Here at ILC IH Brno, today is the last day of school for most of our classes, but I know many of you will still be going until the end of the month – don’t worry it’s only a few more weeks until we all get some well-earned rest. And because it is the end of the school year all our teachers write a short self-reflection. They think about what their strengths are, what they have done to improve and what they would like to do going forward. I thought I might share mine here.
One downside to being the DOS (Director of Studies) is that I spend less time teaching than I might like – that is actually something I plan on changing for next year, I’d like to be doing a bit more regular teaching than I do at the moment. Having said that I was very lucky with the classes I did have this year, an Intermediate class of just 5 students and a 1-2-1 with a 14 year-old boy. All of them committed students who were, usually, on time and prepared, usually, to do their homework.
In the Intermediate class one of the things we spent time working on was pronunciation, in particular creating chunks of connected speech. It was often challenging for me as I had never done this before and I am no expert on the subject, but by doing a little bit of practice with it most weeks and encouraging the students to listen for it in the listening tasks, my speech, or whenever they heard English, all of them developed a bit more of a natural rhythm.
The biggest issue was the fact we were in a classroom with a blackboard and chalk. On the upside it really got me thinking about what needed to go on the board and how to keep that brief and clear (I don’t like writing with chalk and the students didn’t like looking at it either). It meant as a group we did quite a lot of verbal recapping and prompting, which was usually both asked for and given by the students themselves. So maybe the blackboard wasn’t that much of a problem after all!
With the teenager – in fact with all the teens classes I ended up teaching this year as I did quite a few cover lessons – it was really nice to connect and get an alternative perspective on things than just my old teacher’s view. Again pronunciation was something we worked on more than I would have done four or five years ago. Here the problem was to do with articulating the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants at the end of words. He told me his favourite game was “World of Tongues” (but why not – he is 14 after all) when he meant “World of Tanks”. What I found difficult was that when making the sound in isolation he had few problems, but the longer the utterance the less pronounced the difference between voiced and unvoiced became. I am going to try and do some reading about this over the summer as it also came up in another teens class (“My father is CEO of Lidl company” when he meant “a little company”).
As for next year, apart from continuing my progress with teaching pronunciation, the first thing is just to do some more teaching. Maybe a teens or post-maturitní (post-high school) class, and then I want to make sure I am planning clear coherent lessons as sometimes with time pressures I don’t spend enough time getting lessons ready. But I also want to make sure I am focusing on the students and what they want, need and respond to. My other summer reading is connected to learner autonomy and a post-maturitní class would be perfect to try out some new ideas.