I have recently started taking German lessons. I won’t go into the reasons because they have nothing to do with this post, but I will briefly discuss my experience and how it is influencing my practise in my own classroom.
In my first lesson, my teacher, “Polly” began by finding out what we already knew, why we were there, and what we wanted to find out. She spent a lot of time working on the very basics – Ich heiße Nic, etc, through to Mein handynummer ist… and gave us time to build a connection with my peers in the course. Polly spoke 95% German. She used a wide variety of non-verbal cues to help us understand what she was saying.We played games to practise our new knowledge and vocab, we spent a lot of time talking with our peers to practise. We reflected on our learning and made connections between the different parts of German vocab and grammer, and connected all of this to English. When we made errors in pronounciation or grammar, we discussed links between English and German phonics and grammar. Small errors Polly never corrected, she simply modelled the correct way of doing things and gave us the opportunity to connect the learning ourselves. I walked away from the class feeling comfortable with the learning I had done, part of the group, and eager to practise and go back for more.
Then came week 2. Polly was sick. They asked another teacher “Jan” to cover for the class. Now, to be fair, Jan is not a teacher, so what I say I do not mean as a criticism toward her, just a learning experience for me.
Jan lectured. She made us practise saying and writing by rote Ich heiSe Nic. Mein name ist Nic. Ich bin Nic. And a number of other sentences. We had two new class members who sat there completely confused, while maybe 3-4 were furiously note taking, and then myself and another class member, “Sam”, who had learnt German previously sat there bored. It was the LONGEST two hours of my life. Mistakes were instantly corrected, often over and over. When me or Sam answered we were told to be quiet because we were dominating the conversation but noone else wanted to answer – they weren’t sure so were afraid of being told they were wrong. I walked away from this class feeling frustrated, and very sorry for the people who couldn’t follow what was happening.
What an amazing learning experience!!!
From here I reflected on my own class and came to the following conclusions:
1 – differentiation is VITAL! I do this anyway, but in some settings I could be doing more. This brings me to my next point,
2 – inquiry and constructivism are VITAL!!! Giving the children, in ALL learning situations, the opportunity to connect new learning to prior knowledge. Planning based on the goals of each child. Giving the children the chance to reflect on their learning in order to make connections. The inquiry cycle we use at Southbank has ‘connections’ as the initial phase of the cycle – this is important, but making connections to prior learning needs to happen at all phases!!!
3 – a safe learning environment where all children can contribute. I hope I have this, my class are certainly very good at sharing. But I have noticed that some kids do have more to say than others, and I need to make sure I have a system that is safe for children to contribute, even when they don’t know, and that children who are being extended can also feel free to contribute with out being told they should sit back and let others learn… they should ALL be learning.
I must say though, that this last week we had Jan for a second lesson and she was very well prepared and the lesson went very well.
Food for thought, huh? 🙂