After a week and a half teaching on the summer pre-sessional
EAP course at Bristol University, I had a bit of a breakthrough with my class
yesterday. The first week had, as usual, been rather hectic, sorting out admin
stuff but also trying to adjust to a new programme and new course materials.
All week, I felt like I was running just to stand still and that my lesson
planning mostly involved figuring out what I was meant to be doing and what I
needed photocopies of rather than really thinking about the best way to teach.
So I got to the weekend feeling rather frustrated and deflated.
As someone who gets so little class time through the year, I
really look forward to my summer teaching stint. It’s a chance to reconnect
with students and colleagues, and to try out some of the ideas I’ve been
accumulating through the year. So to have such a disappointing first week,
where I didn’t really feel like I got into my stride and, perhaps more
importantly, didn’t really connect with my students, was a real downer.
Anyway, Monday was even worse – more confusion about the programme
and materials, and another slightly uninspired class. I got home feeling really
dispirited and realized I needed a change of tack. Looking at the programme for
Tuesday morning, I realized I had a class that seemed rather light on materials
and spotted a chance to do something of my own. The theme for the week for the particular
module I was teaching was data commentary, so I decided to do a bit of a fun
warmer practising numbers. It was a spin on an old favourite where you put up a
load of numbers and ask students to guess how they’re connected/what they
represent. As my students are new to Bristol and had probably spent their first
week just settling in and getting to grips with the course, it seemed like a
good time to encourage them to explore the city a bit. So I put up a slide
entitled “Bristol in numbers” – including a collection of numbers in some way
connected to the city; some connected to events going on at the
moment, including the decorated 'Gromits
' scattered around the city. I gave them a couple of minutes to chat and make guesses, then added
some picture clues.
They loved it! The whole mood of the class changed with lots
of laughter and chatter, excitement, questions and sharing of experiences. I’d
intended to spend just 10 minutes on the activity, but it probably stretched to
20 in the end. It was definitely time well spent, not only did it provide a bit
of light relief in an otherwise fairly intensive programme, but it went a huge
way towards creating that essential sense of rapport with the students.
It was helpful from a pedagogical point of view too. As I
got students to explain each of the numbers, I was able to really insist on
correct pronunciation and accurate expression. Because the task was supposedly ‘easy’,
I could playfully tease them about errors, acting the strict school mistress
role, and so stress the importance of accuracy without anyone losing
face. It felt like a real turning point and the rest of the class, and this
morning’s lesson too, had quite a different feel. We’re back to the ‘serious
stuff’, but there are lighter moments too and, as a result, I’m definitely
getting more from the students and hopefully, they’re getting more from my
Labels: Bristol Uni, EAP, teaching