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Process Options for Training Sessions
by Judy Guttridge
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For many years in Italy there was little or no pre-service training for teachers, certainly none with a teaching practice element. Now on a national level a new two -year post-graduate course has just got off the ground which includes theoretical background, classroom skills and teaching practice in secondary schools. Participants, however, are not necessarily new, young graduates, but might be people who have been hoping for a permanent teaching position in the school system for some years and have done some supply work or teaching in lower level schools. This means that we have a rather heterogeneous group when it comes to age, experience and theoretical background. The course in which I participate as a trainer has a central team of trainers and other people who are called in to cover particular areas. This means that I am not fully aware of exactly what has been done by those who have come before me, nor how that has been presented. My personal past experience, though, tells me that these aspiring teachers are keen to have both some theoretical background, and also want ideas they can apply in the classroom.

As a teacher trainer I feel my role is to encourage teachers to reflect particularly on three areas: what they feel about education, how they feel people learn, and how they see language, with a view to developing their own personal 'theory' to support their teaching practice. The neophyte teacher is, however, frequently more worried about how to get through the class period without problems of discipline than reflecting on things afterwards!

I have found that many of the strategies put forward by Tessa Woodward (1991) satisfy the needs of both myself and the trainees: they become actively involved in the training session, and, I hope, afterwards have a basis on which to develop similar ideas for their level and type of students. I also hope they will think seriously about the learning processes of their students.

Three classroom classics
Bearing these points in mind I would like to illustrate briefly how I have used three classroom classics recently.

1. Find Someone Who: This is a highly flexible exercise format, which basically involves fairly simple exchanges between the same or different pairs to 'find someone who' complies with the objectives of a particular activity (Find some who can swim, Find someone who was at the cinema on Saturday, …). The activity can be set up as a class survey, or as an exercise to interview your partner. It can be used to reinforce and practise a grammatical structure or a language function. I have frequently used it with a class of students at intermediate level (or higher) as an Ice-Breaking activity at the first meeting of a new class. Instead of a specific grammatical objective, my aim is to enable students to get to know each other by milling to ask each other questions. Usually each question requires the use of a different linguistic form, so students are revising previous knowledge and interrogatives. At the same time the teacher participates and is able to monitor effective knowledge and ability.

With the trainee teachers time was short, but I wanted to involve them in gaining information in an active manner. So, rather than 'spout' information at them, I chose to develop the format of Find Someone Who, and endeavoured to set up more of a mini co-operative learning idea around the theme of the Communicative Approach.

• The students were given a handout to complete in which they were asked to 'find someone who' could elaborate on a series of points related to the Communicative Approach - what we mean by sociolinguistics, by language functions, by the Threshold level and so on.

• The aims of the activity were made explicit:
- to get to know each other
- to share knowledge/experience
- to lay the foundations for the next part of the session
- to experience and consequently be in a position to evaluate an activity
- to enable the trainer to monitor the group informally

• Students milled to gain information and instead of just writing the name of the person who was able to help them, there was also space on the handout to make a few notes on the subject. This meant that at the end of the activity, when I was going to start a more frontal approach, I had, on the one hand, people I could call on to make an active contribution, and on the other, trainees who were more ready to listen and take in the new information.

• While the activity was in progress I was able to monitor and participate. In this way I was establishing a minimum of 'rapport' and I was getting a general feel about the group that I was meeting for the first time and thinking at what level to direct the information I wished to give.

• Trainees felt involved and motivated to listen actively to the second part and had learnt a technique to adapt to their classroom situation.

As a way of introducing trainees to the idea of reflection, after any activity part of the time is dedicated to an evaluation of the activity itself, which includes points such as whether the activity achieved its aims, how they themselves 'felt' during the activity, its feasibility and adaptability, how the format of the activity could be developed, the pros and cons and the consequent implications for use in their classrooms, and also, whether they consider the activity a 'learning experience'. Through their experiencing of the activity it is to be hoped that the trainees have developed their knowledge of a particular area of the training programme and achieved a greater understanding of how to set up an activity in their own classroom. They are also beginning to reflect on what we may understand by learning and how this will in turn reflect on our approach to teaching.

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