Daiva Pundziuviene, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania
Report on peer observations in Warsaw, October 23-28, 2016
Peer observations at the University of Warsaw were conducted on the 23-28 of October, 2016.
The teachers observed three language lessons a day and had to fill in peer observation forms.
In total, I have observed 13 lessons of different languages and levels taught by 8 teachers:
- English B1
- English B2
- English C1
- Legal English C1
- Russian A2
Main insights from the lesson observations:
Establishment of a classroom culture that facilitates learning
As the observation forms indicate, most of the observed teachers create an atmosphere that facilitates active learning in their classes by encouraging their students to speak and take part in all the activities. The teachers ask a lot of questions, raise the students’ interest by teaching some slang, cultural or historical issues or comparing British and American English. At the beginning of the lessons most of the teachers use interesting warm up activities which promote active learning. Some students have demonstrated their ability to engage in a really sophisticated discussion expressing well-reasoned and novel opinions. On the other hand, some lessons provided examples when it was too difficult for shy students to speak, which proves the need of a moderator (a teacher) who would not let some very active students speak for too long and would invite less active students to participate as well.
Establishment of learning goals and tracking of individual student progress toward those goals
The observation forms show that not all the teachers clearly define learning goals and contents of the lesson, although most of them discuss with their students the communicative tasks and check if the goal of the activity has been achieved. Writing the learning goals on the board or a slide before the lesson is a time-saving solution, which could be mentioned as an example of good practice.
Instruction methods adapted to students’ needs
Following the observation forms, it can be stated that most of the teachers make an extensive use use of pair and group work and give the students opportunities to reflect on the work they have done. A number of teachers make use of peer assessment and self-assessment. The students often have to exchange their written work with another group, make necessary changes and write encouraging comments and advice on further learning. As an example of good practice, the teacher’s invitation for some reflection could be mentioned: at the end of the lesson the students are asked to think about what they are ‘taking away’ with themselves from today’s class. The students are often given an opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of the tasks organized.
Active involvement of students in the learning process
As indicated in the lesson observation sheets, all the teachers try to make the students interested in the language he/she teaches by focusing on current issues, which motivates the students express their opinions, relating the teaching material to interesting cultural or historical aspects, presenting humoristic examples or situations, fostering thinking, guessing, associating, doing some home research, etc. Most of the teachers choose the activities appropriate to their students’ abilities and monitor their learning continuously, give linguistic and emotional support for their students. The students are often relaxed, very energetic and eager to communicate because of their teachers’ encouraging attitude and active teaching applied. The students seem to be actively involved in the learning process because of a great variety of the activities organized, such as pair work, group work, competitions, games, role-plays, singing, acting, doing interactive tasks, working with authentic materials, watching videos and discussing the issues relevant to students’ interests.
Novel innovative teaching strategies applied by the observee which are worth disseminating:
An inventive use of authentic materials for learning Russian names (the students have to read the names of famous Russian writers from authentic books by Dostoevsky, Chekhov and other Russian writers).
Learning Legal English through Simple English (for example, firstly the students are explained what is acceleration in driving and later they have to guess how this word is used in legal payments).
3) How to make students be punctual – the class accepts the rule that if a student is late for more than 15 minutes, he / she has to do an extra task spontaneously (dance, make a short improvised presentation, etc.), which is not a real punishment but definitely something that could motivate a student to be punctual.
- Writing anticipating questions – the students have to write questions prior to listening (for example, the questions they expect to be answered in a report). Such an activity lets revise question formation and encourages the students’ critical thinking.
- Show your reaction – the students have to show their reaction (e.g. by clapping hands) when another student tells the correct answer. It helps to ‘wake up’ less active students and helps them enjoy the activity.
- Let’s interview our guest – the students know in advance that a guest from a particular country is coming to their lesson and are asked to find some information about that country at home. At the beginning of the lesson they ask questions and the guest answers the questions. Then they have to change their direct question into an indirect one and report the answer. The activity is done in a form of a competition (the student gets a point if the guest does not know the answer).
- TV talk show ‘Controversy’– the activity offers a lot of opportunities to speak as every student has a very specific role to play, his /her own life story to tell and clear reasons to be in favour or against the given topic.
Suggestion: after such an activity the students could fill in ‘Self-assessment form’ and evaluate how well or badly they have participated in the debate by giving the basic reasons for that (it could be done anonymously and later handed in to the teacher who in turn could conduct some data analysis of the students’ self-assessment).
- Role-play ‘Be a teacher’ – the students have to teach their peers new idioms. Each student has his /her own idiom which has to be learned by all the All the class is engaged in active learning and teaching process.
- Bingo – a very good task to practise collocations. The students have to draw a table like in a Bingo game in their notebooks and fill it in with four keywords from active collocations. The teacher reads the words which can be used with the keyword in a collocation. The first student who has filled in the table shouts ‘Bingo’.
10) Making a poll – the teacher writes a question related to the next lesson’s topic on-line and asks the students to vote. The results of the poll are announced during the next lesson.