Archive for February, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018

Old-School Class Presentations

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

Maybe I’m not as old-school as I thought.

Back in the day, I was a staunch supporter of the Class Presentation, believing it was a sign of a Good Teacher to require one from all students. A Good Teacher helps her students iron out a presentation, demonstrates how a rubric works, and then dutifully sits through hours of student speeches, making a tally mark here or there on her grading sheet.

For good or bad, times have changed. Lately, I have been reflecting on the value of class presentations and wondering if they are worth the time to prepare, give, and listen to.

Recently, I had a few students request that our class never again give class presentations. This was after two and a half class sessions devoted to class presentations. These particular students spoke well and eagerly participated in every class, so I didn’t think their request was based on any lack of confidence or desire to speak in front of their peers. Instead, they said, they came to class to learn English from a fluent speaker.

My students pointed out they listen to each other during our speaking activities and discussions, but they would prefer not to spend additional time just listening to other students’ imperfect English since that wouldn’t be helpful to learning good habits.

I realize their argument flies in the face of political correctness. I remember one of my graduate TESOL courses discussed the validation of the infinite varieties of English, not just American English or British English; this is especially true since English is becoming the lingua franca worldwide.

I explained to my students they needed to learn to negotiate the language in everyday interactions because they will likely meet and interact with others for whom English is not their first (or second…) language.  My students agreed, but they had paid to hear a fluent speaker. Besides, they negotiated language during our speaking activities anyway, they said.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Three Things I Like about my Teacher

Tamara Jones is an ESL Instructor at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland

I really hate getting up early in the morning to exercise. When my alarm goes off, I curse my love of buttered bread and cheese and begin the (sometimes 15 minute long) process of talking myself into lurching out of bed. On Friday morning, my internal discussion is a little easier because I really like the new teacher in my early morning Total Body Workout class.

I’ve given some thought to why I like her so much. (After all lunges are so much less awful when I have something else to think about!) There are things I certainly don’t love about the class. I often don’t care for the music she chooses. She’s not the perkiest instructor I’ve ever had. The workout is hard and I absolutely loathe the cardio stuff she has us do. The gym is hot. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. So, I really had to think about exactly what it is about her that appeals to me so strongly that I don’t mind getting up on a cold Friday morning and going to the gym. In the end, it really boils down to 3 (pretty mundane) things.

1. She starts the class on time.

It’s a small thing, but, as it turns out, it makes a big difference to students like me. I’ve been going to this particular class for a few years, and in that time, we’ve had several different instructors. They all started the class on time the first few weeks, but as the students trickled in later and later, they often delayed starting the work out until a majority of the students came in.

Even though I am occasionally one of the latecomers, this really irritates me. First of all, it’s disrespectful of the students who actually made the (sometimes superhuman) effort to actually get to the class on time. Second, it shortens the length of the class time. And, third, it doesn’t encourage any of the chronic latecomers to make an effort to come to class on time.

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