I am here with a minute to spare. Phew. Ooooo Ghost Student (the silent “X’s Ipad) from the last two lessons now has a face (and a new internet connection – apparently that was the issue), yay!
Omg we’re back to the fridges! But just a short review, this time, phew.
Oooo there’s a new student, but connecting connecting…
p75 Se le strade del mio quartiere potessero parlare (parlassero),
chiederanno chiederebbero dove sono tutti gli abitanti.
I had to complete above phrase, from course book but then we have switched to chatting, with the new student (she managed to connect in the end! – new to me but not new to the courses). New student is really good at having a go and not worrying about making mistakes, seeking missing language etc, though speaking in English a lot around the Italian. Is interesting, the use of various strategies but so much in English.
Ooo back to my sentence. Oh except now being asked again which one I want to do. I had thought I was being asked for my sentence because we went through the which do you want to do ok now do it before. Oh well. Everyone has now got a sentence to complete.
My feedback may have been listened to – we were told the purpose of this activity: to review the grammar structure. At the same time, we are talking about a listening activity but some of us don’t have the cd (others) or haven’t got it on the computer (me). The chopping and changing is a bit confusing.
Back to the sentences, teacher has now changed the stem a bit, hence the bit in brackets. Oooo there are now four of us students. I wonder if pair-work will be a thing tonight?
My turn for the sentence: p75 Se le strade del mio quartiere potessero parlare (parlassero),
chiederanno chiederebbero dove sono tutti gli abitanti.
I made a mistake with the conjugation – I am tired! I guess we all are.
Now p65 – for the listening activity (jumping around in the course book big time!)
No time to read the questions, then a leetle bit of time cos tech issues. But not enough!
1.a 2 falso (vero – in parte, stupid question) 3 falso 4. vero 5. vero 6 un litigio…/ una tempesta 7. falso 8. falso 9. alla rubrica delle lettere 10. vero 11. falso
We listened once in entirety then went through bit by bit. The audio quality was poor. The teacher repeated the audio slowly and then elicited answers from us (also making us read aloud the question first, of course!). No pair checking stages or anything.
It’s also difficult when teacher connection struggles and words get lost. Or is it my connection creating this… connections, ay. Perennial problem.
…break time? Hopefully soon, is the time. I need it! Ahhh after we have finished this feedback. Yayyy.
Everyone came back after break – there’s a first time for everything!
The teacher did a screen share, my screen then went funny format-wise (went tiny, couldn’t see them etc), I was on mute but didn’t realise, all a bit of a mess but eventually sorted it. Gotta love tech. We are looking at images which apparently have something to do with some reading we will do. Hopefully not aloud. No idea where in the course book or the overall topic…! Trying to see poor quality pics and understand what is happening is hard, turns out…
p.84 (!) Oh we’re reading aloud. Joy. Guess my feedback fell on deaf ears. Teacher started to tell us to read it ourselves but then stopped and reverted to read aloud. I made everyone wait very briefly so I could read my bits quietly first, so I could chunk it all properly – that worked better. Then I read the whole text properly while teacher did the ‘underline the words you don’t know’ and my classmates took turns asking their words. Given the chance to read, I didn’t need to ask about any words. I had no understanding of the text until I could read it through quietly myself though. Only my bits in isolation, not the meaning of the whole.
We then had to put the pictures in order according to the story. Except we can’t see them all, so we have to have the memory of all them and which are and aren’t already used. And the teacher is scrolling up and down randomly which hurts my eyes. Haiya.
We are asked who wants to retell the story using the pictures (that are still being repeatedly scrolled…). I didn’t volunteer. This could have been a good activity in pairs having sent us a pdf with the pics on it. Both the ordering and telling. The pairs/groups feedback also fell on deaf ears I guess. In the coursebook, this and another text were a paired information gap activity, but not for us. We just looked at the one text as described. I had to contribute anyway, to this retelling, and managed to without any trouble. (See, I did understand the text when given the chance to actually read it…)
5 minutes before the end of the lesson, the teacher started explaining the (different from the one we have already looked at which came later in the course book) congiuntivo structure in the text (there was one example). Haiya…
p.81 with 3 mins to go… we look at an activity about this new grammar point and then the teacher does the first one for us and that brings the lesson to an end with a “we’ll continue this next time” – which I can try to use as a springboard for preparation!
What I learnt about being a student in this session:
- Jumping around in the coursebook is confusing. This doesn’t mean I think it should be followed to the letter, but at least the general direction for new learning should be forwards through the units (within each of which, of course, you might add, add to, remove from, remove etc activities depending on the type of lesson and students). It’s been a while since I have taught using a coursebook though – in my current context, we have set materials for each lesson (powerpoints, student handouts where relevant). I edit them to suit my class but that is generally in terms of how I think best to reach the goals of the week across the 3 lessons I have with students. This term I am reteaching Term 1 to a new cohort so last term I made a lot more changes, this term it’s more tweaks based on the students being different and what did/didn’t work last time. I think, on reflection, having been an EAP teacher for a good number of years now, I am used to EAP-style teaching and learning, which is quite different from general language teaching and learning. So being a student in a general language classroom is another level of very different experience, than just being in student shoes full-stop is. This is helpful to realise though. From my point of view as a student, I realise I need to relax my expectations as to what I will get out of the course learning Italian-wise and accept that’s it’s just a once a week general language evening class and there won’t be the structure to things that I am used to in my context. I came into it wanting to get as much as I can out of it, maybe I need to be more realistic about what that is. E.g. the opportunity to speak was a big one but given pair and group work aren’t a thing, there’s more limit on how much – I need to work with that, figure out how to maximise what there is. But also, from my own students’ point of view that this is how they might feel as they adjust from their previous systems of learning to the college’s system of learning. So this is now another way I can empathise with my students.
