Community English Program (CEP) Video Self-observation

Part 1: General

What is the first thing (verbatim) you said to your students?

As soon as walking into the classroom: “Hi, how are you doing? How was your weekend?"

After the camera was turned on: “Ok, we have a busy week this week. We’re gonna finish Unit 3 and your next test is on Monday… So quick, right? I know! But we’re making good progress.”

How did you introduce the lesson objectives?

“Today, we’re gonna go over the homework. You had to rewrite that letter, right? And then we’re also gonna talk a little bit more about the grammar we were working on last week, and do a little bit more with that. Galyna has a presentation for us later today, so yay! that’ll happen in a little while. And yeah that’s it.”

I usually give my students a brief overview like this before class starts. I don’t think it’s really necessary to list out all the objectives on a slide or get too detailed.

How did you connect the lesson (or parts of the lesson) to previous lessons or students’ previous experience or comments in the class?

I connected the lesson to previous lessons by referring back to our first unit in which we learned how to write formal letters of inquiry. Now, in this unit we’re doing formal cover letters, which have a lot of similar aspects. I also asked the students if they’ve ever written a cover letter before (in their L1 or L2) and what their experience was with that. We talked about the kinds of things they’ve included in formal cover letters before.

Did you notice any patterns in your tendency to call on some students more than others? If so, what were those patterns? What might the explanation be for those patterns?

I noticed that I didn’t really call on students at all during this lesson. When I asked a question of the whole class I just waited for someone to give me an answer. This is something that I’ve been working on this semester a lot. I used to really struggle with wait time and silence in the class, but I’ve gotten much more comfortable with it. And I think my students are much more comfortable with it now too. Someone always ends up answering eventually! 

Were there any surprises or unexpected events during the lesson? If so, what were they? How did you handle them? 

At the beginning of the lesson, I elicited from the class the structure of a formal letter and wrote an example up on the board. When they started their activity, which was to collaborate and write a formal letter, I noticed that I had forgotten to include the date on the example on the board. I asked the groups to stop what they were doing and drew their attention to the fact that we forgot something on the example letter. I asked them what we forgot and they immediately said the date, so I quickly added it and then had them get back in their groups and to work. Stopping the class like this when I notice something is off is also something I’ve been working on this semester.

What is one compliment you would give yourself about your teaching, based on this recording?

I think that I had a good balance of teacher and student talk time, with much more emphasis on student talk time. I provided ample opportunity for the students to talk with each other, rather than just listen to me talk.

What changes would you make to this lesson if you were to teach it again? 

I’m not sure I like how the teacher feedback portion turned out at the end. After the pairs wrote their cover letters (on big butcher block paper), they switched letters and gave peer feedback. Then, we went around as a group and looked at the letters and peer feedback, discussing why groups made the changes they did and I pointed out any other changes. After watching the video, I’m not sure if my students were engaged enough during the teacher feedback portion. No one was really writing down notes, so I’m not sure they learned anything from it. But I’m not really sure how I would change it in the future – I think the teacher feedback portion is important because it acts like a control on the peer feedback.

Did you see anything on the tape that you were unaware of during the lesson? (e.g., Were you paying more attention to some students than others? Was a student trying to get your attention and you didn’t notice? Anything else?)

 As I mentioned above, during the lesson I thought my students were engaged in the teacher feedback portion of the lesson, but after having watched it on the video it seems like maybe they were actually bored.

Part 2: Teacher-initiated questions

As you watch the video of yourself teaching, write out all of the questions that you ask your students. Categorize them into the following groups:

a. Yes/No questions  
Do you guys have any questions? Anything that’s goin on? Doin well?
Everyone’s excited today?
You know what I make you do every Monday?
Talk about your weekend?
Do you remember?
That’s it?
To the bar?
Are they American friends?
Next weekend?
So you had to work this weekend?
Have you heard of it?
Right here?
So this is your address, right?
Does your letter have all of this?
Have you ever written a letter before?  
You don’t like it?
Questions? Problems?
What’s the job?
Can you finish in 5 minutes?
Questions? Problems?
So, do you think you’ll ever write a cover letter like this in the future?
Do you like reading and writing better than science and math?
How’d you guys do? Pretty good? 

