I had noticed that students in my class did not speak and were very shy to share their ideas in front of the class or within groups. I have very few fluent speakers of English Language and most of the students have English as their second language.
Proficiency in spoken language is essential for language development. It is very important that students are immersed in Language at all times in the class.
In my class most students are receptors of language and not really the users of language, where they involve themselves in interactions with peers or adults.
So foremost, I needed to create opportunities for my students who could interact without being scared of loosing their self esteem. I noticed that some of my students did not gather the courage to speak because they spoke in phrases, words or grammatically incorrect sentences. If I started to correct them and point out to their incorrect English, it would further diminish their esteem. So I decided to pick up a lesson where they would be forced to speak.
View the video below to see how I started the lesson.
After introducing myself, I asked students to introduce themselves. They had to do this by sharing something about their culture. I put them into ethnic groups. Since they did not know much on the top of their head, we researched. Then I went to each group and inquired about about what they had researched.
' There is considerable evidence to suggest that a major factor in academic success of linguistic minority groups is the degree to which learning takes place in an interactive rather than a passive environment'. ( Skutnabb-Kangas & Cummins 1988).
By leaving the onus of talking about their culture to them, the ball was in their court and they had to explain me about themselves. This forced them to talk- even if it was in broken English. One of the major outcomes was that everyone felt valued and the ice was broken. Children now engaged in meaningful context. It allowed them to think and formulate ideas. I encouraged them to speak in their own language when they wanted to clarify ideas. They became very enthused and excited when sharing food/ items from their culture. There was a sense of pride and they felt respected. They became more and more less conscious about not having specific words to explain their artefact and their confidence to share shot up immensely. I gave them lots of positive feedback and they were totally engaged in their learning.
Watch the video below to see them interact.
The next task was to write their introduction to share with the class. For my less able students, I provided sentence starters so support them with their writing.
The purpose of the Lesson
The purpose of this lesson was to encourage students to talk and share ideas.
I deliberately chose this lesson as I wanted to begin with something that they already knew and could talk about. The Task was to introduce themselves with a brief description about their country and an artefact from their culture. This worked well as all students who had common experiences in terms of their culture supported one another to add detail to describe things from their culture. The sentence starters provided helped them to write their introductions with greater ease. Me modelling and the video on their class site also gave them an idea of what was expected from the lesson.
Mixed ability grouping
I chose to pick one fluent speaker in the group. This allowed the others to listen to the vocabulary that they needed to explain similar ideas from their culture.
I gave lots of time to students to tell their stories about their culture.The main idea was to give them opportunity to express themselves. They did this endlessly and the excitement grew every minute. They wanted to tell me everything about themselves.
Student Engagement and Confidence
Students were engaged throughout the lesson right from the word go. In my introduction video you will see that most students got hooked right from the beginning. They wanted to know more about me. This set the tone and we were at the initial stages of building relationships with each other. The confidence level of students was raised immensely through this lesson. I believe I have build good rapport with my students and I hope they will discuss and ask question when they get stuck in future. The purpose of the lesson was accomplished amazingly.
Students first wrote their introduction and then introduced themselves to the class. They were scared in the beginning and asked if they could use read from the script when speaking to the class.
I am very proud of my students who learnt a lot about explanation through this lesson. They used some specific vocabulary and heaps of describing words when talking about their artefact or food from their country. Even the ones who were not active participants, said something little. The collaboration was huge when students discussed with each other to make things clearer for me to understand. They became more engaged as I encouraged them to use their own language to describe things. When describing their artefact/food students could feel the attention and respect that they received from their audience and this became quiet contagious by the end of the lesson. As they spoke, they also shared some stories that they remembered when talking about an item, food or artefact. Both me and my students enjoyed this lesson. This was the first step towards building strong relationships with my students and also among students.
Since the goal this year for Manaiakalani CoLs is on language acquisition and my TESSOL study is a lot about how we can teach language to our ELL ( English Language Learners), I will be focussing more on oral language and plan for lessons that will be more creative, enjoyable and the ones that can connect students to their experiences.
This lesson also gave me an insight into what limitations my students had in terms of language. They were every excited to tell me all about their culture but fell short of words except for one fluent speaker. It is now for me to plan to improve their vocabulary so they become confident when socialising and sharing their ideas. I also need to find ways to engage some of my shy students who were wanting to participate but could not gather the courage to engage in the conversation.
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