Report from teaching practice
In this report, I will write about my experiences with teaching English in 7th grade, spring 2012. In this practice period I have been teaching 7th graders in Norwegian, nature, RLE and English. Among these, English was my main focus. I have been teaching approximately six times a week, and I have had a total of three English classes. That is less than I expected to have, but ski days, math days etc. took some of the English classes away. My teaching practice was at Lillås primary school in the 7th grade, in a class with 17-18 pupils. At the teaching practice start we were told that this was a noisy class with a lot of energy, and the class also consisted of several levels of knowledge, making it hard to make lessons that are useful for all the pupils. Two of the pupils in this class are taken out of class the two first lessons every day to have their own program with another teacher.
At the start of this teaching practice I decided to go for two main focuses in the teaching of English. The first focus was on pupils’ different abilities, and how to make sure that everyone had challenges at their own level. This is important because every child has a right to learn something, and as a soon-to-be teacher, it will be our responsibility to make sure that all the pupils learn.
My second focus was on training English through oral activities. Oral activities are an easy way to achieve differential learning because the pupils speak English at their own level. A good pupil will use his bigger specter of words through oral activities in English, and a lower achieving pupil will use the smaller amount of words he knows to be understood by others.
When I planned this teaching practice, I was clear about not making any homework concerning oral training. There is a big difference in oral abilities among parents, so I assumed that giving homework in oral training would strengthen the differences in oral abilities among the pupils. If I had decided to give them homework (i.e. speaking English at home), the pupils with parents that are good at speaking English would have a major benefit in practicing. Some of the pupils might also have parents that don’t speak English at all.
I also decided that I would write one or two competence goals on the blackboard at the beginning of each lesson, and that I would present the goal for the class, so that the pupils easier would understand what we were aiming against. This can also help the pupils to know what we are doing, and it can help them to stay on track. The superior goal of the whole period is that all the pupils will speak English every lesson. Besides making competence goals for each lesson, I wanted to speak English in front of the class, so that the pupils would have to concentrate on switching their heads to English, and so that they might get into an English flow of listening to English, speaking English and maybe some can think a bit in English. The pupils in the class were not used to being spoken to in English in English lessons, so I also decided that I would repeat what I said in English in Norwegian, despite that many people say that the pupils then would not concentrate on listening to the English messages, but just wait for the Norwegian to come. I disagree with that, because I think that it is impossible to stop listening completely. The pupils will automatically listen to the messages given in English, and they will pick up some of the words. To optimize this I shortened the Norwegian messages very much, leaving bigger explanations for messages given in English. Those who don’t follow the English explanations will have to watch what the other pupils do to find out.
The second focus fell out already in the first lesson. The first lesson in English I was given the task to teach them about “property words” in English. This was a more theoretical lesson where I explained the usage in English and Norwegian as planned, and I also used the blackboard a lot to explain which words are used in different settings. After this, they did tasks in their workbooks. The competence goal for this lesson was to “learn some/all English property words and how to use them”. Most of the pupils achieved the goal, but some of the pupils thought the lesson was boring because it was theoretical. If I were to do this lesson again, I would try to make it more exciting, so maybe all the pupils would be motivated to learn.
The next English lesson I had, I was given the opportunity to teach whatever I wanted to teach, as long as it was relevant. This lesson I had a focus on English poems, oral activity and movement combined. At the start, I wrote down a goal on the blackboard: “Read a poem out loud for two people or more”. As a start, we (the pupils and I) read four poems out loud together. The paper the pupils got was composed of several poems, composed by one of our teachers, Ragnhild Lund. Some of the poems are combined with physical activity, making it easier to understand the poems, and to maintain the rhythm. Then the pupils were divided in groups of two. Every group had to read at least four poems out loud together, and then they had to pick one poem that they could read out loud in front of the class. I made it clear that physical activity also could be a part of the performance. Since this lesson was the third this day, the class also included the two pupils that have problems with school (the two pupils that are taken out of class the two first lessons every day). Although the expectations didn’t top the scale, the lesson was a success. Even the two “weaker” pupils stood in front of class performing the poem they chose. Every pupil fulfilled the goal for the lesson, and every single pupil also read in front of the whole class in English. Some even performed the poems as an act, making the poems a lot more fun. I think this lesson was a success, but if I was going to do it again, I would pick the groups myself. I let the pupils choose partner on their own, and that led to that one of the pupils didn’t have a group. I solved that by being her group mate. We read to each other and together, and she expressed that she wanted to perform one of the poems by herself in front of class, and that it was all ok, but I am sure that she would get more out of it in a group arranged by me.
Another good thing about this lesson was that the paper with the poems consisted of many different poems. The “weaker” pupils could choose a shorter and easier poem, and the “stronger” pupils could choose longer and more difficult poems. This opened for the opportunity to hear everyone reading in front of class
The last lesson I had I wanted to make a little extraordinary.
This lesson was held on 14th of February, and my plan was to make pairs in class so the pupils could talk about a given subject, i.e. what they did during the weekend, what they were planning to do the next weekend, how they were doing etc.. But some days before this lesson I found out that this date was Valentine’s Day, and I had to mix that in. So I started with a competence goal on the blackboard: “Have a conversation with at least two other pupils”. Then we talked about Valentine’s Day in class to find out exactly what that was. After that I said that we were going to perform some rounds of speed dating in English. The class was stunned about it, and most of the pupils were embarrassed about what they were going to do. I divided into two groups. One group with boys only, and one group with girls. The girls were placed at different desks around the room, and the boys were supposed to switch clockwise when they were told to. The task was that they should get to know each other better, and that this should be done in English. After some minutes, most of the pupils became comfortable with the setting, and when the lesson was over, most of the pupils expressed that they wanted to continue. The goal for this lesson was achieved by everyone.
I learned from last lesson, so this time I chose who where talking to whom, and where everyone should start. No one complained about their partner.
This teacher practice period I focused a lot on being a clear leader, and to give clear messages to the class. I need to be more precise and determined when teaching pupils. The two last lessons I felt that I did this very well, but didn’t do so well the first time. I can also see that the two lessons I managed to do better, were easier to have, and I felt that the pupils got more out of it than when I was too little determined and precise.