Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lesson Delivery 4: Theories and Reflection

What theories are currently informing your instructional choices? Are you reflecting on your classes' successes and failures? Are you thinking about how they explain or dismiss some of the theories you learned?

How reflective are you?


Heidi Gradall said...

I can´t say that my teaching has been influenced much by any of the past theories that I´ve learned about, but rather by my own trial and error, along with the inspiration that my students give me. My classes are more like tutor sessions or small groups so my classes are specialized to the needs of the students. Also due to the fragile situation I have I have had to be careful not to scare away my students but rather make it fun while learning. I have adapted an interactive teaching style, not a lecture style, with lots of questions for comprehension checks. I think that what I think most about is the balance between English and Spanish in the classroom. Often times I´m not understood when I speak in English and resort to Spanish to explain. I think to an extent this is necessary, or they won´t learn and it would create a frustrating environment for the students, and they´d most likely stop comming. At the same time resorting to English is an easy way out, and deprives the students of English input.
I am fond of the motto ¨practice makes perfect¨, often I find it easy to teach and assume that if they´d study they should understand, when actually what they need is lots more practice, and exposure over time, or at least this is what my students need.

Nessa said...

Reflection is part of my routine. After a lesson I think back and decide what activities went well, why, and what, if anything, was a disaster. Sometimes I can tweek the lessons and adapt them for a different class. Other times things that I think will work well simply do not and I have to do some major changes before I'd do that lesson again.

One thing that is hard for me is to get critiques and advice from my cooperating teachers at school. Sometimes they have small suggestions, but mostly they just tell me how much they liked it (even when I think the lesson or some part of it didn't go well). Are the rest of you getting lots of feedback? How do you go about asking teachers in your school for feedback or advice?

Fredd said...

One interesting aspect of our camp is that each of the teachers had a local intern working with them. My intern had just finished her teaching degree. We compared ideas from theory/methods classes we had completed. Some of her recollections were helpful reminders, e.g. to switch to a different skill when students seem to exceed their attention span.

Talia said...

This camp has 3 main rules/theories that it works with on teaching the students. The three rules that we tell the students is to always speak english, its okay to make mistakes, and to smile. The first one is all about practice. Following the old saying, practice makes perfect. The more that the students use there English, the more comfortable they will be in using it in the future. The second rule is to help them use English all the time. We dont want them to be afraid to use English. If we tell them that mistakes are okay, and we arent here to penalize them for speaking English incorrectly, they have a better chance of using it more frequently. Finally, the last rule is to smile. Our camp is built around friendship. The program is unique because it brings American students to Japan to be counselors to Japanese students. We are not here just to help them learn English and be there teachers, we are also here to be there friends. Being friends with the students gives the classroom a relaxed enviroment. It promotes students making mistakes and using there English a lot, so that way they can communicate as much as possible with there American friends. Smiling and having fun is also apart of this. If the students are having fun at camp they are more relaxed and not so nervous. That way they can use there English in an enviroment that they are comfortable in.

cjdrummer said...


Wow! That camp sounds really cool! Thosa are three wonderful rules to have. It is extremely important for language learners to feel comfortable enough to speak in a foreign language. It is also key for learners to speak freely and to make mistakes. If they do not play around with the language and make mistakes, then it is very difficult to actually progress in the lagnuage. I would love to be able to visit this camp and see what it's like there!

Cait said...

@ Talia
Your camp sounds like a great experience for those learning English. I like the method of 'mistakes are OK!' I also try to implement that in my classroom as well. It is not something the school exactly promotes, but encourages- yes of course. In Peru it is less common to get the students talking so openly and freely, or by choice. I often ask for volunteers before picking people to participate but rarely ever get anyone to help. For that reason, I try to have a slightly more relaxed class so they don't feel as much pressure if they make mistakes and they are comfortable with each other. That way they are not as self conscious and can share or practice their English. I hope you were successful in making your students talk and have fun!

