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A reflection on class observation

At first, it was a great experience to observe a class and learn from professionals how to handle a lesson and manage a class. The setting of the class was more casual and friendly than academic, since it was in a commercial language school. The class consisted of 14 students from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Korea, France and Venezuela. Their ages varied from 16 to 25. They were 9 females and 5 males. The topic they discussed was controversial. They talked about single-sex education. It was stunning how proficient they were in English. Most of them had high competence of English. It was very obvious that they were very relaxed and comfortable with their teacher and with one another, which I think helped their learning experience. The anxiety was seldom to almost none in the class, which according to Krashen, is the best environment for acquiring and mastering a language (Brown, 2007). Such an environment depends on the teacher and context of the classroom. They don’t have exams and reports at the end of their class which lead students to be more open to err.

When examining the table of observation, one notices that the teacher in his class used 5 out of 7 characteristics of Mendelsohn’s outline for teaching strategy-based second language listening (Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2005). According to the Mendelsohn outline of the bottom up processing, the teacher used pre-task activities to activate prior knowledge. He explained to his students what they’re going to listen to and what is the listening is about through conversation and debate. The content of the listening was authentic and real. It was an NPR audio. The teacher was focused on the meaning rather than format when it came to student’s output. There were a number of activities concerning student’s self evaluation of their own understanding of the tasks and their responses (Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2005).

Overall, the teaching approaches and methods used varies from cognitive approach to direct and communicative approaches. It looked like the main goal of the lesson was for students to think and produce in English. He used personal information and point of views to stimulate students to debate. Debate require students to think in the second language and responds immediately, which is the goal of teachers using the direct method (Larsen-Freeman and Anderson, 2011). Using authentic materials, turn taking and focusing on competence rather than format are all characteristics of a communicative approach (Brown, 2007).

Finally, to be honest, there isn’t much that I would change in that class. There was a lot of diverting from class topic and elaborating on opinions. However, they served the class rather than hindered it. The teacher used their rapid speech to have a chance to correct them and enrich their vocabulary. For example, if he hears a word such as ‘’outdated’’, he would ask the class to bombard him with other words they know that consist of the prefix ‘’out-’’ and list them on the board, explain them and give the possible situations where they can be used. He teaches them words that collocate with others throughout the class. I would only focus more on grammar and structure with the focus on vocabulary and fluency. I would also explain the words prior the beginning of the warm up not after, just so students can feel more comfortable with the class. The management was excellent considering the fact that the class was not academic. 105 minute class is long, for that the diverting and elaboration was acceptable. However in a class with that length of duration, another language skill can be integrated, like reading, with less off-topic discussions.  

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