PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES IN ELT
- School: Pre-school of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Kepayan, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Malaysia
- Date: 27 February 2008
- Time: 8.00-10.00 AM
B.Ed TESL Cohort 4 had been assigned by lecturer Ms. Jenny Kwong Shuk Wah to conduct an English class observation in schools as an assignment of ‘Principles and Practices in ELT (TSL 450)’ subject. Our group had decided to carry out the observation in a pre-school of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Kepayan, Kota Kinabalu. We performed our observation on 27 February 2008 from 8.A.M until 10.A.M in the pre-school. The purpose of this observation is to expose us to the classroom atmosphere of English lesson especially the methods adopted by the teacher to teach the students the English Language.
2.0 Background of the classroom
We entered the class earlier with the permission of the teacher. The classroom was painted colourfully and decorated with numerous attractive and colourful drawings, shapes, numbers, and some other items. It was well- equipped with computers, televisions, and CD player. The tables were arranged that they were close to the wall which left a large empty space in the middle of the class. There were many toys, game sets and simple science equipment. The students’ ages were 5 and 6 year old and they were wearing uniforms. As the class started, we sat at the back of the class and started our observation. The English lesson started at 9 A.M and ended at 10 P.M
3.0 Topic or subject matter of the lesson
The topic of the lesson derived from the theme of the week which was the home equipment in living room. The purpose of having a particular different theme every week is to realize the children the emphasis on the subject-matter the children are going to learn for that week. From students’ point of view, words they are learning in non-native words do not seem really necessary because words in the mother tongue serve all practical purpose, thus, it is important to create in students’ mind a sense of personal need for a foreign word (Allen, 1983). There are only three objects they learned during the lesson; sofa, table and telephone. The children are considered to be at the beginning level. Thus, the lesson is centered on focal, controlled mode whereby the students are engaged in lots of repetition of a limited number of words, phrases, and sentences.
4.0 Teacher talk and student talk
During the lesson, the teacher and the students were actively involved in a communicative interaction between them. The Foreign Language Interaction Analysis (FLINT) model developed by Moskowitz (1971) underlay the learning climate for interactive teaching in the class.
4.1 Teacher talk
The teacher used simple language and brief direction to the children in order for them to easily understand her. The teacher did not dominate the class since the children actively participated in verbal climate of the class.
The teacher gave brief, simple and clear direction when she wanted the student to pay attention or carry out certain tasks. She called the children by their names when they were not paying attention to her request or lesson.
4.1.2 Correction without rejection
One of the students made mistake by answering fish when they were asked to name the home-equipment at their home, the teacher immediately corrected the student’s answer but she did not totally dismiss it. In fact, she associated the fish with their lesson by telling the children that fish also lives in aquarium and went deeper by asking more about aquarium as one of the home-equipment. The teacher also expanded the lesson to what types of fish are put in aquarium.
In fact, the teacher often asked the children questions in order to increase their participation in the class. The children actively answered teacher’s questions and usually completed the teacher’s utterances in concern with the subject-matter they were learning and direction given by the teacher.
4.1.4 Praise and encourage
For children who appeared to be quiet, the teacher attempted to elicit their participation by calling their names and repeated the question she was asking to them. The teacher reaffirmed and reassured their ability that they were capable of performing the task. This, in turn, could enhance the children’s self-confidence in their own abilities ( Brown, 2001).
4.1.5 Use ideas of students
The teacher accepted all the answers given by the children and repeated the exact answers except if there was obvious mistake. The teacher used students’ ideas as means to elaborate more about the subject-matter and to enhance students’ understanding.
4.1.6 Use of native language
The teacher gave directions in English language before she translated them into Malay Language in order for the children to comprehend them. As for beginners the use of native language is allowed for several reasons. In this case, the negotiation of management factors and brief description of direction are the reasons which allow the teacher to use the native language of the children.
4.2 Student talk
The children were actively involved in the class by giving positive responses with lots of exuberances especially when the teacher initiated a question.
