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Teach English in TiAnzishAn Zhen - Zhangjiajie Shi
One topic that was touched upon but this course did not go into detail about was lesson planning and specifically planning the assessments as part of lesson planning. Several years ago when I taught in the United States, I went to a seminar paid for by my local school district about the concept of Understanding by Design (also called Backward Design) which was outlined in a book written in 1998 by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The basic premise is to think of the outcomes that you want students to perform. What do you want to accomplish at the end of unit? What skills should a student be able to do? From there, you create the assessments both summative and formative assessments and the plan each lesson based on what skills you have created in their student assessments (Wiggins, McTighe 1998). The Backward Design framework has always resonated with me because when I worked in the corporate world at two of my companies we were trained in the Stephen Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 2 from Covey’s work is “Begin with the End in Mind” (Covey, 1989). This habit explains that whatever goal we set or outcome we seek, before you begin, think of what you want to accomplish in the end. Or the idea that we only will work towards achieving something if we have a clear goal in mind (Covey, 1989). Most curriculums in education are dictated by the educative body (like a school board or private company). What is interesting about TEFL and TESOL programs is that student input often generates the curriculum. This has caused me to think that there might be another step in the Understanding by Design. In our course work in this class, the importance of doing a needs assessment of our students at the beginning of the course was stressed to make sure you are teaching content that your students want to learn, to keep them engaged and motivated, especially in a business English setting. I have taught in public and private Grade K-12 schools my entire career in education and had not given much thought about seeking student input in the curriculum because it’s always been set for us by the school or governing body. However, in the TESOL context, I believe this is one of the most important steps. I’ve taken Spanish, German and Chinese as a Foreign Language in my adult life and rarely has the teacher asked about what we wanted to learn. One of my German teachers took the time to do this in our class and it was the most engaged I had been. So in following the Understanding by Design format, I believe I should first seek feedback from my students, then plan out the desired outcome from my students input, and then design assessments and lessons. In my own classroom currently, I have found that students have to be engaged. One of our readings talked about short activities for young learners changing from one activity to the next frequently (about every 15 minutes) because of their attention span. In my experience, this is true for every age level and while older students and adults can sit longer and “behave” they still have trouble keeping focus. I like to begin my lessons with a warm-up that leads to a discussion to get their brains flowing. I like to use videos in every lesson which usually range from 5 to 10 minutes. I spend a maximum of about 15 minutes in direct instruction like a “lecture” or notes and then I like to do something hands-on. Since I teach science, the hands-on part usually is a lab or activity, but in a TESOL setting I could see making that a activate activity like roll-play or creating a dialogue. One educational theory I learned many years ago when I taught in the US was the idea that students had to “touch” a concept seven times to put it into long-term memory. While I don’t remember and can not find the original source of this idea, I’ve always kept it in mind in my teaching. I feel that if I can give my class 4-5 touches in a one-hour lesson plan, then with homework and some practice on their own, they could put any topic into long-term memory. My last experience has always been to have more prepared and run out of time rather than not plan enough. As the old saying goes “people don’t plan to fail, but fail to plan.” I like to “run out of time” in a lesson because it means my students were engaged. I hate for a lesson to end with 10 minutes left and students looking at me to entertain them. Works Cited: Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Print. Wiggins, Grant, and McTighe, Jay. (1998). Backward Design. In Understanding by Design (pp. 13-34). ASCD.