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Week 10 reflections: Portfolios and vocabulary scanning

Student portfolios

Students write half a side of A4 in every single lesson about topics that are related to the day’s lesson. They have told me they appreciate this activity because it gives them a chance to practice the vocabulary they have been learning. I would say there is clear evidence of student improvement in the writing skill. However, what can improve here is the way the concept of learning targets works. At the moment, I define a number of learning targets based on what the students have written. Where I feel the idea is weak is the fact that there is no real follow-up on the targets. I don’t have a sense that learners are really doing much with the targets. In week 11, I plan to improve the approach to learning targets. Possibly, it would be better to focus learner attention on just one target per day rather than a series of them. It’s then easier to make reference to something specific that you are inviting the learners to focus on. This opens up a channel for discussion with the students about what they are doing to tackle their learning targets.

Preparing to speak

I lost my bag this week and so didn’t have my timer to hand. This made me rethink what might be an over-reliance on using the timer. This week I used it less and it had an effect on my practice. Previously, when asking learners to speak about any given topic, I would ask students to prepare within a time limit and use their boards to take notes. I have rethought this approach and I think improved it by instead asking students to specifically make three points about a topic. This gives better shape to the preparation by giving learners a more specific task to do. The approach seemed to work well and I think I will stay with it.

Vocabulary scanning

This approach has been in development over the past few weeks and is bearing some fruit. When dealing with texts, I ask learners to read them collaboratively, sentence by sentence. I tell learners to check their understanding of each sentence as they read it focusing specifically on vocabulary that might be new. Learners tend to read in a somewhat lazy way by not bothering to check with partners for understanding but by insisting on them doing it, they are doing it more collaboratively and quite clearly helping each other to negotiate the vocabulary better.

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