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Teaching Tips 106

Looking back

looking back

Looking back

The Christmas holiday period is upon us. Here are a selection of links to Christmas plans & activities on the site:
The spirit of Christmas?
Happy holidays - Buy Nothing Christmas, plus a series of Xmas web links:

To check out:
Buy Nothing Christmas site - there's an mp3 song for classroom use at the bottom of the page:
An info kit for the site to use in class, Word or pdf:
Xmas quiz:

There will be a quiz, for classroom use, about the happenings in 2006 on the site shortly. Check back to the Front Page.


With the end of an academic term, you might well be filling out reports on individual students. They can be a nuisance with the extra work but there are clear administrative reasons for them. Have you tried giving your students a copy of the blank report form to fill out about themselves? You then take them in & combine your thoughts with theirs to provide a more rounded report. It would be nice to have the form designed so that half is for the students & half for you to fill in, making it a collaborative work. This clearly helps the students to assess their own progress, & you could see it as the students doing half of the work for you

As we fill out the reports, we are probably assessing how the different courses that we teach have been going & how to tackle them in the next term. Here are a few questions to consider that look back over the term:

- How has the last term been? Mainly enjoyable, challenging, difficult....Why?
- Do you feel that you have you been developing your teaching?
- What were some of the really good things that happened?
- Have there been opportunities for outside class development - seminars, teacher development group, reading?
- If you have had the opportunity, are you maximising co-planning with colleagues?
- Are you spending less time, more time, or the same amount of time on preparing your timetables & lessons?
- Are you varying the materials you use? Are the materials interesting for the students?
- Are you varying the activities & approaches you use?
You & the students:
- Are you happy with your students' progress?
- Have you covered what you had planned eg covered the language & skills development you had planned or the number of units on the coursebook?
- Is the group getting on? Is there anyone who appears to be a little distanced? Is this something to do with some dynamic in the group?
- If a colleague came into your classes, what kind of atmosphere would they pick up on?
- Have you solved any problems that have arisen over the term?
The students:
- Are the students happy with their progress? How do you know?
- Are the students happy with you & their classmates?
- Have you given them tutorials? (See the tip 'giving tutorials' - )
- How about class tutorials on how it has been going & ideas for the next term?
- Are they working outside the class eg in the library, doing the homework you set, reading at home?
Now, having answered all the questions, which ones can you & want to act on in the next term?

t the end of the term you could email each student a questionnaire about the course for them to email back during the break. This would provide a degree of distance from the course, both physical & emotional, which might produce some interesting more objective comments.

Our teaching changes, some periods are full of development & others can feel fairly mundane, & we're never going to give perfect classes & courses, but every course we teach is the best so far & the next is going to be even better.

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Here's a nice idea from James Firth. When you are given a piece of writing from a student & part of it is very hard to understand, give it back with the brief to 'reformulate' it i.e. write it out again so that it is understandable. So instead of you correcting the writing, the student is refocusing.

As James says, this is a 'very student-centred technique for two key reasons. Firstly, we are dealing with content and meaning which is the learner’s own. Secondly, the form focus will allow learners to hone in on input which they are ready to begin to transform into intake....There is no need why it should be confined to a focus on error. It is often the case with advanced learners that rather than correction, what they need is linguistic expansion. They need help in developing ‘complexity’.'

You might already ask your students to rewrite but here the emphasis is on development. Advanced learners do need different approaches in order to really make progress & this offers you a manageable way to deal with both meaning & form.

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For those of you that teach business professionals will probably know about the SWOT analysis. This is a technique for businesses to find out their Strengths & Weaknesses, how they can look for Opportunities & be ready for any Threats. The first two are usually viewed internally & the latter two externally:

   Positive Negative
Internal Strengths Weaknesses
External Opportunities Threats

Analysing a business, & those of the competitor, like this can throw up a lot of useful information to help them expand within their marketplace.

For the classroom this can be an excellent activity to use with professionals at any time of the course, & especially at the beginning to find out about the company background. A degree of sensitivity is required as the student may not want to disclose fully to you.

On a personal level, this analysis can be of help to us as teachers. Have a look at the following worksheet:


What do you do well in the classroom?
What resources can you draw on?
What do the students think you do well?


What can you improve?
What should you avoid?
What do the students see as your weaknesses?




What opportunities do you have available?
Prioritise these opportunities.
Which strengths can you turn into opportunities?


What problems are you facing?
Prioritise these problems.
Are some of these threats related to any of your weaknesses?



You could use this on different levels;
- you as the teacher in the classroom, as above: how can you better your teaching?
- you as a teacher in your school: how can you develop within the organisation?

It is a very subjective analysis but it can help you keep a perspective on yourself & the challenges you face in both your personal life & your life as a teacher. A little reflection can go a long way.

For more at Wikipedia:
A brief analysis of the supermarket chain Tesco:

(SWOT Analysis was first described by Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christiansen, Kenneth Andrews, and William D. Guth in Business Policy, Text and Cases (Homewood, IL: Irwin, 1969.)

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