End of academic year: Self reflection
Reflecting back on the past academic year I can say I changed a lot in my lessons. The main change was using authentic Youtube videos and teaching without a coursebook. The reason behind using the authentic Youtube videos was that I wanted to let my students have a taste and habit of watching videos in English, even though they didn’t understand anything at the start. I think anyone who wants to learn any language must have a constant exposition of the target language through listening, reading, speaking and eventually writing. Initially, I let them just watch the videos and asked them to tell me what they understood from the motion of pictures. And they did. Other days I asked them to watch the videos and write down any familiar words. They did that with great interest as well. Meanwhile, I made them watch videos in every lesson. As a result, their vocabulary balance rose dramatically with the help of the videos. I noticed that, they memorised the new vocabulary in connection with the events in the videos. They learned vocabulary faster than through other means of vocabulary acquisition. Watching Youtube videos also helped them boost their listening comprehension. One of my students told me that she understood my speech better than first days of our classes and she confessed that watching videos had great impact on it.
At the end of the first semester I gave my students survey on their English language lessons. Almost all my students mentioned watching authentic Youtube videos and told that they enjoyed them very much.
To say the truth, I was skeptical about using authentic Youtube videos before. The main reason was the difficulty level as my students had A1 level at the start. Using scaffolding method, I could use the videos and achieved the desired results.
In addition to using authentic videos, I partially stopped using coursebooks. From my observation from previous years, I noticed that when using coursebooks me and my students were too much into them, in other words our heads were constantly down doing either exercises or reading texts provided by the textbook. Using them, I became lazy of using additional materials or going beyond the coursebook. It also made me be less creative and prevented my professional development. In addition, the textbook prevented my students from doing speaking practice and it lead to developing my students’ speaking skills. So this year I planned my lessons according to my own knowledge, how I see students learn a foreign language, and most importantly, I made my lessons straightforward and according to immediate needs of my students.
The main drawback of not using a coursebook was the homework part. I sent the homework through Whatsapp application. Some students were impatient and wanted to get the homework that day. Some days I was either busy that evening, or was tired, or was away without access to the internet or some days I simply forgot to send them homework.
The second disadvantage was not being able to find appropriate listening materials for the topic I taught in the lesson. There were many days that my students didn’t have anything to practice their listening skills other than Youtube videos.
This year, I also constantly asked oral feedback from my students about the overall lessons and /or about particular activities. I explained the reason behind each activity, telling why they were important for their language learning. It rose interest among them and they were interested in doing the activity as they understood their importance. I remember reading Marisa Constantinates (CELTA Athens) research about the role of explanation the purpose of each activity to students before doing them. She found out that it affected the learning process of students and they achieved better results if the purpose of the activity or lesson procedure was explained before conducting it. After reading this research paper I did a further research on it and discovered that telling the purpose of an activity (why they read this particular article and why they are going to listen this material; explaining the overall aim of the lesson) boosted the motivation level of the students because it lets the students to see that they are not taught blindly and there is a purpose behind every activity.
According to several research it is proven that a person learns better when he feels happy, relaxed and the learning is connected with positive feelings. I tried to create a positive environment for my students as I wanted my students feel happy, safe and have fun in my lessons. Doing that, the motivation level of the students went up and they actively participated in learning the language.
This year I constantly got feedback from my students about how fast their time passes during English language lessons. They said it was because they enjoyed the lessons as they were interesting, fun and useful. I also try making almost all my students actively involved in the lesson. It both works well in classroom management as they have their attention in the lesson and take an active part in the lesson.
At the start of the year, I set a goal of getting my students speak and I think achieved this goal. My students can speak on a range of elementary topics. They can participate on conversations, ask and answer questions around variety of topics of general interest. Their motivation became high. I was amazed seeing that they even started learning English outside of the class. ( that’s another topic for the next postJ)