4.2.1 Student response
Student response is open-ended when the teacher asks them questions. They gave various answers. Most of them managed to give appropriate answers while few of them gave inappropriate answers but they were still free to say their answers since the teacher accepted all their answers and provided some corrections if necessary.
They were really eager to respond that they said their answers out loud simultaneously. Although there were lots of commotion but the class was active. Most of the time, the teacher did not completed her utterances as the children usually continued, by extension, completed the utterances. When the teacher uttered a sentence, she did not finish it but put a high intonation on the last word which would be continued and completed by the children.
5.0 Variety and types of techniques
Throughout the lesson, the teacher applied a few techniques which were appropriately created to satisfy the need of young learners at the beginning level.
5.1 Introduction of the subject-matter
The teacher started her lesson by introducing the subject-matter of their lesson for that day which was home-equipment in the living room.
5.1.1 The use of pictures as stimuli
As the teacher started the lesson, she drew the attention of children to the pictures she pasted on the boards. Each pictures depicted a particular object of home equipment mostly found in living room; sofa, telephone and table. It is helpful especially for beginners in English to see a picture of a single object or person as the only focus of attention (Allen, 1983). However, the teacher only introduced the first picture which was the sofa to the children. She briefly asked about the characteristics of sofa which the children excitedly answered. In teaching beginners, pictures can be used to stimulate questions (Harmer, 2001).
5.1.2 Meaningful learning
The teacher then asked the children what home equipment they had at home and the children answered it out loud which the teacher attended one by one. The teacher was applying meaningful learning when they were learning the home equipment in living room as meaningful learning was effective for children to internalize what they have learned firmly and retain them longer (Brown, 2001). The teacher was appealing to students’ interest when she asked them what they had at home. The teacher continued asking the students the characteristics of the items they mentioned such as the location and colour of the objects they had said. She was actually delving into children’s existing knowledge and background as she kept on asking the children more about home-equipment in order to associate the lesson with the objects they were accustomed with.
5.1.3 Immediate feedback for interference
In addition, as they were learning only one home equipment at one time, the teacher provided an immediate feedback when the children mispronounced the name of the object as the children’s pronunciation was heavily influenced by their native language which was Malay language. The teacher clarified that English Language was not the same with Malay Language and the children should not pronounce the word the way it is pronounced in Malay Language. Errors of native language interference may be repaired by acquainting the learner with the native language cause of the error (Brown, 2001).
5.2 Spelling session
The teacher proceeded with her lesson by the next session which was the spelling lesson that she had to teach the students how to spell the words.
5.2.1 The use of board as teaching note pad
The teacher wrote the name of the object that they were learning which was sofa on the board. She spelled the word and stressed the full pronunciation of the word which was ‘sofa’ which then the children followed out loud. As Harmer (2001) suggests, writing words on the board can help teachers to show and stress a particular word which pupils can see and hear at the same time when the word is articulated audibly.
5.2.2 Selective attention
The teacher called the children one by one using their names to the front and spelled the word written on the board. The children spelled the word slowly and if they could not spell it properly, the teacher spelled the word and the children followed. The teacher was applying a metacognitive strategy of learning for the pupils through selective attention as proposed by O’ Malley and Chamot (1990). The teacher was focusing on special aspect of learning tasks, individual spelling.
5.2.3 Positive reinforcement
The teacher attempted to enhance students’ motivation and encouragement to learn as she provided rewards for the children who managed to perform the task given. She provided them an optimal degree of praise and encouraged the student to reward each other with applause every time any of them finished performing a task given. Anticipation of rewards is the most powerful factor in directing one’s behaviour (Brown, 2001).
5.2.4 Summary of the lesson
At the end of the session, the teacher reasserted the word ‘sofa’ by saying it out loud and the children followed. The teacher asked the children about the characteristics of sofa again in order to ensure their understanding. One of the cognitive learning strategies is summarizing which can be defined as an intermittent synthesis of what one has heard to ensure the information has been retained (O ‘Malley and Chamot, 1990).
