Earlier today I experienced a lesson
which left me with a feeling of deep professional satisfaction. Let me share some of the moments here on my blog.
taught a double lesson (90 minutes altogether), which meant plenty of time to
do stuff I don't normally do. Plus I decided to set up
group work which was not part of my original plan. Not that group work is
something extraordinary or unusual in my teaching, but for the sake of effectiveness, when
grouping my students, I usually ask one pair to quickly join another pair (quite obviously the nearest
one). This only requires little movement and almost no changes to the seating
arrangement. This technique has proved quite effective over time, particularly with larger
classes. However, today, with all the extra time on my hands, I approached group work a bit differently.
There were 21
students present - 2 were missing. I quickly estimated that I needed to make 5
groups: 4 groups of 4 and one group of 5. I chose five kids who I knew are
really motivated language learners, as well as good writers. Then I asked the appointed 'leaders' to choose kids they'd like to work
with. This is not always feasible but I felt I could afford to give the kids some freedom (the time factor again). There is a little psychological drawback to this approach though; the last kids that remain to be chosen may feel sad. However, if a grouping technique
like this is done sporadically, it doesn't do any harm to the overall
atmosphere. To the contrary, it reveals a lot about the class dynamics, which can
be quite useful for the teacher in the long term perspective. I should point to the fact that I'm the homeroom teacher of this particular class and this type of information is very important for me. Next time I'll be able to work with the data I collected in today's lesson; for example, I may appoint the former 'outsiders'
as the leaders and see how it works.
As I said, the
leaders I chose today are quite responsible language learners, and I noticed that
they tried to select the team players very carefully; apparently they tended to
avoid some of the notorious spoilsports. This part of group making went really
well and nobody made any obstructions, which, inevitably, sometimes happens in a
class of 14-year-olds. When the kids finally settled down, I set up a writing activity
where the strongest student was in charge of recording the story, while the
other members had to help and participate actively in the writing
I was surprised
how well they all worked during this stage. I walked around the class monitoring,
making sure that even the weakest students were contributing in some way. I
noticed that the writers sometimes changed the wording of a sentence other
members of the group had come up with, which was beneficial because it helped
the weaker students learn some new words and structures, and it made them
become aware of some of the mistakes which were made along the way. In
addition, the strongest students were motivated since they had the right to
change things if they felt it was to the good.
monitoring, I didn't catch anybody arguing or mocking others, and it seemed
nobody felt offended or even bored. Later on, during the presentation stage,
everybody seemed involved too. I had asked the team to choose one member (it could
be anybody but the writer) to present the story to the class. The rest of the
team had an important job to do during the presentation; they made background sounds such as barking, knocking, shouting, blowing, coughing, etc. (note: the story had originally been presented as a
story in sounds, and after the listening stage and subsequent language work, the
students’ task was to reconstruct the story into the said verbal version). At this point I concentrated on the weakest students to check if they knew where to make a particular sound. As there were lots of new vocabulary items, being able to make the right sound at the right time meant that the listeners understood the reader and that they had collaborated actively during the writing process.
As you can see, I didn't do anything special in today's lesson, and I'm sure that you teachers have done something similar many times in your life. So have I after all. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it was a complete mess. But today it just worked the way it should. Overall, it was a quick and effective activity, and I believe everybody took away something new.