Classroom Research

As part of my DipTESOL I have to do bits of Action Research in my classroom. Action Research is basically doing research to see whether action is effective. You identify a problem, research baseline data (your norm), do your action/intervention (change), record your data and make your conclusion or else repeat the cycle till you think you’re finished.
This research isn’t for my Dip, more for my own interest.
In two of my university classes, I recorded some data about baseline listening skills. Students listened for stressed words on a coursebook CD, wrote them, then tried to make sense of the message.
Class one had the following comprehension self assessments:

  • Exact: 0
  • Pretty similar: 10
  • Lacking info/minor errors: 18
  • Huh?!: 4

Class two was:

  • Exact: 0
  • Pretty similar: 6
  • Lacking info/minor errors: 18
  • Huh?!: 4

What is interesting is that I had the students tell me what they were going to do for independent study this week and the vast majority said they were going to watch videos or listen to music rather than read or use textbooks.
I want to see how this baseline data develops over the semester.

Keep it real

Loads of teachers seem to think that using realia (real-life objects) is a pain. I think before the prevalence of the internet throughout everyone’s lives this was true; however, you can now source realia with only a search engine and your imagination. Transport maps, supermarket flyers, tourism materials… you name it!
Using these to support vocabulary, as prompts in a role play or as materials for a task-based lesson are all possible and will often take less explicit set up than using a textbook activity because with realia the function is often self-evident. Students can also practise using real-world items rather than overly dumbed-down examples from textbooks which can leave them with a sense of false confidence. If you want to ease your students in to using realia, you might use textbook versions of such material for controlled practice and then have students use realia as part of their free practice.
Model one or two steps of an activity and usually the students will do the rest of the work themselves. You can then spend time monitoring and thinking about what language students may find or may have found useful.

Turn a Reading Text into a Discussion Text

Everyone has experienced a boring textbook before. In this post on her blog, Nicola Prentis gives the essential tips for ripping the guts out of a long text to turn it into a discussion.
As mentioned in her post, it doesn’t work for everything, especially horrendously boring books so if you need to work to a syllabus based on a truly awful book, here’s what I would do.
1. Is the text too long? If so, use half, or even just a third, but make sure it is still relatively meaningful after ditching the rest.
2. Find the useful vocabulary. Take note.
3. Analyse the grammar. Do you have a ‘grammar point’ to teach? Do certain tenses or forms repeat? How can they be used in a meaningful or useful way?
4. Plan a couple of activities where students could feasibly and naturally use the language features (vocabulary and grammar).
5. Choose which activity is your energiser and which is your main event. You should know your students, put the activities where they need to be. Energise your junior high school students before a main event where they may need to be more thoughtful. If you are teaching the same students two lessons back-to-back or coming back to them later, don’t be afraid to have the students spend time thoughtfully first before you energise them ready for part two where you might repeat this process.

First post!

Hiya. I started this blog to help EFL/ESL teachers develop and log the things I find as I develop myself. It’s also a chance to share activities and resources that are useful.
There should be more up here when I have time. If you want to say hello, send a message to getgreatenglish at gmail dot com.