I planned on writing this blog about 2 weeks ago. I’ll be honest, in my head, I was going to be writing a short blog entry once a week. That’s obviously not happened, and part of the reasoning for that is my incredible procrastination skills.
Each week I feel like I’m not working to my full potential. I’m not making the best use of my time. And I’m definitely not getting enough productive work done. In theory, I’ve been pretty well organised and have an ideal amount of time during the week to get my uni work and reading done, prepare for my ESOL sessions, and everything else that goes with daily life. I’m in uni “all day” Monday & Friday, and I only work from 6pm onwards Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Weekends are a write off, I’m either off gallivanting (most recent was a concert and Christmas Markets in Manchester, and next week we’re off to stay in a Gypsy Caravan), or I’m working alllll weekend. And I mean all weekend.
I ended up finding and watching a TED talk the other day, all about procrastination. It was really interesting, totally relatable, and a seriously great way to put off doing any work for 15 more minutes. Give it a watch and see if you relate to the panic monster, or the instant gratification monkey. That poor rational decision maker doesn’t get a look in as often as it should!
Ok, now I’ve finished procrastinating by looking at the topic of procrastination, let’s get onto some proper blog writing…
My original idea for this blog post was reflecting on my 3rd and 4th Session with my ESOL in the Community group. For the 3rd session, there was only 1 learner able to attend. This actually worked out really well for the individual learner (let’s call her L.1). L.1 has the lowest English ability of our little group, so she really benefitted from being taught 1-on-1 as I was able to slow down the session to her pace, going over some simple grammar points and vocab words which perhaps the other learners would have sailed through. It made me realise that up until this point, despite being very aware of the large ability differences within the group, I hadn’t really put much differentiation into place to help close this gap or give L.1 and her husband (aka: L.2) that extra support they need.
During the sessions, I rely heavily (perhaps too heavily) on the MKO’s of the group; L.3 and L.4. L.3 and L.4 are far more advanced in their English speaking and conversation. They can easily talk to me about their day, get their point across, and often help to translate or explain definitions of various words, or why a certain grammar point is needed. In some ESOL books I’ve looked at or articles I’ve read, they say that knowing the learners 1st language isn’t a requirement. In fact, it’s best to not use their 1st language within the learning process at all. Despite understanding their point of view (I’m sure there’s research to back them up, “immersion is best”, “It’s how we learn our first language” etc.), I find it beneficial to use a learners 1st language on the odd occasion. Even when working in a school in China, we were teaching from a Cambridge curriculum, yet there were still some complicated grammar points, very different from their own, or vocabulary words that were so unfamiliar to them, that the learners benefited from seeing it in their own language, to then be able to relate, and fully understand it’s use or meaning.
Something I noticed within my session yesterday (Session 6), was just how supportive the learners are of each other. I sometimes worry that, having such a small group (4 learners), with 2 at a much higher levels than the others, that the MKOs will simply give the answers away to L.1 and L.2. However, after yesterday’s session especially, I needn’t have worried. I think the learners understand how important these sessions are for each other, and just how much they want to learn. If L.1 was really struggling to understand or forgot something, then her husband (L.2), or the MKO’s would automatically be there to support her. They would point out a mistake, correct her if I was busy with another learner, or explain in Mandarin, encouraging her to “get there on her own”, with their support. I’m glad that our group is such a supportive and encouraging environment, it allows the learners to freely speak, ask questions, and try without fear of making mistakes. L.3 and L.4, despite being more advanced, know themselves how hard the early stages of learning English can be. They themselves have been there years before, so it’s really good to see such a helpful and sympathetic environment within our sessions.
Despite still struggling to create that inclusiveto all levels and needssort of session, I do think I’m improving a little. During yesterday’s session, we were looking at In the house vocabulary, and one of the activities I gave was to label the furniture in the house on a worksheet. L.3 and L.4 finished this task much quicker than the other 2 lower levelled learners, so I reflected in action and gave them a speaking practice activity. I reminded them of the sentence structure we had been looking at (There is/are…), and asked them to look at the pictures of rooms on their worksheet, describe a room by telling the other what furniture was in there, and the other would have to listen, and work out which room they were talking about.
