As part of my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification training, I am to complete a 20-hour practicum. I was paired with the ELL (English Language Learning) teacher Ann Mincks at Hoover High School. Last week, when she asked me if I was interested in presenting a lesson, I jumped at the idea. I felt confident that I would feel prepared after the weekend, when we spent our entire Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. working on lesson planning in our TEFL class.
I worked on my lesson plan and carefully carved out the specific objectives and the HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) questions. I developed a PowerPoint presentation and activities which would be engaging and generate participation.
Still, this morning before I left for class, I was nervous. I questioned whether or not the lesson would be effective, whether the lesson would be at too high or too low of a level for the high school ELL students.
I arrived to the class, and Ms. Mincks gave me the opportunity to introduce myself. The students were curious about my desire to teach. They wanted to know what I planned to do, and several of the latino students perked up when they discovered that I spoke Spanish.
Then, I dove into the lesson.
I kicked it off with my content and language objectives. I discovered that creating content objectives for a lesson simply revolving around grammar requires taking the lesson a step further to either serve a practical purpose or increase engagement by sparking interest.
I chose to go with the more practical approach:
Students will be able to create sentences about their morning using present perfect tense.
My language objectives were focused on helping students understand when to use the present perfect tense, how to change present tense verbs to past participles, and how to combining present perfect tense and past participles.
I kicked off the lesson with asking the students what the difference is between these times.
Then we dove into a Quizlet to get into the mindset of using past participles and changing the present version of the words into its past participle.
After that, I began the activity, based off of this worksheet I designed:
I first had the students write down sentences where it asked,
List two things you have done today. Example: Today, I have cleaned.
Then, I had the students go around the room and “interview” their classmates. This was easy, because they could simply copy down the work. I wanted them to write in “you have” form, but I even confused the teacher, who was encouraging students to write down using the “he/she has” form. Honestly, that was fine. Regardless, the students were learning. The idea was for the students to return to their tables after interviewing classmates, and ask their table mates what someone else had done that day, so using the “he/she/it has” form in that moment. Overall, it worked out. It was a bit chaotic at times, and surely the students were not 100% on task, however, I believe the worksheet + activity effectively simulated real life in considering how and when to use the present perfect, and which form (has vs. have) to use, and when.
Afterwards, I asked for the thumbs up / thumbs down response from the class to gauge understanding. I got plenty of side thumbs, so perhaps my lesson wasn’t completely successful, as I did not totally meet the objectives.
After class, I talked with the teacher and she gave me some positive feedback. She said that she thinks the idea clicked in some more students heads, and that it was probably like a breath of fresh air for them to hear someone else speaking at the front of the room that day.
I do recall a girl saying, “I get it now!” to the teacher, which was a satisfying moment for me.
High school is a weird time. It’s tough to be a high school student, and even more tough when you are just learning the language. I can certainly imagine myself coming back to the states someday and working in an ELL classroom someday.
Hindsight is 20/20
In hindsight, I would have had improved the structure of the worksheet which guided the students through the activity by numbering the main phases or color coding the phases for clearer instructions.
I also would have walked through the worksheet ahead of time to give the most clear instructions possible of what types of sentences were expected in each section.
In the first section, I gave an example. I wish I would have given example answers in each section and perhaps some scaffolding of sentence starters such as, “I have…” or “you have…” or “she has…” etc.
I would have also used more whiteboard space to indicate timing, and write out the “chart” that I remember using so often in my “Spanish brain,”
(I, you, he/she/it, we, they)
I was so nervous for this lesson, but I am extremely grateful to the teacher for giving me a chance and throwing me up in front of the class to give actual teaching a try in a real classroom environment. I have a feeling that, with time, I will feel much more comfortable doing this. Furthermore, I think having my own class of students where I know names and individual learning levels will also be highly beneficial to my teaching.