- Jumping around in the coursebook being a thing means it is impossible to prepare for lessons in advance unless information about the following lesson is given in advance. Of course I am referring to my plan to read ahead to make the reading aloud thing less of an issue for me. I didn’t actually get round to it in advance of this lesson (partly I suppose because I was hoping my feedback would lead to there being time to read silently before reading aloud! As, I had an email saying the feedback had been anonymously passed on to the instructor and would be acted on…) but if I had, it would have been fruitless anyway. I would have had to have read about 10 pages of coursebook, including well into the next unit. For the listening, another 10+ pages in the other direction. I think next lesson, if we have to read aloud without time to read silently first, I will raise my hand and ask for a couple of minutes! Try the direct approach to problem solving.
- It takes time to read and understand listening questions. Because they are out of context, you need to read the question, process the language and deal with the decontextualised nature of it all. Particularly when questions are quite random! And if you don’t have time to do that before you start listening, you get woefully left behind, trying to read questions and listen to the recording at the same time. Ohhhh, we didn’t do any lead in to the listening topic. I think a bit of a lead-in and some time to read the questions before listening would have helped a lot. A pair work stage after the first listening would have been good too, to share what we understood so far before listening again. I think because we are a small group, the teacher doesn’t think breakout rooms are necessary, maybe. But I think they could still be put to good use.
- It’s frustrating to be asked to give feedback, to put effort into making it constructive (rather than just complain without explanation or suggestion or just say all is fine) and for it all to be ignored even though it would be easy to implement. I suppose the centre is collecting feedback rather than the tutor. (The original information about the course email said there will be questionnaires sent out regularly to get feedback to improve the courses etc so I guess I will be asked again. We shall see!) Where I work, feedback is also solicited at centre-level, but I do my own Google forms as well. I’m assuming there is no test for us to take at the end of the course, though I guess there might be and I just don’t know it yet! There shouldn’t therefore be tension in terms of what needs to be covered in a given time period (this supposition is also based on how long we spend on some activities and the repetition of the activity from the first lesson which didn’t go exactly to plan etc.). Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t know where we are headed or how we are planning to get there or how we will know when we have arrived. Actually I remember in the first class of the course, it didn’t feel like a first class because I was the only new student and it seemed like a continuation of something else rather than a beginning. I’m assuming we aren’t intending to get all through the course book given we only have 10 lessons and it is a substantial book. Half of it maybe? I remember that is how it was when I taught in Italy. Half a book per course. Clearer information around this would be useful, not least to inform expectations!
- If you want students to look at pictures and do things like order them and use them to tell a story, make a one page pdf that they all fit on to and share that with the students to refer to during those activities. This would save eye strain from the repeated scrolling up and down thing and free up brain space that would no longer be taken up by trying to remember which pictures have been used and which still remain and what are they again. Handouts can still be a thing in the virtual classroom?
- I think the teacher can over-rely on students’ L1 to explain things. I don’t speak enough Mandarin or Arabic for that to be an issue for me with my students (majority of them are from those linguistic backgrounds) but when I was in Italy and had learned some Italian, I didn’t keep speaking to the students in Italian. It would be the odd incidental word where translation would be easier than explanation, not instructions and explanations of instructions etc. I think encouragement to speak the target language combined with patience when understanding or communicating falters would be better. I wonder if that student using all the communication strategies in English would be able to use those strategies in Italian if that – classroom language/language for clarification/circumlocution etc in the target language – had been encouraged to develop (by Upper Intermediate, there is no reason why that shouldn’t be possible) rather than reliance on L1 still being a thing.
- It’s hard to feel comfortable with classmates who you don’t have the opportunity to speak directly with. There was very little in the way of getting to know you in Lesson 1 and no incidental chat can happen if you are never in pairs or groups with any of them. It’s a bit of a shame really, in that if I am not getting to know my classmates or working directly with them, I might as well be in a 1-1 lesson or teaching myself. Until now, they are mostly just people who happen to be in the virtual classroom with me. I don’t know their motivation for doing the class, I don’t know what they do outside the class, I don’t know how they feel about the activities we are doing and so on and so on. I think virtual classrooms are tricky. Unless you use breakout rooms, it’s like the teacher is standing on top of you the whole time and the focus is on the teacher so there is no room for target language phatic communication. In a real classroom you can be less conspicuous but if you are all in the main room, whatever the size of the group, it is as though in a real classroom the teacher is sitting at the table with you or standing right by it (and in this case leading the discussion/task/whatever it is at the time). As teachers, we learn how to use body language and position in the classroom to achieve various things; I guess we have to relearn how to do that in a virtual environment effectively too.
- Being a student really is a great way to challenge and explore one’s beliefs about teaching and learning!
“It’s hard to feel comfortable with classmates who you don’t have the opportunity to speak directly with.” – a key sentence I think!
I wonder if the teacher would be willing for you to give them some feedback directly on the course, rather than via the institution? It feels like he may have had limited training in how to run a course online, or perhaps in how to teach generally. At least if you speak to them directly, you might feel a little less frustrated!
Good luck with this,