While L.3 and L.4 were busy doing this, enhancing their speaking and practicing the vocabulary words, I was able to give some extra tutor support to L.1 and L.2. Once they hadcompleted the worksheet, we were able to move on to checking over the answers. I went around the group, reading the words in order from the worksheet, and asked individually which room the item of furniture could be found in. When it was L.1’s turn, if she seemed to be struggling, I would repeat the word, give it a short description with actions (Example: Pillow. Pillow, you put your head on this, on a bed.), and if she was still unable to make a sentence to explain where the piece of furniture would be found, one of my MKO’s would remind her of the task or assist her a little, in Mandarin. I was wary at first that she would simply be telling her the answer, but as I stated before, I needed have been concerned. It was really good to see that L.3 was just giving some extra support and encouraging L.1 to try and form a sentence on her own, with some extra support from her peers and tutor.
I think for future sessions, having these small extra speaking activities to give to L.3 and L.4 (the more advanced learners) while L.1and L.2 are still completing the work, will be very beneficial to all. The more advanced learners will be gaining more practice within their speaking, and I will have the opportunity to work closely with the lower levelled learners and give them that extra support they need during the worksheet tasks.
Depending how the leaners continue during future sessions, I may create and give different/slightly amended homework sheets to L.1 and L.2, and L.3 and L.4. I want to ensure that the learners are being equally challenged, yet supported throughout their work, and perhaps this is a way for this to happen. I have also created a separate WhatsApp group for myself, L.1 and L.2, where I can start to put some extra supporting videos or messages to go alongside their homework.
Within the main WhatsApp group we have, I was a little unsure if the learners were using the resources I have been sending out, however we discussed them within the last session and it seems that they have been watching the related videos I have posted, and been listening to the videos I have made of the pronunciation of sentences and vocabulary which they can follow along on their worksheets at home. It was encouraging to hear the learners make requests of videos for me to make this week. They asked if I could video myself pronouncing the furniture words off of a worksheet for this week. I will certainly be doing this, and I will continue to post supportive videos from YouTube, extra grammar “cheat sheets” and anything else I find that may be of use to the learners!
One thing I was slightly disappointed with from this week’s session, was that we didn’t get to use my massive drawing of a house and all the furniture bits I spent hours cutting out of magazines all week! I had this great idea (really not that impressive, but I was quite happy with it), that we could furnish the house by making sentences “There is a microwave in the yellow room.”, and then the learners have to find the microwave from all the cut outs, and put it in the correct room. We can go around the group, each learner making a sentence, and the person next to them completing the action.
Once the house is full (and hopefully rooms have been formed, e.g. kitchen, bathroom, bedroom etc.), the learners can work in pairs to ask questions to guess which room they are thinking of. A sort of Guess Who but for rooms of the house! But, alas, I planned too much for the 1 session, as always… But hey ho, I guess it will just be used as a warm-up activity for the next session. It will be quite a good review and practice too I guess, so I can’t complain!
One final not here, before I draw a line under this 2nd Reflective Blog…which, let’s face it, probably could have been 2 or 3 separate ones!
I became really aware, after going to observe some A-Level lessons, just how PowerPoint heavy I am during my sessions! Out of the 3 lessons I went to see (an EAL double, a Biology single, and a Maths double), a PPT or projector was used for all of about 10 minutes… in total! Whereas for every session I prepare for, I have a PPT consisting of a minimum of 30 slides (yesterdays had a record breaking 79)!
What can I say… I LOVE a good PowerPoint, I LOVE a picture prompt, and I LOVE organising a PPT in a way that it acts as a lesson plan for myself (putting in where we’ll be doing worksheets or when to refer to the Info Sheet etc.).
But, it is something I want to work on. ESOL is such a great subject, there are so many games, activities and different ways of learning/teaching the subject, I want to try to become less PPT dependant, definitely. It’s something I’ll have to slowly try and change within my lesson planning, wish me luck!