Teachers that Clarify
Teachers who clarify help students understand content and resolve confusion. They explain ideas and concepts in a variety of ways, check frequently for understanding, address misconceptions, and provide useful feedback.
Based on my professional thinking and the feedback from my supervisor, I have set my professional goal as strengthening my clarification skills for this school year. Allow me one sentence before talking about clarification. In the summer preparing for the school blog post, I wrote Care as my goal as I thought all the learners deserve extra care marching into a new school year during the Covid era. Having paid special attention to SEL learning in my classes, I have gradually transferred my focus to Clarification as the school year unfolds.
Effective teachers can explain complex ideas in simple ways. As a language teacher for second language learners, I know it is vitally important to keep the input target language to be authentic and easy to understand at the same time. In my classes, I try to clarify effectively through practices such as explaining clearly and checking for student understanding. I have been trying to strengthen my clarification skills using the following strategies.
Using student-friendly language to clearly express content objectives and language objectives of the day so that students know clearly what they would learn and practice for each class. I usually explain the COLOs in the target language while pointing at the key words on the whiteboard written in English. I would also ask students to read out the COLOs in English so that they know clearly.
Using visual aids to demonstrate new content and concept to assist understanding. These visual aids were images, drawings on the board, video clips, Powerpoint slides with animation, body language, texts, etc. Collaborating with my partners, I have created or modified about 20 animated digital booklets for 2 courses. These digital books have animated images that help students understanding. Details for success in visual aids are keeping them attractive, clear, large enough to see, purposefully highlighted, and not stand in the way.
Explaining the new content or concept offering multiple ways of explanation besides the visual aids. I usually explain a target vocabulary, sentence or structure in a few other sentences that are easy to understand. Paraphrasing is powerful in second language acquisition.
Checking for understanding by asking WH questions instead of “Do you understand it?” It is useless to ask if a student understands something by a simple “Yes” or “No”. I would ask what, who, when, where, and why questions to check for understanding and then decide if adjustments are needed to proceed.
Teaching students skills to ask clarifying questions. I have asked students to ask questions when they don’t understand. With a puzzled look, they can ask:
“What does… mean? I don’t know that word.”
“Could you say it again please?”
“Please speak a little bit slower.”
“What did you say about…?”
Providing clear rubrics and steps for summative assessments. Students can refer to the criteria and steps to complete the tasks.
As I continue my journey in language teaching and collaborate with my colleagues, I found that there are still many new ideas and skills that I need to learn and practice for the success of my students’ language learning. I will continue to explore and work towards better clarification teaching skills. I look forward to another school year filled with opportunities and challenges.