13th October 2014
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We spend quite a bit of time in class 'monitoring' our students, gauging how they are getting on with all types of activities from roleplays to helping out with written tasks. Here are a couple of considerations & ideas.
It is often difficult for the inexperienced teacher to decide what to do when monitoring, with the tendency to either stay completely out of the activity or get into it too much to the detriment of the students & the activity. Creating the right balance depends on the students, the task & the stage in the lesson. Sometimes the students would prefer to be allowed to do a task on their own, while at other times they might prefer some intervention from the teacher. Sensitivity is key in deciding how far to go & clearly experience helps here.
And then how do you monitor? During discussions teachers sometimes find it difficult to hear what's going on due to the noise level. They then move around, sitting near to the group they are monitoring. Depending on the size of the class sometimes it is possible to sit in the centre & listen in to the different groups without moving positions.
Monitoring a written task can be done from in front but can be a bit imposing for the students & uncomfortable for the teacher. Sometimes the size of the room makes this the only way to get around & see how individuals are getting on, but if you have a bigger room monitoring from behind the student may be preferable, making it easier to see the student's work without getting in the way. Writing tasks really do need intervention from the teacher as there is so much you can do to help improve their texts & develop their awareness of a host of things. This is especially true if the students' writing are to be put on public display e.g. on the walls for all to read. The students themselves would prefer there to be as few mistakes as possible if read by others.
The teacher could be making notes for feedback afterwards, especially for the freer speaking tasks. Different task sheets for different activities could easily be designed that help the teacher focus on the students& the task at hand.
The students could be asked to do some monitoring. For examples in the Tip ' Working with Triads', the students are divided into threes, where student A & B do a task which student C monitors & takes notes on their performance. At the end of the task the monitors feed back to the observed & the whole group & the area being monitored can be expanded upon & refined for all.
Students could be assigned monitor buddies for lessons. They monitor each other to see how they go about the tasks given that day. At the end of the lesson the monitor buddies get together & discuss the strategies they used.
Part of Stephen Krashen's ideas on the Natural Approach concerns the 'monitor model'. Adult learners consciously monitor their own output & will try to self-correct before speaking & know some of the mistakes after speaking. Three types of monitor users are mentioned; monitor over-users are those who are very accuracy-conscious, monitor under-users are not bothered about making mistakes, & optimal monitor users get the balance about right.
A way of encouraging optimal monitor use for under-users is to ask the students to monitor their talk during speaking activities & encourage them to take notes on when they felt unsure of how to say something or would have liked to have said something in a different way. At the end of the activity students could give each other feedback, you could take questions from the students, or they could be encouraged to put their comments in their learner diaries for written feedback from you. The more often the students take notes the less obtrusive it will be in the activities. For over-users lots of freer speaking activities with the emphasis on fluency with, initially, little correction afterwards can help them to loosen up.
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The Weekly Teaching Tip
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