After the initial needs analysis, how do you make sure you have been doing what the learners really want in the way they want?
Apart from informal chats and observations, I made a progress check document to discuss with my learners. The purpose was to ask my learners to reflect on their own learning and produce some useful information for me to plan ahead.
The questions included several elements about content, methodology and the teacher’s role. Here are what the questions cover:
1. Learners reflect the conversations they had with their classmates, recall the one they enjoyed the most and gave a reason.
2. Learners recall a few facts they have learn about their classmates.
3. Learners read through the lesson commentaries and write down some new language they have learnt or found useful.
4. Learners were given a list of activities they have done in the lesson and tick the ones they enjoyed.
5. Learners were asked to give opinions on how these activities could help them with their English skills.
6. Learners were also asked if there were any activities they did not like.
7. Learners were asked to write down what they liked and didn’t like about the lessons. This could be on the content, activities, teacher involvement and input.
8. Learners were asked to tick from a list on what they find difficult in learning English.
9. Learners were asked to suggest topics for future lessons.
10. Learners were asked what kind of activities they would like to do more in the lessons.
I asked my group to read the questions before the following lesson and write down some answers. We spent the first half of the lesson discussing them in the following lesson.
On the whole, the students were positive about the lessons. Everyone really likes the fact that they have been able to learn so much about their classmates from the conversations they had in the class. They were also able to recall some new things they have learnt in terms of language and personal facts about their classmates.
Talking about how each activity helps them develop their English skills was important as it validates what we do in the class. It is empowering for both the teacher and the students to verbalise this. The students find the lesson commentaries useful, as these were resources that they had contributed to build. These were their own conversations with the language touched up. I kept wondering if I should ask them to act out some of these dialogues again.
It also helps boost my own confidence as their teacher to know my learners really do enjoy their classes with me. The knowledge of that motivates me. I also have a lot of fun whenever I write up these conversations, I relive the laughters we had in the class.
Recently, I have noticed that it is true that we are always laughing a lot in the class, both my students and I. I didn’t think much of that until a colleague pointed out to me that it was remarkable that after teaching a whole day of teaching kids, I still managed to keep my adults cheerful.
After that comment, I started to think about how it might affect my students in their learning. The students who used to be really quiet have now opened up and often proactively contribute to the conversations. I feel proud of that. The kinds of conversation we have are growing, but always linked to positive and real emotions. This is almost my ideal class in terms of classroom conditions conducive to learning. What I wish to work on now is to boost learning and to improve the quality of my input. Learning takes time, but now the conditions are right, I really hope to help speed things up. Am I just being impatient?