So here’s what I did:
The students looked at their original drafts of their essays and my reformulations of these drafts side by side. Taking only one as an example to work on, they had to read them both, compare them and make any notes on changes that they noticed and thought would be useful, i.e. chunks of vocabulary, use of specific grammar, passives, etc.
From that I divided the class into pairs (6 in the class in total). Two had to look for and write a list (in order) of all the nouns they could find (even if they were the same noun again). The next pair the verbs, the last pair the adjectives and adverbs. Once they had their lists, they changed groups so that there were now two groups, each with a “noun”, a “verb” and an “adjective/adverb”. Their job was now to rewrite the essay with only their notes and their word lists to help them.
So here’s why I did:
The students are reluctant note takers so they have to be put in situations where they rely on their notes (noticed grammar, for example). By having the lists of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in order, they have a good way to start putting the essay back together. They will force them try to put meaningful sentences together without the problem of not having adequate vocabulary.
So where did it go wrong?
Nowhere major really. One student didn’t really work particularly hard, just gave her list of words to the other two and let them work while she ‘twiddled her thumbs’. However, this didn’t hinder learning for the other two learners in her group nor did it disrupt the lesson in general, thankfully.
Continued behaviour like this can become demotivating for other students so I will have to keep an eye on this. Any suggestions? I don’t think this would work, though I could try. 🙂
And what was the outcome?
The students successfully took notes about chunked phrases where they got prepositions wrong or missing. They had some sense of achievement putting the text back together again and seeing how close they got. I hope this has also gone some way to building up their understanding of structure in their writing; the position, the reasoning, the evidence. We are still a long way off having independent writers of English, but it is a start.
So would I do this exercise again?
So what would I do differently next time?
I took a somewhat passive role in this exercise in an attempt to encourage learner independence and wean them off their constant need for input from the teacher. I even went so far as to leave the classroom for a few minutes to let them get on with the work. I believe this is a useful thing to do. It nudges the learners out of their comfort zone – though some might call it passivity or even apathy!
However, I would probably get more involved next time, joining groups for a paragraph, observing how they work, who works, what the specific problems and confusions are.
I’m still thinking of ways to build off this structure. Since the learners have spent time getting used to and understanding what to expect from this method, there is no reason to simply abandon it and never use it again. If anything, I will probably use this method several times so that it becomes part of their comfort zone. From experience as a learner (Tango classes in this case) I’ve observed that my ability to tolerate being outside my comfort zone doesn’t always last a full lesson and once I hit that point I tend to switch off to new things. I’m assuming my students are the same.