b. Rhetorical questions (questions that cannot be answered)
What did I do this weekend?
Why don’t you guys go back there?
So, what do we have here

c. Questions that elicit one- or two-word answers
Do you guys remember that?
Do you guys remember that?
What movie?
You go to the theater or watch it at home?
What area do you go out in?
Do you guys remember, what are the parts of a letter?
What are the most important parts of the letter?
Which address?
What else is part of a formal letter?
Dear Sergio or dear Mr. Sergio?
What would you say?
What am I going to ask you to do? What do you think?  
We forgot something, what did we forget?
Would you address it by my first name or my…?”
What would you add here?
Do you guys write a lot in your own language? Stories or journals or anything?
What do you think I’m gonna make you do now?
What should go here?
Why is this ‘from’?

d. Questions that stimulate student thinking or ask for student opinions
What do you remember from class last week?
What’d you guys do for fun this weekend?
So, what do you remember?
What do you guys remember?
What did somebody tell you that they remember from class?
What about you? What do you remember somebody else said? 
What’s the structure of the sentence?
What about ‘How did you practice English this weekend?’ What did your partner say about practicing English? 
Because the parents, what were they doing?
What else?
Anybody else?
That’s it?
What’s missing?
What else goes in a formal letter?
Was there anything else you’re confused about?
Anything you disagreed on?
How could you use encourage? Do you remember?
So, what do you think?
Why do you think it’s both?
Anything you’re not sure about?
You’re a terrible writer? Really?
What do you guys think?
What do you think? 
What did you say in your letter? Do you remember what you said?
What does assistant mean?
Have you ever heard of an assistant manager? What does that mean? Assistant manager?
So, could you have a chef and an assistant chef?
Supervisor and manager are a little bit different. What do you think? Why?
Why’d you change this?
What else? Does it look good?
What do you mean?
What are you trying to say?
How is this one different from that one?
Why do we do that?  
What’s the difference between Miss, Mrs. and Ms.?

Do you notice yourself using any IRF (Initiation, Response, Feedback) sequences? What type of activity were you doing?

Yes, when we were reviewing the parts of a formal letter, I asked students several times, “What else goes in a formal letter?” After students responded, I said either “yes, great” or “close” and ask them to elaborate. The activity was a review to make sure they remembered the structure of a formal letter. There were definite answers that I was looking for.  

What patterns do you notice in your questioning habits? (What kinds of questions do you tend to use most often?)

I’m happy to see that I ask the fourth category of questions most often (questions that stimulate student thinking or ask for student opinions)! And I don’t really ask rhetorical questions, which I think is a good thing. I feel like rhetorical questions can be confusing to ESL learners.

How do your students respond to the different kinds of questions you ask?

It was interesting to see that different students had different responses to questions, somewhat inline with their proficiencies. For my students with higher proficiency, even when I asked a question where I would expect only 1 or 2 word answers, they gave much longer, more in depth responses. But my lower proficiency learners, tended to give shorter, less developed answers.

I also noticed that I often ask repeatedly “Anybody else?” to get more students to share their thoughts with the class. The students seemed to be more reticent on the first “Anybody else?” but then after one person responds, more of them are willing to respond when I ask “Anybody else?” again. So, I think it’s good that I ask this question multiple times during a sharing activity. 

Are there any times on the video when you are able to encourage student participation without asking questions?

There was one instance when my students asked me, “Should it be, ‘I was working as a cook’ or ‘I was working for a cook?” I repeated their sentences and then said, “So, I work for my boss. I don’t work as my boss.” The students understood this and used “as” correctly in their sentence.

Another instance was when I underlined a student’s mistake on the board: “I am applying for the opening position at your company…” Without saying anything and by drawing attention to this error, the students realized their mistake and corrected it themselves to, “I am applying for the opening at your company…”

 Based on this observation, what changes, if any, would you like to make in your questioning habits? Why?

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I saw. However, one thing that I’ve been working on, and which I saw a few instances of in this video, is trying not to ask “rapid-fire” questions. For example, at one point during the peer review portion of the lesson a student asked me what assistant chef meant. I asked her and her partner, “Have you ever heard of an assistant manager? What does that mean? Assistant manager?” I wish I had just stopped after the first question, “Have you ever heard of an assistant manager?” Asking rapid-fire questions can be so confusing for students. I don’t know why I do it!

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