Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Making the pedagogy explicit

Something I am trying very consciously to do this semester is make my language teaching pedagogy explicit to my students.  I have very specific ideas about what constitutes good language teaching  (and I also have a PhD in this field) and in order for this pedagogy to succeed in the classrom, students need to be socialized into it.  In first year, this isn't so much a problem, but there are several problematic assumptions I've encountered thus far that need correcting, as well as some points I want to drive home before they hit second year and third year and it's too late to resocialize at the right level.  Specifically, here is what I want to counter:

1) Homework is for practicing what we do in class.  Um, no.  Homework is for learning material for the first time, which we will activate in class.  Preparation is essential, or you will not be able to keep up.  Worse, you will hold back your peers in groupwork, which is 75% of our class.

2) Class is when you explain Arabic to us.  See above.  You read the explanation at home and work with is, we activate in class.

3) If I do the assigned homework drills, that's enough preparation.  Nope.  The assigned homework drills will probably take 1-1.5 hours.  You should be putting in 2-3 hours for each class session.  There's no such thing as too much practice.    

4) I don't have 2-3 hours to spend on this.  Sure you do.  You have ten minutes between each class, and 4-5 classes? Put the textbook mp3s on your phone, mp3 player whatever, and listen.  That's 40-50 minutes right there.  Add in walking to and from your dorm, and you're at an hour.

5) I can't learn this on my own outside of class.  Then get help.  You have office hours, your classmates, free Arabic tutoring in the language lab, language partners, your classmates.  Especially your classmates.  Don't be afraid to ask them for help, as explaining it to you will make them understand it better, so they should be grateful you asked!

6) I won't understand if you speak only in Arabic.  Sure you will.  You don't have to understand every word I say, just what I'm asking you to do.  If you understood every word, you wouldn't need to take this class.  Concentrate on my actions, gestures, and the words you do know.  Being comfortable with not understanding every word is one of the most important language learning skills you can learn.

To get these points across, I have:

1) Put them in the syllabus (rather more gently than here :-))
2) Had a syllabus discussion (in English, alas, but it is 101) the second day of class, where I modeled the type of group work we'll do in the future in Arabic--you read the syllabus, now find these answers with your peers.  I'm here to direct you, not give you the answer.
3) Answered direct questions: Why was this homework when we didn't do it in class beforehand?
4) Modeled it: Here are my directions in Arabic, oh, look, you did get what I wanted you to do, even though you don't know any of those words--see?
5) Modeled it again: You aren't prepared for class? Okay, today you will be a partner to this student who did prepare and you can listen.  I won't explain things to you, but they can.
6) Gone over these points again in 30-60 seconds in the announcements part (English again for now): how are you going to fit that extra hour of listening in again? In your car, aywa, walking to class, aywa, with your friends, aywa,  mumtaaz).

So far this is working great.  More and more students are prepared for class.  They are excited, energetic, and entertaining, which makes me love my job.  They are coming up with their own study groups and ways to practice outside of class.  I'm super excited to get finished with the alphabet and be fully 3arabiyya miyya miyya!

1 comment:

  1. I did tweet this to myself at the beginning of the semester. Glad someone else says these things.