a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
by Robin Schmidt & Bridget Watson
Walking into my first class in China, I was struck by the reality that there were a lot of people in that class. How was I going to make any of this stuff meaningful and helpful? What was I going to do to ensure that these little people (for they were third graders after all) had the opportunities in class to practice and grow in their learning? (Robin)
One thing I notice both as I teach and as I observe others, is the sense of deep responsibility that teachers put upon themselves to be the Native Speaker who must be a part of all interactions in the classroom. You cannot be the center of your classroom. You shouldn’t be the center of your classroom. (Bridget)
As we look at the building blocks of teaching, we want everything we do to be intentional. As we seek to empower the students, we also want to give them tools that will allow them to continue to grow in their language development beyond the time they sit under our care. In other words, we are preparing them for real world learning by enabling them, with systematic instruction and guidance, to take responsibility and ownership of their learning.
Whether our classes have 80 students or 8, we should ask ourselves:
Many lesson plans are made up of a series of tasks, building up to some kind of production. As we evaluate each element of our lesson, it is wise to ask ourselves how the students could tackle the task rather than the teacher being the source of all knowledge. Each type of grouping can serve a few purposes.
Often smaller groupings lead into a whole class time. There are other significant times when whole class time is better:
Ideally, every student buys into this idea of working with their classmates to build their house of bricks. Perhaps if a teacher uses intentional groupings in order to prod students in the direction of owning their learning experience, then students will buy into group work with much more enthusiasm.
Robin Schmidt has been teaching in China since 2000, Bridget Watson since 2001. Both received their M.A. TESOL through Azusa Pacific University and completed a certificate in TESOL Teacher Mentoring in cooperation with Wheaton College. Both currently live with their families in Harbin, China where they combine their expertise and experiences to serve as Co-Teaching Specialists.
Photo Credit: Ben Watson
Next week in my Practicum in TESOL course, we'll be talking about managing classroom participation. I'm planning to approach it from the perspective of learner autonomy like you have. I'm really interested to see if that makes a deeper impression on the teachers in my class than other ways I've approached group work or participation in the past. Thanks for the idea. 🙂