Creating a Love of Writing
Working in an English as a second language classroom, in a foreign country, I have learnt that there is a big gap between the way students are used to learning and the way that western teachers teach. Traditionally when learning Chinese students learn by memorising material, therefore, teaching skills and then asking the students to think for themselves can be challenging for some. I had to think about the way I delivered my messagebecause how much a student learns is determined by their ability, their previous understanding of the subject and the divide between teaching and learning style (Felder & Brent, 2005). Students learn best by making the classroom interactive and exciting, taking part in discussions and asking questions. The classroom energy should be both positive and supportive let every individual student shine (Victorian Government Schools, 2013).
Meeting with the teacher from the previous year we talked candidly about each student and the learning styles that appealed to them the most. With each of the learning styles represented – sensing, verbal, active and reflective (Felder & Brent, 2005).
One particular student highlighted by the teacher, and one that I had to keep an eye on over the course of the semester was a girl who had very low self esteem which became a prevalent topic in her writing subject matter while I was teaching her. This student eventually became one of my better writers as I taught her to always look at her writing from several positively slanted angles and continually motivated her through formative task feedback. For this girl, I also lent a quiet guiding hand to make sure that she was on task, after speaking to, and discussing with the class as a whole.
Walking into this classroom I was greeted by a sea of expectant faces. I was the foreign face here and a novelty. Pursuant to curiosity I at first got to know the students by introducing myself and answering their questions. This five minute practice alone allowed me to understand some of the different personalities in the room and was a natural lead in to the student's first class task, to create their own profile page on Wikispaces, a private learning platform set up for my class alone.
I set about scaffolding the writing tasks by initially showing the students my introductory page and then trying my best to meet each of the learning styles within the class
Verbal learners – Talking together about the written task, brainstorming ideas individually and in groups
Visual learners – Each task was also presented in written form with small pictures for inspiration, however, I also challenged the students to find their own pictures online to reflect the writing task.
Sensing learners – These learners were inspired by structuring the writing task and going through some examples that I found online.
Intuitive learners – When asked to think back to memories for their inspiration, I also needed to make sure that students knew they could also combine their own imaginative ideas into their writing and not get limited by events that actually happened.
What I was required to teach was a unit of work that gradually built up the skill sets of the students, focusing in on several key CCEs that the school wanted embedded in the students before they proceeded to the next grade. The five that were considered key were:
1. Learning to arrange their writing to appeal to the target audience
2. Using vocabulary that the target audience would understand
3. Using correct spelling and grammar
4. Structuring and organising extended written text
5. Persuading the reader by expounding a point of view
(Queensland Studies Authority, 2007).
Adding a goal of my own, I sought to motivate students to not only want to learn, but to also love what they were doing and in turn becoming life long learners as reflected in Queensland's Professional Teaching Standards (Queensland College of Teachers, 2006). If I could create passion for writing in my students then, they would become lifelong learners.
Throughout the semester I tried to find out something about the students with every class that I taught. After sharing with students at the start of each class what I wanted them to get out of the learning, I asked them to also share with the class what they wanted to get out of the lesson. Adding to this, I quickly learnt about student learning styles, monitoring their formative assessments to see if they truely understood the material being taught. I learnt that I had to teach in a variety of ways, so that I reached every student in the class. All this information, slowly build up the individual profiles of the students and helped me be a better teacher to this group.
Looking forward, I will continue to learn from my students as I try to make my classes as individualised as possible. Creating close relationships with parents, monitoring performance and achievements through formal examinations and observation, being careful to always listen to not only what is said, but also unsaid, allows me to tailor my teaching to the learning styles of the students, and present knowledge and understanding in a way individual students learn best.
Felder, R.M., & Brent, R. (2005). How Students Learn, How Teachers teach and What Usually Goes Wrong. Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.csom.umn.edu/Assets/38667.pdf
Queensland Studies Authority. (2007). Common Curriculum Elements (CCEs). Retrieved August 24, 2013, from http://www.qsa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/qcs_elements.pdf
Queensland College of Teachers. (2006). Professional Standards for Queensland Teachers (Standard One). Retrieved August 24, 2013, from http://www.qct.edu.au/Publications/ProfessionalStandards/ProfessionalStandardsForQldTeachers2006.pdf
Victorian Government Schools - International Student Program. (2010). How You Learn. Retrieved November 213, 2013, from http://www.study.vic.gov.au/deecd/index.cfm?2BCA5044-8186-4169-9CAC-7386FD19110F