Thursday 12 September 2019

A For Self-Awareness

Today, after my lesson with Year 2-2 (the second arm of the Second grade), the JTE commended me for what I’d always considered a flaw in my teaching skills. 
Lesson planning is one aspect of teaching I enjoy so much. Putting together the slides and activities tailored to each of my students' needs gives me so much joy.  My greatest lessons have been birthed at this stage however, sometimes I fall below standard due to one reason or the other- mostly the lack of time, and it shows greatly. Often, the first class I go in to teach are the scapegoats who take the fall. The poor students in Year 2-1 were the victims this week. 
So here’s the backstory. While planning the grammar lesson on the subordinate conjunction “If”, I thought the activity in the ready-made lesson plans wouldn’t cut it for my students but I also had a hard time coming up with a better one. I finally settled for some kind of practice game where I spilt 10 sentences into two colour-coded, blue and orange halves.

The blue and orange made a pair and the students had to work in groups of five where each group receives a bundle of 20 strips which the selected group leader shuffles and gives each student two blue and two orange strips each. The first player puts a blue or an orange strip on the table reads the sentence/phrase out loud while the other students check to see if they have the pair to complete the sentence. Whoever had the other half read out the complete sentence and gets to keep both strips. The student with the most strips wins. The demonstration stage went ok but I didn’t anticipate the problem and possibility of one student having the two halves that make a pair, one student’s four strips were all matching pairs! If you know Japanese students, they follow instructions to the letter, so they didn’t see this coming since it didn’t come up during the demonstration. From that point onward, the activity didn’t make sense any more and the Year 2-1 students got very confused. I tried to salvage the situation by stopping the activity to point out that some students could have the complete pair, but it didn’t help much. Needless to say that the aim of the activity was defeated.
The Year 2-2 lesson was the very next period and I had only 10 minutes in between to muster all my creative juices to fix the mess.  I had a last-minute idea which I hoped would work. So, instead of making them play a modified card game of some sort, I had them work in groups to arrange the strips in the right pairs and informed them that the first group to finish wins. As I monitored, I noticed that some groups found the task a bit challenging and I told them to send spies to see how the other groups were doing. At the end of the activity, we had a feedback session to check answers and I collected all the blue cards and had them turn the orange ones over. They then had to randomly pick one orange card and complete the sentence using their own ideas. This wasn’t in my lesson plan but it worked really well as a production activity.  
As we walked out of the class after the lesson, the JTE who is a rookie teacher was in awe, told me he admired the way I completely switched the lesson around. I smiled and took the compliment graciously but I told him that in reality, I’m not usually proud of these moments because it shows my lack of detailed planning and more so, I feel bad for the students who did not get the best because I’m really not sure if I’ll have a chance to re-teach. I agreed with him though that it would take some experience and skill to be able to pull that off. 
We ended up talking about three types of teachers- the self-aware and reflective one, the one who can’t recognise a failed lesson plan even if it smacks them in the face, the one who is dogged and determined to stick to the lesson plan even when it’s obvious that it’s not working. Which one are you?

Thanks for stopping by! See you next post. 

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