The Self Reflective Nature of Language Teaching

I recently had my class do an information gap activity  in which they questioned each other about purchases and filled in receipts accordingly. This was a pre-fab activity I had gotten from a website and it was going quite well until a student pointed out that the amount on one of the receipts didn’t total up correctly!

What to do?  Simple — turn it into a lesson!

I told the student that was fine and that we’d address it after they finished the info gap. Once they finished, I had them check the math on all the receipts and told them to record all the mistakes they found.

Once they did this, we discussed the mistakes.

“How many mistakes did you find?” I asked.

“3” they responded.

“What was the first one?” I asked in reply.

We then went through the math in detail to confirm the mistake.  If there was a disagreement, I let the students debate it among themselves (more chance for language practice!) and only stepped in when needed.

After identifying and confirming all the mistakes, I presented some grammatical structures for describing mistakes with examples like:

  • The subtotal is $10, but it should be $11.
  • The subtotal is off by $1.

I then had them write the mistakes they found using these structures.

The moral of the story?  Language encompasses everything so everything is fuel for language learning and practice.  This includes mistakes and even classroom issues.  When confronted with an unexpected situation like this, don’t treat it as a problem to solve but as an authentic learning opportunity; what better chance do you have to use authentic language learning?  Keep a reflective eye open and an attitude that you’ll absorb everything that arises and turn it into fuel for practice.

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3 thoughts on “The Self Reflective Nature of Language Teaching

    1. Lol! Although, being a lazy teacher can be a benefit precisely because you’re forcing your students to become active. Sometimes, teachers who are all too eager to teach may dominate the stage and deprive their students of the chance to speak.

      1. Yeah, that was the mantra at the place I got my TESOL certification from. “Limit teacher talk!” was a common complaint. (Fine by me, I don’t like lecturing.) I learned that this mantra works well for teaching other subjects, almost anything. It’s basically true that actively engaging in a problem is more conducive for learning, or for having that learning stick.

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