The class inspection… Another challenge but also an opportunity for any teacher to select the most appropriate methods and strategies, the most suitable visuals and texts, the most efficient techniques and classroom activities. With class inspections, some of the most important features to be considered are: the requirements of the curriculum, the students’ age and linguistic proficiency, their personality, attitudes, interests, learning styles and needs.
In my opinion, the students’ linguistic proficiency is probably the most relevant influence on the selection of teaching material and strategies. Beginners, who need to acquire basic language skills, require simple texts and extensive drilling. With intermediate students, texts must be more complex and the activities must enable the teacher to guide the students gently but firmly towards free production and independent work. Advanced learners should be exposed to a wide range of authentic material produced by native speakers (e.g. from magazine articles to TV interviews and literature) and activities must develop their analytic spirit and encourage their creativity.
What should we do first?
Since nobody wants to reinvent the wheel, we should “borrow” a model plan, adapt it to our own needs-plan the major moments in our lesson, prepare the most appropriate teaching materials, anticipate Ss’ problems and reactions –and follow the plan. A lesson will have more than one aim, usually an overall objective (for example, practising listening skills) and specific aims (such as listening for specific information, predicting etc). Good planning should achieve the objectives, help the teacher to avoid unpleasant surprises, make connections to prior learning and contain alternative activities to fill an extra 10-20 minutes in case the material we’ve selected doesn’t take all the time.
First things first…
The students should be informed about the lesson aims right from the start. A teacher once told me that “an English lesson is like a trip to London”. If you want them to follow you there, you have to tell them where you are taking them and what they will have done by the end of this journey. It will also create expectations and reduce anxiety. However, don’t share everything with your students, keep the lesson real, authentic, natural. Avoid abrupt beginnings and endings. Use ice-breakers, fillers and warmers to reduce stress, relax or energize the students and prepare the atmosphere of the lesson. Don’t forget to ensure smooth transition between all lesson stages.
It’s about the students…
The lesson should be centered on the student, the focus should be on the learner and on communication and not on the teacher. However, don’t keep a low profile or become a mere spectator. Make the lesson as interactive as possible. All the students should be involved and activated (use some of them to hand out copies, to write on the blackboard etc). Also remember to activate the students’ knowledge of the world, it will help them to participate.
During the lesson…
Base your lesson on the four skills: reading, listening, writing, speaking and include at least one activity for each skill, as well as one pair work and one group work. Time your activities well (3-10 minutes for an activity) but be flexible and adapt timing to the concrete classroom conditions: allow an activity to continue if it goes very well.
Test and evaluate your students all the time and keep in mind that evaluation is not restricted to grading. Make sure you give them feedback and provide gentle correction of errors. The students may feel humiliated if their errors are corrected in a careless way and they may also lose motivation and self-esteem. Speaking and reading mistakes require an “end-of-the-activity” correction if we want to encourage fluency. Don’t interrupt your students’ speaking or reading and write down the mistakes for later correction. Focus the feedback on the target language/skill not on the students. Peer correction should be employed as well.
Use more than a textbook if you want to impress: If you use handouts, make sure you have enough copies –one for the language inspector, please.
The blackboard is one of your greatest allies. It gives students added visual input along with auditory. It allows the teacher to illustrate with words, pictures, graphs and charts. It is always there and it is recyclable. Keep the blackboard tidy and well-organized. Always check the writing on the blackboard whether your own or your students’.
The teacher should play many roles during the activities: the planner- who chooses materials and methodology before the lesson, the controller – always in charge of everything, the manager, the coordinator, the facilitator, the prompter, the partner, the resource, the counsellor, the assessor, the monitor etc.
During the group work activities, don’t sit! Move around, help, monitor and supervise. Give clear instructions and check if the Ss understand the tasks. Keep your voice loud and clear but never shout.
The activities and techniques
Make your classes fun! Include poems, songs, games, jokes, stories or proverbs. Use audio-visuals to make the activities lively and interesting but make sure you have a plan B if your CD player suddenly refuses to work. The activities must reflect the students’ age group, interests, preoccupations, learning styles and be relevant to their needs. The students must be able to see why they are doing these activities and how they can benefit from them in the future. Some of the best teaching and evaluation techniques to be used are: presentations, demonstrations, brainstorming, role-playing (to personalize the topic), dramatized reading, simulations, drama etc.
If teaching grammar…
Remember it should be a 3-level- process: presentation-practice-use. New grammar structures can be introduced in two major ways: deductively-which is the traditional way of teaching grammar (the teacher introduces the new structure, then gives examples to illustrate it) or inductively (from example to rule) which is considered to be better-suited to modern teaching (starting from the examples, the T. helps the students to induce the form, meaning, name of the new structure etc).
Check the homework from the previous class and give students some form of individual home assignment for the next.
In the end, a personal piece of advice: Smile and try to stay positive! The end of the world is far from near and inspectors are teachers, too.
Vizental, A. – Metodica predarii limbii engleze;
Douglas Brown, H.-Teaching BY Principles.