It is Not Always about the RULES!-Video Observation with a New Class (Part 1)

Three days ago I had my first observation with the class I have been teaching for the past 5 weeks. Although I had been observed for many times before, I was still a little nervous prior to the lesson because I knew my class had different dynamics than those I had taught previously. For this reason, I spent about two hours planning the lesson, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with ideas to make it a colourful lesson as those required KINDLY by CELTA trainers back in London (Make sure THAT is the only way to get an A or B pass). I could have easily chosen to prepare a speaking or reading lesson supported with pictures, videos, interesting articles or even stories, and I could have hidden certain facts from Tony Gurr, the observer.

However, I decided not to digress from what I had already born in mind by designing a lesson intended to give my students a revision on the usage of Passive Voice, for I had detected some problems that they faced the day before. Therefore, I based the whole session on the TEST-TEACH-TEST platform, which meant that I might not spare extra time to contextualize the topic for the lead-in stage. Instead of setting a proper context, I wrote on the board two sentences, one in Passive and one in Active Voice. I asked the class to tell me the difference between them to find out if there was still anyone who might fail even at the recognition phase. Fortunately, it turned out that everyone could recognize Passive Voice when they saw it used. I must not go without saying that I asked CCQs to check they really understood the difference between the two sentences.

Following the short introductory stage, I handed out an exercise for the class to work in pairs in order to fill in the blanks left to form the rules that regard the usage of Passive Voice. My aim, doing this, was to allow them to notice what it really was to make passive sentences. Not surprisingly, some students made mistakes, which I saw while eliciting the answers. When the incorrect answers came, I asked the other students if they agreed with their friend, and those who knew that the answers were not correct spoke their mind, which meant that one student’s mistake was corrected by another student. Of course, I had planned it that way because I knew it would help the students OWN the lesson.

Convinced that I managed to raise their awareness of the rules that govern Passive Voice, I handed out another exercise. This time the class was required to choose the correct option between two possibilities as “If food is dropped/drops on the floor, it will be unsafe to eat”. Still there were some students who made mistakes, but I dealt with the problem areas by eliciting the correct way from the others. Needless to say, I asked those who provided the correct answers to justify to their friends why their answers were right.

Next, my focus was on getting the students to work on the past participle forms of verbs. I didn’t have to spend extra time on corrective feedback this time because all the students gave the right answers, and everyone agreed for the first time with each other. That was the indication that I was about to get my students on the track I wanted, and they were ready for exercises to test higher level of understanding.

For the fourth activity, I had five sentences in Active Voice. I asked the class to work in pairs and transform those sentences into Passive Voice.  As I heard their answers checking how they had done the exercise, I noticed that everything was OK; there were simply no problems.  I felt totally happy because I saw that my strategy of SCAFFOLDING the difficulty level of the exercises was proving effective.

The last activity of the day was far from mechanical. It required the class to work in groups of four and write in Passive Voice the inventors of particular things as locks, hot air balloon, antiseptic, bicycle tire etc. The names of the inventors were provided on the exercise sheet, and the students only needed to match the inventions with the right persons. To make it more fun, I had one student with a mobile phone with access to the Internet in each group, thus letting students search for the answers on the net. It worked, and everything went extremely well. The groups were more than involved in the search, and they were even jubilated. This very activity, due to the way it was set up, also brought into the lesson the FLAVOUR that I had deliberately not added for the lead-in part.

The answers from the groups were all correct, which proved that the TEST-TEACH-TEST approach to revise the topic of the lesson was just the right choice. The way things went during the session was the evidence that teachers could always design their lessons in accordance with what students really needed even if it might mean to digress from the CELTA way in terms of certain principles. Rules are rules; principles are principles, but they can be modified once learned and understood well. I did just that three days ago.

And what did Tony Gurr say about all that? Did he like it or did he scold me for my way?

I will write about the feedback session that took place the very following day in my next post. In the mean time, any comment on this post is more than welcome.

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