Also, about the counselors being friends with the students- this is an interesting topic. For one aspect, I love the idea. It definitively can make the students more comfortable to practice. On the other hand, they could have an opposite reaction. I am still deciding if being friends with my students is a good idea or not. I think it would change the atmosphere even more if I were closer friends with some and not the others. At the moment I see them all as equals. I have co-worker friends who are very close with their students which can be ok but in their examples (and I'm not sure how much the culture is related in the situation compared to yours) their students' learning level has decreased slightly in comparison to those are not as friendly with their students. I have tried to keep a balance in the middle since there is good and bad to both sides.

Elyssa said...

@ Cait
Finding a balance can be a really hard thing to do. Now that I have Skyped so often with my student, I am a lot less ‘serious’ than I was at the beginning. I think we have a good rapport which is still professional but allows for some fun. My student told me that I am the first person that he has voice chatted with because he is very critical of his speaking skills and was too embarrassed to voice chat before. When we first began skyping, he relied on his Spanish native language very heavily. Now, he tries to form his thoughts in English and thinks out loud. It is a really great improvement and one that I am happy to see. I can imagine it would be hard to find the teacher/friend balance because it is always easier to start strict and let up a bit than to start easy and then become stricter.

nate mortenson said...

I'm trying to be reflective in my insturction because this is my chance to see what a teaching carreer is all about. I found that I constantly wanted to change me methods because I was feeling like my students could benefit from better instruction. I had a little trouble explaining activities clearly and I knew I needed improvement in being concise, clear, and obvious for the students. I found a lot of my vocabulary instruction wasn't really worth much, because I did simple flash card activities and didn't offer enough use out of each vocab word.

MC said...

I reflect. Sometimes too much. I have an uncanny ability to over think things. This is good sometimes. For example, is a lesson does not go so well, I can pick apart every detail but in times when I had a good lesson, I can convince myself that it was poor just by over-thinking.
As far as theories, when I first started, I was interested in Gardner's communicative competencies. After a while, I started to understand the flaws. After some research, I found this may not be good for everyone. When I instruct, I try to keep different approaches, like behavioral, cognitive, or constructive. Sometimes it depends on what type of lesson I am giving.

Ashley said...

Sadly I honestly don't think about the theories as much as i should but I can say that there are some that have really stuck with me. I know that when I teach I try my hardest to not debilitate my students with a bunch of grammar rules and correct every little mistake they make when speaking. Because I know that they will learn more from trial and error then they will through me trying to drill rules into their head. So whenever we have our lessons I may not focus on grammar but I will ask them to occasionally have conversation with me. I have them tell me about their day, tell me a story, tell me what their plans are, or we even have small debates on current issues or topics in the world (these of course were suggested and brought up by the students, it was not something that I forced them to partake in. I also knew that the good relationship between my tutorees and me meant that we could have a talk about more sensitive issues without offending or making anyone uncomfortable). I figured that getting them to open up, and actively use English was a better way to practice and learn. I would correct any big errors they made, or any sentence fragments they had but if they had small or insignificant errors that did not affect or hinder the understanding of their sentence then i left it alone. I also made sure to demonstrate proper ways to say things by sometimes reiterating what they had just said to me in a better way.
In essence, I can say that although I don't think of the theories as much as I should, nor can I remember the names of most of them, I can say that some of them and their ideas have really stuck with me like the aforementioned. :)

Jennifer Speier said...

I'm surprised yet not surprised that this post has the least amount of responses. To be completely honest, I don't think I think about theories on a daily basis. It is very rarely something I am conscious of when I am teaching. This is good and bad. Because I have been teaching with the same books in the same environment for a while, I tend to know the methods I need to get the material across.

In general I would say my teaching tends to use a lots of cooperative learning tasks. I think brain based learning is very interesting, so I try create as comfortable/safe of a class room as possible and I try to bring up as many different angles as possible.

This class has really helped me with reflection. I think reflection is an integral part of the process that we overlook because we are so busy rushing from one class to another. When I find time for reflection it helps me identify what problems I need to change, but also it helps me create a plan to try new ideas.