39. Reflecting and Teaching Patterns
This post is a bit of a stream of consciousness about reflecting on assessed lessons and teaching patterns in general.
My first three assessed lessons have been hugely successful in that feedback has been very positive and this, along with my reflections, has helped guide and inspire me to experiment and push myself further. I know better than anyone that I set the bar high for myself, but I think I’m okay with that – largely because it seems to be paying off so far (“if it ain’t broke…”)
Reflection and dialogue on and around my first two observations identified clear elements or areas for further exploration. The third has also done so – but less explicitly. The main point that lingers after a couple of weeks to digest, is the question of how and why we monitor (see reflections in Observed Lesson 3: C1 Writing for Fluency). While this is interesting to me, I sense that it’s more of an ongoing question to have in mind, rather than being something to ‘try out’.
Trying things out is not uncommon in my classroom, and is far from restricted to observations. But one of the benefits of the assessed observations is that they demand a degree of pre-thought and planning that day-to-day teaching doesn’t allow, and as such they create the space for more in depth consideration of what it is we’re actually doing. This is why I’ve been keen to use these observations to experiment, along with the fact that they allow another perspective – and consequently dialogue – about what we’re doing in the classroom.
So now, in thinking about my fourth observation, the question is what do I want to explore? I have ideas in terms of lesson material and approach, but not, as yet, a clear thing with regard to the way that I teach. This is something that might reveal itself as I plan, or after watching the video of the lesson. Interestingly, for my first three observations I identified points for reflection prior to the lesson itself. After receiving feedback on the first, I wondered whether this had been a requirement, and when Nancy brought it up after my third observation realised that it wasn’t. But it’s something I’ve found useful in pinpointing my personal aims (as opposed to those for the learners).
The question of what to teach is entirely dependent on the needs of the learners, but contemplating ideas for material and what type of lesson to teach for my next observation, led me back to the question (which I’m sure has raised itself in earlier posts) of what it is I do teach. With that in mind, I remembered a kind of chart I created last year (inspired by a spiraldex) to reflect on and provide an overview of what I teach. After creating the chart I hadn’t actually got around to using it, but last week when it came to mind I decided to colour it in.
We keep work records at school primarily in order for colleagues to know what we’ve been doing should they take over a class. But I think we can also benefit from some reflection on these. In terms of planning, I sometimes plan for a week at a time, but lately I’ve been doing so day-to-day, going with the flow from one day to the next informed by the group’s needs and interests. But this way there’s a danger of missing things, and I sometimes think “Oh, we haven’t done much X this week, better do some of that”. The idea of the chart is to give some perspective on the type of lessons we’re delivering, and I’ve used notes from my work records to colour a chart for the last four weeks. Of course it’s not easy to separate skills and content – these elements are so integrated in a lesson – but using the work record is a way of summarising, or ‘nutshell-ing’ what I’ve been doing.
So here’s a nutshell of the last four weeks in my classroom (there was a half day I was covered by another teacher while I was I was teaching another group in week one, and then three days while I took a break for my language awareness exam):
- Not as much reading as it feels like I do – is this because I’ve had Cela in the group who’s partially sighted, so all reading has been partnered with listening?
- Thursday in week two is ‘nutshelled’ as having no speaking, but of course that’s not the case. It just can’t have been the focus.
- Not much pronunciation – this isn’t reflective, but I tend to integrate pronunciation into most of what’s going on.
- Summarising what we do is really hard, and not an accurate reflection.