5.3 Writing session
The teacher started the final session of her lesson which was the session the children had to learn to write the words.
As they completed the spelling session, the teacher asked the children to copy repeatedly the name of the object on a worksheet given to them. The children were required to sit at their place and they started doing the work. As what Schickedanz and Casbergue (2004) point out, children start learning to write by experimenting with word making through writing mock words. They first develop writing skills through experimenting with forms that do not convey a message and as they develop through time, they begin to interpret their writing.
6.0 Discipline or behaviour problem
The children were disruptive and easily lost their focus. The teacher controlled the class by gathering them in the middle of the class before the lesson started. The teacher directed each of them to stand on a different unit of tiles on the floor. The teacher give direction to all the children step by step and individualize the instruction for children who stay static by calling their names in order to attract their attention. The teacher circulated the children in order to ensure they were in the right positions. In fact, the teacher helped them to be in their right position by moving them properly to the appropriate positions using her hands. Throughout the lesson, the teacher kept asking the students to raise their hands repeatedly and be in their original positions. The teacher asked the children to raise their hands approximately every 10 minutes while she was teaching them in order to keep them focused. The teacher verbally provided them immediate prohibition when they started doing other activities such as playing toys and wandered around the class or even went out of the class. The teacher had a stick and used them to hit the floor or table when the children made noise and used it to tap children who were disruptive as a punishment but it was not painful as it was just a tap on the skin.
7.0 Physical activity and sensory input
7.1 Sing-Along session
The teacher also conducted a sing-along session with the children. They sang several songs together out loud and perform several body movements accompanying the songs. For example, as they sang about butterfly, they acted as a butterfly in line with the lyric. This activity involved the children’s listening and seeing abilities as they had to watch the teacher as the instructor and also listen to the rhythms of the songs. Songs and rhymes encourage them to speak English without the fear of making a mistake and do not need translation, they guess the meanings. Singing enables children to pick up a lot of new words and the rhythm of the verses helps them to put the stress in the right place, creating a natural flow of language and building up fluency (Cebula, 2003).
7.2 Physical exercise
The teacher also conducted a brief aerobic exercise session when the children completed their works. The children gathered in the middle of the classroom and the teacher was standing in front of them. She was the instructor of the exercise session. As usual, the teacher gave direction while doing the movement followed by the children. The teacher was cautious when it came to turning their head to left and right as she carefully told them the right directions of left and right before they turned their heads.
8.0 Apparent motivation and interest
The teacher offered rewards in form of praise and applause as intangible rewards for the children in order to give them motivation to learn. The students were really active and enthusiastic as they always answered the teachers’ questions quickly and they always completed the teacher’s purposely uncompleted utterances. In fact, they seemed to be really eager to speak as they often raised their hands when they wanted to answer the questions and they did not wait for the teacher to call their names in their turn of answering the questions, they just yelled their answers. They also enjoyed the work given by the teacher as most of them repeated the same work after they completed their first work by taking another worksheet. The teacher did not ask them to repeat their work but they were the ones who wanted to do it again. This really showed their enthusiasm and interest in learning especially in terms of participation.
The observation was an exciting and beneficial task for us as it exposed us to the English class atmosphere in pre-school. We could see the practices of the theories and principles of teaching English Language in pre-school. The theories and principles we had learned and probably we will learn in the future are really crucial in our duty as future teachers since we are going to use them to teach the language. We felt glad that we had been given an opportunity to observe an English class as part of our assignment as it really enlightened us more about our future responsibility as English Language teacher.
- Allen, Virginia French (1983) “Techniques in Teaching Vocabulary” New York.
- H. Douglas Brown (2001) “Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy”. San Francisco State University.
- Harmer, Jeremy (2001) “The practice of English Language Teaching” England.
- Judith A. Schickedanz and Renee M. Casbergue (2004) “International Reading Association”.
- O’ Malley, J. and Chamot, A. (1990): “Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.