If you can’t see the slideshow above, go to my picasa album.
This was a “freestyle” lesson — not quite DOGME but very flexible. I had a rough lesson plan but I knew it was very likely that they wouldn’t have prepared anything — the busy adults they are 🙂
Personally, this was one of my best lessons. I enjoyed myself tremendously and most importantly, my students enjoyed themselves, too, and stated that they learned a lot. They participated very actively and it didn’t have the feel of a lesson but more like a real get-together of friends playing games, going on field trips and all the while chatting with each other. As I have just watched Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”, it reminds me of the “head fake” — students thinking they are doing something else while learning something different. In other words you learn best when you forget that you are learning.
Students were relatively punctual. But this time we were hold up by an observer who wanted to record the lesson on video to show his bosses how the lessons were going. This had not been discussed before and as we were using voice, I wanted him to ask the students whether this was all right with them. They agreed. As the plan was flexible, there was plenty of time for all of the activities.
Student participation and voice
A bit frustrating was that none of the students used voice for reason I have stated in some of the previous posts. So, I was the only one using voice to at least give them an opportunity to listen to English. Some students were participating less actively in the chat, so I asked questions (e. g. What do you think …? What else can you do here?) and prompted them to do so, too.
Spelling and grammar errors were corrected immediately by me and sometimes by the students (!) in local chat during the review game and the field trip. I opted for delayed individual feedback on the stories told as I wanted to avoid interrupting the flow and putting the storyteller on the spot.
I did not explain the original version of the “Spin the bottle” game as our lesson was being recorded but told my students they could look it up on the Internet if they wanted. The game was hilariously fun! But not only that, students did actually ask good review questions about vocabulary and grammar and gave feedback to each other, clapping when it was correct. We had two visitors but they did not disrupt the game but stayed with us until the end. Sometimes, the bottle was spinned when it wasn’t supposed to be but it didn’t get out of hand. I think we could have all played it for much longer. But it’s best to stop when it’s still fun and we still wanted to go on a field trip and tell stories.
The field trip
Nobody had prepared for it but one student took us spontaneously to her favourite island Bora Bora where you can jet-ski, surf or go hang-gliding and gave us a guided tour. It is a beautiful island with a lot of traffic and we’ve all had so much fun that even our observer jumped in and tried out the jet-skis and surfed. Students were having fun and practising their English talking about all the things you could do and see there.
When the students encouraged me to try out jet-skiing I said: “You only want to get rid of your teacher.” They laughed 🙂 There was a lady who was always present. She might have been the owner of the place or maybe an official. I will have to ask her. When she approached one my good-looking male students, I told her jokingly not to flirt with my students and that this was an English class. She offered me friendship, so I will contact her later. The place is also good for vocabulary learning as most of the objects have floating texts in English: “surf board” “go hang-gliding). It’s a good place to go when talking about some aspects of American culture or sports.
For the storytelling we teleported to yet another place and set around a campfire. I was hoping to create a nice fitting atmosphere so that students would relax and enjoy the stories or the conversation. Unfortunately, none had prepared a story and the only one who had disappeared suddenly, I guess he crashed as there were many crashes at that time. For such a case, I had prepared to tell my story but didn’t really want to do so if possible and rather have a free conversation. It took a lot of asking, prompting and encouraging until one agreed to tell a story. She had even had typed it up and I think she used the SpeakEasy HUD. She asked me whether I could read it out loud, which I did, trying to make it sound like telling it rather than reading. It was a true anecdote and we laughed a lot as it was very funny. This brought up the question what an anecdote was. After this, students started initiating a conversation without my prompting.
Again a lesson that would have been not been possible in this way in real life. I love teleporting 🙂
What made me sad
The one thing that made me sad in this lesson was what the observer said. As I said, this was such a wonderful lesson, students were having fun and were very much engaged, interacting wonderfully with each other, all in English. I was happy that this was the lesson they were recording and not one of those that looked more traditional with seated students and the teacher in the front. So, this was the conversation we had (I was using voice and he text chat):
He: this turned to open game 🙂
Me: Yes, I’m glad you’re recording this.
He: am not taping 😀
Me: Oh, why not?
He: just taping the good part
He: where there is learning
Me: You have a very traditional view of learning
He: no i don’t
He: its just that my managers don’t understand it
He: if for me i get it
How sad!!! I am so happy that I don’t work for an institution whose policies or ideas of good teaching I have to follow. But maybe I am doing these managers injustice. Maybe they don’t really think THAT traditionally because their e-learning projects have all been very innovative. That’s why I agreed to co-operate with them in the first place. So, my hope is that the observer was being overly cautious.
Games are a very lighthearted way of doing reviews. Having students fill out a worksheet (in RL) or doing a formal quiz might be more time-efficient but certainly not as memorable and fun. Students mostly want homework. They were said when I told them that this time there was no new homework. all students say they find their homework useful and most of them that it is fun.
Students need time. When I gave them this time, suddenly they started telling anecdotes. And they said they have improved during this class. Now, that made me happy again. Students love the unorthodox lessons, they loved the field trips and they love talking. Good thing also that I found out they chat with each other outside class. How wonderful! They also send me IMs when I’m logged in and want to chat. Group dynamics and rapport between students and teacher is very good and I dare say not much different than in a good face-to-face class.
SL Etiquette II
I have come to the conclusion that we have to accept some behaviour that would be impolite or rude in RL simply because there are a lot of things that can interfere in SL: technology (crashes), RL (baby wake’s up, spontaneous guest arrive, telephone rings, etc.). Sometimes, people manage to say good-bye sometimes they suddenly disappear. This is normal and not to be taken personally or seen as inappropriate behaviour.
The lessons are so intensive that I have to take many notes afterwards and keep thinking about them so that it is difficult to sleep. (time of lessons 11.30 am SLT – 1.00 pm (that’s 9.30 pm – 11.pm for me). Several times, I didn’t sleep until some hours later because I had to reflect on the lessons and take notes as long as my memory was fresh. The lessons are much more immersive for me as a teacher as I thought they would be.