Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Model Classroom Activities for Your Students

by Ann Abbott

I have been visiting my TAs' classes. As usual, I am impressed by our Teaching Assistants' intelligence, poise, energy, creativity and classroom skills.  Anyone who complains that students only have teaching assistants the first years of their university classes should sit in and see the quality of our TAs' work.

But there is one area for improvement: modeling activities.  I know that I need that reminder as well!

When you're teaching more advanced foreign language learners, you may think that your activities do not need much set-up. We usually think more about instructions and modeling for novice language learners.

Instead, I saw that students in advanced courses would spend the first few minutes of a group activity figuring out what they were supposed to do in the activity. This was also the only time I ever heard English. "What are we supposed to do?  How do we start this? Etc."

The solution is easy. Give everyone 30 seconds of silence to read the instructions themselves. Then do the first item in the activity yourself (or with another student, if appropriate).

Spending one or two minutes in this way will actually save you time. Students who don't know what to do waste a lot of time figuring it out or doing it wrong.

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