So here goes, my first reflection from my first term! This reflection is a very late one and I am learning the importance of keeping a record of thoughts/feelings/ideas as soon as the session has finished. (Think I’ll be investing in a diary this Christmas!). One particular session stood out for me this term and I’d like to explore the things that worked well and the things that did not.
This session took place during 19th of November. I was teaching the same session (Functional Skills English) to two classes, one in the morning which I have been observing and taking over slowly and one new class in the afternoon who I’ve only met once before. The session revolved around the blessed thing that is SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) which can be difficult to make engaging at the best of times.
From my time observing Functional Skills sessions and taking over a few of the classes I have noticed short exercises work the best for the learners. Longer exercises provide the students with too much time to become distracted and bored. My short activities included word searches, and adjective exercise to practice using dictionaries, an exercise to help students’ spot grammatical mistakes and then a recap of punctuation which involved moving around the classroom.
So the morning group first…The session went relatively well, although students spent a long while on the starter activities. I have noticed students in the morning session lack confidence in their abilities. There is one particular student who has some truly fantastic ideas, however often puts herself down. She finishes the work before others and finishes it to a high standard. There are a few other students like her in the class and they are a pleasure to teach (such a cliché teacher thing to say-but true!).
These students benefit from stretch and challenge, and can move onto new tasks and extension activities without any objection. However, a few members of the class are very difficult to engage and ask for a lot of help. There is a range of level 1 and 2 within the class, so differentiation can be so difficult. Any tips for differentiation besides having lots of extra activities available? It’d be nice to pair up advance learners with learners who are struggling, but due to the group dynamics and behavioural issues I feel this would be tricky.
Now for the afternoon group. I have only seen this group once before (I was covering for a colleague). They are a small group however they are exceptionally giggly and easily lose focus. This group’s behaviour was particular challenging. There is a lot of negativity towards the subject and to trying new things. Although in class I push on and tell them to have a go inside I am often feeling massively drained. For this group I hope to add more elements from their core course to help improve engagement.
Funnily enough however, this group completed the work much quicker. Possibly because they wanted it to be over with but after checking their work it was of a decent quality. I think this group needs a challenge to make the students realise their capabilities and potential. I think with time rapport with these students could also be built on and developed which could improve behavioural issues.
So some positives:
The students produced relevant and decent work, some better than others.
The aims were reached.
Learners were stretched and challenged as well as supported.
Low level disruption.
Lack of consolidation activities. I need ways to ensure students have learnt. This is something I find difficult in the FS sessions as I try to keep activities short to keep students engaged.
After the Christmas holidays I’m going to try change things up a bit. Unfortunately since this session the groups have mixed and merged. They have become bigger and the session time has doubled. Although this is daunting I am having a rethink of ways to use this as an opportunity to really get them on board with English.
Ways I will do this:
Read up on behaviour management and observe some challenging groups with teachers who are good at BH. Try some new techniques and stick to my expectations.
A range of recap and consolidation activities as well as just stretch and challenge activities.
Develop rapport over time, learn all student’s names and try keep a record of their abilities through marking and reading their work.
Reference to the real life application of the subject throughout sessions.
Embed the core subject when possible.
I will reflect on these improvements in the coming term!