Thank you to everyone who wrote blog posts in February - we enjoyed reading your entries. If you missed any, you can read them all by clicking here.
And now here are the topics for March. We hope you find something to write about. Happy blogging!
Topic 1: Error correction and feedback
The Gaussian Curve is a very useful tool in teacher and student assessment.
Let us begin by assessing our own success. What is the usual procedure? We explain a new topic, have students do exercises, perform consolidation and then give them a test. If the grades fall into the celebrated mathematician’s curve shape, say five top marks, five lowest ones, and fifteen good and satisfactory, it means that we have done a good job.
I have been working in English Language Teaching since September 2011. I entered the industry under the auspices of the Coursebook Approach. It was expected that each course would have a coursebook and my job was to organise lessons around the coursebook and to make sure we worked our way through the book. As I progressed in my career, gaining experience, reflecting on my practice and completing further qualifications, I came to notice there are a couple of issues with the Coursebook Approach:
It takes all kinds to make the world. According to statistics, at least 15% of school children have some problems, both psychological and physical ones. It means that in every class of 25, we have 3-4 problem students. Children are their parents’ mirrors, as well as our own; students often copy their teachers’ behaviour. J.K. Rowling brilliantly showed it with Harry Potter and Dumbledore on the one hand, and Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape on the other hand. She has also taught us that things are often not what they seem: human beings are more complex.
Learners’ writings are one of the best raw materials any teacher can have. With half a page from each learner you’ll find material to work for quite a while on grammatical accuracy, vocabulary range, word choice, clarity and tone, coherence and cohesion, and what have you.
The problem is if you’re strictly following a coursebook, the chances are there won’t be many opportunities to develop writing skills, or there won’t be time to do it.
My one tip:
As a CELTA tutor, one of the main areas I notice candidates struggle with is what to do after a task is complete. How many times have you moved on to a new activity and the students are still asking questions about the previous one? Feedback is essential to give students a sense of closure and to validate what they have just done; otherwise, why did they bother doing it?
Correcting people’s mistakes is not a very natural thing to do. It sometimes feels rude or uncomfortable, and we might well feel quite awkward about doing it. In what situation, other than in a classroom, do we stop people from talking and tell them that they have made a mistake?
Course books are great and no one can deny how helpful they have been to us especially during our first years of teaching. I didn’t know much about methods and approaches when I first started so the course book did everything. However, after teaching for some time, you start making changes to the activities and make them more suitable for your specific context and you finally end up developing your own material from scratch.
Error Correction and Feedback.
Nina MK, Ph.D.