Teaching ESL
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Written work
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Author:  Malikariverbaby [ Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:17 am ]
Post subject:  Written work

Hi,

I am teaching in 14 different primary schools in France. I have 45 minutes a week in each class and the children are age 6-11. Mostly I have the 6-8 years olds in one class and the 9-11 in another. However sometimes I have 5 year groups in one class :roll:

Recently 2 teachers have asked me to do more oral work. Apart from being completely offended that they should make a negative comment on my lessons, I really do lots of oral work.

I usually do 35 minutes oral with about 10 minutes on a worksheet. The worksheet for the little ones is often just colouring. I do 1/2 letters of the alphabet using the flash cards from here and the kids draw the picture and write the word at the beginning of each lesson.

They say that I should do no written work at all and only alittle with the oldest kids. They have been on a course :roll: and thats what they were told.

I think ythats to ensure that the French teachers who teach English don't just hand out worksheets.

Anyway my question is what people think about written EFL work at primary.
Thanks

Author:  mesmark [ Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:58 am ]
Post subject: 

I originally started teaching with an all oral concept a few years back. I had a couple elementary school first grade groups and some kindergarten groups. One elementary school group did really well with zero written work and just a little bit of reading work. A couple other groups did OK. They were fluent (as fluent as I had taught for) but had a problem with accuracy. And, then there was a crash and burn group.

The group it worked for was made up of kids that seemed to be able to intuitively pick up the grammar patterns and were able to internalize the language for production. They also adjusted and perfected sentence structure after correction from me. They later even self-monitored a lot of what they were saying, often correcting themselves when they said something wrong.

The crash and burn group were just making sounds. After several years, they had little understanding of the vocab and almost zero understanding on how to form any sentence they wished to say. They knew some words and could do just fine in classroom activities, but it was quite shocking after comparing them to the other group. The crash and burn group really had no idea about anything it seemed.

So, I realized that I wasn't reaching everybody by using just one method. And, I have been introducing more worksheet over the last 2-3 years in various classes, trying to find the right balance. Some classes are getting full on grammar explanation and some classes just structure verifying and vocabulary worksheets. The classes struggling with production will get more structure and the classes that are doing good with the all oral approach get less. I now think, that's the best recipe for me: assess the group and help as needed.

That said, I do teach all classes via the all oral system for the first two years or so. From there I begin some written work in the middle of the class and assign homework occasionally.

People are different and we all learn and need to be reached via different means. I don't think anyone will come up with an equation (80% oral and 20% written) that's going to work well for everyone. I feel it's best to find a balance that works well for both the students and the teacher.

Teachers are also more or less effective via different techniques. I think if what you are doing is working well for your students, then that's the right combination.

Author:  Malikariverbaby [ Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:16 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for your reply Mark. It very interesting what you say. It has made me think that I should maybe limit the worksheets I give the youngest kids. I do find it very difficult to teach 5 year groups together particulary if the olders ones are very keen and want to push the level at which they are learning.
As an originally Montessori trained teacher I believe in following the children. The time I spend on one topic is ruled by whether the kids are enjoying themselves and how fast they are 'getting the concept'.
The kids love the worksheets, as I give them a sticker when they have finished it and they recieve a prize for every 10 stickers.

I try and take a holistic approach to my classes in the hope that there is something for everyone. Its very hard as there are no resourses, no materials, no equipment not even a kids English/French dictionary.

I think I will have a look at how I structure my lessons for after the Easter holidays.

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