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A few thoughts, post-lesson 9

09 Apr

After the lesson with Hyperion by John Keats, I got to wondering about a few questions and issues, none of which had anything to do with nymphs or fallen deities. Here’s what Hyperion made me think about:

  • L1 IS ok for some activities

I can thank Ken Wilson’s BESIG webinar the previous day of my lesson for this. For very complex activities or for trying to grasp rather abstract grammar concepts, maybe we should be tolerant of L1 use.

In the Hyperion lesson for example, trying to interpret a Keats’ poem is already a challenging task (especially for this A2-B1 group). Imagine if you’ve also got the teacher hovering over you going “In English!” Some students may go into cognitive overload or shutdown mode. Of course, if they want to try the discussion in English, I wouldn’t stop them!

  • Students need to be reminded of how technology can help them uncover new language and ideas.

Sure they use Google and co.  to know bus times, phone numbers, or the square root of 987,362, but that doesn’t mean they automatically think to use their tech toys to help them learn English. Sometimes we need to remind them and even show them, when the possibility exists. I know this isn’t the case in all parts of the world or for all students, but for those who can take advantage of technology, teachers should be up-to-date enough to show them how.

  • CCQ’d instructions can be a teacher’s best friend

When instructions might include unfamiliar words or a novel activity for the group, it can help to ask CCQs (concept checking questions). Some of the students in lesson 9 thought I was asking them to script the poem itself for homework. Since the verse we read seems to be about a man who’s alone in a forest… Well, let’s just say that unless Hyperion is schizophrenic, even the most motivated students would have hard time thinking of a scene with multiple characters.

Once I CCQ’d to help them understand that the script was to be loosely based on the poem and connected to their own interpretation of the poem plus the Wordle color scheme, the creative juices flowed better.

  • Not all students are spontaneously creative and need a little extra help opening their imaginations

One group was having a really hard time getting into the poem. So I tried to help them little by little with questions. What does Hyperion look like? Where do you think he is? How did he get there? What is he doing there?  Is anyone else with him? How is this person connected to the main character? etc. Then they came up with the beginning of a story…

  • Not teacher-fronting doesn’t mean not teaching

During the lesson, I spent my time rotating between the groups, helping where needed, and practically no time in front of the class. At the end of the lesson, my immediate thought was “Maybe I didn’t explain enough.”

Then, looking back, I realized I had worked a lot with each group, explaining and asking questions to guide the group along. In the end it was like 3 mini-classes of 4-5 students rather than one class of 15 students. They did the same activity, but focused on different aspects of it as was relevant to their group. I didn’t need to stand in front and lead them but that doesn’t mean we didn’t explore the path together.

I know I got a lot out of this one lesson–I hope the students got as much out of it as well!

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