|Teaching English as a Foreign Language - to Large, Multilevel Classes (Peace Corps, 1992, 243 p.)|
|Getting to know your students|
Before joining the Peace Corps, Kathleen had taught English as a second language to large classes of refugees and immigrants in Los Angeles. Her students had included Russian artists, Salvadoran migrant workers, Vietnamese grandmothers, and Ethiopian cabdrivers. Kathleen had learned to watch and listen as her students talked about the difficult task of adapting to the United States. The more she understood, the more she was able to adjust her lessons to their needs
When Kathleen arrived in country, she expected to be comfortable with a wide range of cultural differences. But she found her adaptation harder than she had expected. For a start, this time she was the outsider in the culture. While living with a host family during preservice training, she was surprised by her reaction to the lack of privacy. She was also struck by the fixed roles of the husband and wife. Even the parents' expectations of the children seemed strange. Kathleen thought about the students she would meet in her classes, and remembered her own high school days. She wondered if her students would be anything like American teenagers. She knew she would have to observe carefully to find out.
Before Kathleen met her class, she decided that she had to get off to a strong start. First and foremost, she wanted to gain the respect of her students. During the first few weeks of class, she also wanted to learn about their interests and expectations, so she planned a variety of activities to help her get acquainted. She hoped chat in the process she would motivate her students to think about themselves in relation to their course goals.
In this chapter, we help you to step into the classroom and get acquainted with your students. We suggest chat you take time to plan activities, to assess your students' needs and interests, and identify their goals, preferences, and expectations. As you gather this information, you will begin to identify the themes that will unify your lessons.
Some teachers try to organize an entire course before they have ever met with their students. They feel more comfortable if they have detailed schedules that include clearly outlined objectives. At the opposite extreme, there are teachers who want to go with the flow. They like to improvise their daily lessons, depending on the interest or topic of the day.
Kathleen had already experienced the discomfort of both of these extremes. She began her preparation by designing the first few classes to include self-descriptions, pair introductions, and group discussions. With the information gained from these assessment activities, she could begin to design a curriculum that actually addressed her students' needs and interests. As Kathleen tried to find out more about her students, she also planned to introduce them to participatory activities.
Kathleen knew that materials were scarce, so she selected exercises that would provide a wide range of information with a minimum of paperwork. She set up a journal for herself and kept careful notes about interests, skills, and preferences, which she could refer to throughout the school year.
Kathleen's approach might seem familiar to you. From the very beginning, you realize that the more you understand about your students, the more relevant your classes will be. You are very concerned about getting organized and establishing your credibility. And as a language teacher, you want to know about the English skills of your students.