My professional goal for this year:
At the beginning of the year, I have set “captivate among 7Cs” as my professional goal of this year as I would like to work more on maintaining students’ interest in learning. To achieve this, I realize that I should find more ways to make my lessons intellectually stimulating and relevant to their authentic experience in China.
My previous methods:
As a language teacher, I used to think that if students do enough mechanical practice, they will be able to successfully communicate. Therefore, I stressed too much on language drills in my course (e.g. accuracy of the tones, grammar exercise, translation…). My students felt demotivated and frustrated sometimes as they thought what we had done in class did not help much in their real life. This situation pushed me to think more — what language skills that my students really need when living in China?
Changes that I made:
With the awareness of language usage in my students’ real life, I decided to make my lesson more interactive and hands-on. First of all, in each lesson, I always first clarify the content objectives and language objectives. In addition to that, I also explain how the language skills practised in the lesson could be applied in their real life. For instance, I change the language goal from “students can ask and answer simple questions using the key sentence patterns” (which focuses more on grammatical structures) to “students can ask and answer simple questions to sustain a conversation when ordering food in a restaurant” (which puts more emphasis on the real situation students will be able to deal with). The change of my COLO makes students feel that the class content is authentic and useful, and thus arise more interest and engagement.
When planning the lesson, I carefully think that how I should spend my precious time in class so that I can provide students with more intellectually stimulating and relevant activities. Therefore, I decide to spend less time (around 15mins) on the mechanical activities (e.g. language-focused exercises), 20-30mins on meaningful activities (artificial communication: e.g. teacher-student demonstration, student-student practice), and spend the most time (30-40mins) on communicative activities (authentic communication). Moreover, I have changed the traditional textbook materials into more authentic material (e.g. CAL 1 course – menu) so that I can make my lesson more relevant to students’ life. This change turns out very successful as it piques students’ curiosity and engages them actively in inquiry. Without even giving any instructions, students actively start group discussions about the food they also see when eating out, if the price on the menu cheap or expensive, what food they like or dislike… During this process, students automatically using the Chinese language to share their thought, e.g. 可乐太贵了，口水鸡很便宜，西兰花不好吃，我喜欢宫保鸡丁……
As to the activities, I realise that communicational skills are more important than the language itself. Hence, I purposely design the game which reinforces students skills of speaking and listening (for communication). They play a battleship game for 10-15mins to practice speaking the sentence which will be useful for ordering the food. Then, I spend 20mins on demonstrating the conversation in a restaurant and invite students to respond to my questions, e.g. 你想吃什么？你想喝点什么？还要别的吗？…… After students get familiar with the language and prepared for what questions they will encounter in a restaurant when ordering food, students are in groups to design a roleplay conversation. To add more fun/challenge to the activity, I particularly give them a challenging situation that “your friend is quite picky about food”.
Assess the effectiveness of the new practice
My evidence for assessing this new practice comes from the students themselves. In the end, I ask my students to reflect on the COLO and nearly the whole class indicates that the design of class activities in this lesson have greatly helped them achieve the content and language objectives. Most of my students say that they feel more confident to speak/use Chinese in a restaurant. Some of them also mention that they will speak Chinese to order the food when eating out next time. 2 groups choose to take “more challenge” when designing the conversation and they have developed some very authentic and creative scripts. Students’ attention is highly sustained throughout the activity in both battleship and roleplay. They feel the roleplay part more meaningful as that is the real situation they will encounter in their real life. Here is one of the students’ videos.
After reviewing students learning evidence (class engagement, scripts, roleplay performance), I find that although students are able to produce the language for ordering the food, some of them still feel confused about the usage of some verbs (e.g. 我想一个口水鸡。我还想三个饺子。). This makes me think that what else I can do to provide my students with more support. For instance, I should have explained words by giving more examples and make them visible in my class (e.g. place them on the whiteboard), checked frequently for understanding (invite students to explain their understanding) and addressed misconceptions to the class once students are puzzled.