During this week’s session, we engaged in a workshop peer-evaluating each other’s materials. In my teaching context, I have set courseware developed particularly for my school. Any supplementation that I conduct is typically materials light, consisting mainly of conversational or vocabulary based activities. I, therefore, have very little experience in creating my own worksheets, and hence this was a challenge for myself.
In undertaking this task, I took inspiration from my previous experiences with courseware, namely that of course books. I tried to follow the usual pathway of activities, using the ‘test, teach, test’ method. The worksheet was designed for intermediate level, teenage learners, to last a three hour lesson. The focus of the lesson was to use a number of different question types using the topic of ‘celebrities’. In the lesson, I aimed to incorporate a range of tasks based on both communication and form, invoke a range of interactions, and use a number of media, including photos, video, and text.
Following from the session on visuals, I tried to incorporate visuals in a meaningful way. The multimodality of words and visuals can create enriched opportunities for learning when utilised effectively (Çakır, 2015). This proved more difficult than I had thought and in the end, most images were placed purely for decorative purposes. However, one image was representative of the text, whilst a set of images were used in a matching task and then the basis for conversation and discussion between students.
On commencement of the workshop, the worksheet was unfinished and hence allowed for critique of the current standing production as well as ideas for development to finish the material. The feedback proved highly useful and a number of changes and additions were made to the worksheet to establish the finished product. These included changes to the layout, such as pathways through the page and segmentation of keywords, addition of word match activity, and levelling the ‘who is Rosa Parks?’ text, as well as more substantial changes such as lesson approach and content. The finished worksheet can be found here.
It was suggested in critique that a clear teaching strategy was needed for the progression of the lesson. I decided to use a 2 cycle task based learning approach. Task based learning is founded on students using authentic language through tasks (Frost, 2015). Typically, a lesson would begin with the pre-task stage, introducing students to the topic and eliciting key language. Next, is the task stage where students undergo the task at hand, building to the point when they present their task to their peers. Finally, is the review stage in which students can be granted feedback and focus upon the highlighted language areas. The focal point of the lesson then is the task and production of language in doing so. Ellis, (2003) outlined the following four characteristics of a task: a primary focus on pragmatic meaning; has a ‘gap’; students use their own linguistic resources; and there is a clear non-linguistic outcome. For this worksheet it could be seen that a task based learning approach has been used, whist being structured by a PPP (presentation, practice, production) approach. That is to say that language is introduced to students through elicitation and presentation, and then practiced in structured activities. After such, students are then asked to complete a task invoking the use of language however, language is not the outcome of the task but rather a tool used in the production of such. Whilst this doesn’t follow TBL precisely, it does draw upon the notions of social constructivism and social constructionism on which TBL is founded (Gadomska, 2016).
An interesting conversation that arose numerous times throughout the workshop was that of implicit/explicit instructions in worksheets and lessons. Whilst I would think that my worksheet is very self-explanatory and follows a logical route, in implementing such there would be a lot of content not on the worksheet. Therefore, an accompanying lesson plan would fill the gaps between activities, providing a clearer picture of the intent of implementation. The problem with this thought, however, is that every implementation of the lesson will vary depending on the learners and their needs. A lot of the lesson with remain in one’s head or in brief notes rather than in an explicit lesson plan that can be shared with others. The translatability of ideas then is rather difficult here. For example, on the worksheet, it refers students to watch a video and answer a number of (generic) questions relating to the linguistic content. On the sheet, no particular video is identified for good pedagogical reason. The intended video is that of an interview between a celebrity and interviewer. This video has multiple purposes, to model an interview, to introduce students to different question types, and to continue the theme of celebrities. The video then can be changed for every implementation of the lesson, depending on the students and their interests, as well as current cultural and topical events. An accompanying lesson plan would obviously be needed here in order to transpire this information.
Whilst most of our materials are centrally made, I have created a number of lessons formed around the excursions students take during their course. These are intended to introduce students to the culture of that city, develop key vocabulary for the excursion, and provide a fun and relaxed Friday afternoon lesson. The difficulty here was providing a succinct lesson, with clear instructions and minimal materials. After creating the worksheet for this workshop, I decided to revisit these lessons and transfer them to a more accessible format in the form of a worksheet. Whilst these will still require an accompanying lesson plan, this can be a lot less detailed, focusing more on the pathway through activities, than instructions for the activities themselves. Two examples of these worksheets can be found here and here.
Çakır, I. (2015). Instructional Materials Commonly Employed by Foreign Language Teachers at Elementary Schools. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 8(1), 69-82.
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based Language Learning and Teaching. Oxford: Oxford Applied Linguistics.
Frost, R. (2015). “A Task-based Approach”: British Council Teaching English.
Gadomska, A. (2016). Using LEGO Blocks for Technology-mediated Task-based English Language Learning. Teaching English with Technology, 15(5), 120-132.