From the Eyes of a Student

30 01 2017

Friday was our first staff conference day for the year. It had been suggested that we wear joggers in case we ended up in the sport group. We were to enrol in two sessions from a choice of four-drama, dance, food and sport. 25 in each group each session, first in best dressed.

It transpired that once we had our instructions and time to clarify our queries we were not to speak English until the end of the second sesssion, including moving between sessions. The sessions were about an hour in duration. We were allowed to draw what we wanted to communicate and we could use mobile devices.

The chosen language for instruction was Spanish as apparently the staff had least familiarity with that language.

I went to Food which entailed making a recipe. The teacher demonstrated well and although I didn’t really know what she was saying, I knew what I had to do. She did repeat the names of the ingredients so I was able to learn 4 or 5 words that session. The resulting frittata was rather delicious to eat. The development of Spanish sounding English words  by those around me was rather rife.

Off to Sport. Here there was a handout and the major component of the lesson was to go through a series of bingo games, in teams of two or three, to get different answers to each question. Here Google Translate was a great assistance. Also, as the words were written and we could annotate with the translation, we had notes for future reference and revision. At the end of the session the teacher went through the answers. It seemed that there were two different sets of notes which made it hard to follow and hence learn.

All in all, we were thrown back into the shoes of a student. It was a valuable experience to make us more empathetic to the student and to make us more aware of strategies to support the learner – writing important words/points on the board, repeating important words/points, giving notes to annotate and allowing devices to translate/summarise. For Mathematics the latter is probably a formula sheet or perhaps we should get into the habit of developing a topic handout of one example of each question type per topic. I’m still thinking through the experience.

In the debrief session which followed we discussed our reactions and then were asked who was prepared to get up and say a sentence of Spanish. The chosen volunteer had a family background of previous exposure. To me, this reinforced the circular curriculum where we introduce a topic in stage 4, add to it in stage 5 after revising the main facts and similarly further knowledge in stage 6. The challenge is to revise for those needing it and not to bore those with good retention. Even so, those who have good retention have often forgotten one fact which is pertinent to future high mastery. How can we efficiently meet the individual needs of each student whilst maintaining enthusiasm and motivating the student to yearn to learn as much as possible. An enthusiasm for lifelong learning is paramount. It has to become a habit which is enjoyed and sought.

A very worthwhile experience and most relevant, as we continue to develop our strategies to best help every student in our classes. 

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