids how to teach. I had given them the opportunity, over the past two weeks, to email me, call me, or visit me at the office should they have questions about how to teach the assigned parts of each chapter. Only two students bothered to write me emails, and it was obvious, from what I saw today, that many more students should have consulted me. Some students "taught" by simply reciting the book's dialogues, leaving their tutees with nothing to do but listen—the very dynamic I was trying to avoid. So I put those fires out right away by halting the kids' lessons and explaining how to involve the tutees in the lesson: don't just recite the dialogue yourself or call out the answers—make your interlocutors do the work! Ask them what the correct answers are! Make them read the dialogues in pairs to each other!

So I'll give them a handout, maybe next week, that'll be all about teaching, which is not simply about brute transfer of information: it's also about reinforcement/encouragement, review, and checking progress. I think my students will be excellent teachers by the end of the semester, and because they'll have taken the reins of their own education, they'll be excellent English-speakers, too.


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