Following on from Monday’s post, this post deals with the goings on from Thursday and Friday of last week.
Thursday was perhaps the day that everything caught up with me. I’d been working flat out for a while, with only a one day weekend and was definitely feeling it. I started off today’s class with fairly little plan, just a news clip and a transcript, and half an idea to look at tonic stress and thought groups. Perhaps unsurprisingly it didn’t go especially well for the first class. Firstly, news seemed like a good idea as it’s fairly straightforward stuff, right? Wrong, there’s an awful lot of odd collocations (“gripped by a crisis”) and odd idioms (“at full pitch”). This meant I had to spend a long time explaining the text pre-viewing just so we were aware of context. Then I asked students to go through it and highlight stressed syllables, which they did pretty well, but we ended up getting a bit confused between tonic stress and word stress (and the way that they intersect).
This got better in later classes, when I had them go through a second time to highlight tonic stress, but the first class I think I may have served to confuse more than enlighten. Anyway, with the second classes we got to finding tonic stresses, and using those to divide the speeches into groups with some success, but by the time we’d done this there was only time for a solo and pair reading, and a couple of public readings. I think this is a pretty crucial part of the stage, as it allows me to give some feedback on people’s performance, and is hopefully the part of the lesson where everyone has a chance to see what problems arise in practice. Not leaving enough time for this was a bit disappointing.
When teaching like this a couple of things occurred to me. One was that I made sure that students understood that this was mostly useful for (semi-)planned discourse such as speeches and presentations. I think it’s a bit unfair at this stage to ask students to do this in conversation as they are probably not speaking in extended turns anyway, and even if they are this kind of skill is probably too much for them to concentrate on (I did focus on some stress features in discourse earlier in the week). The other striking thing was the number of mispronounced words that this kind of activity uncovered. Even the relatively basic vocabulary caught a few people out (“foreign” as /’fɒ rɪ dʒn/), so from this point of view it was useful for every class.
In my continuing quest to get students to read in surreptitious ways (that’s me being surreptitious, not them) I started Friday’s class with another timed reading fluency activity. I’m selling this as something they can do at home to measure progress, and it’s quite a nice peaceful way to begin a class on a Friday morning.
From the reading we moved on to the main feature of the day – what I termed a “speech clinic”. Another professor is teaching a public speaking course during the camp, and their classes happen just after mine. This is great because I get to be the final practice for the students before their speech, but a good time to try to add some fizz to their speech as well as deal with any problems. It’s also a very nice practical application of everything that we do during the camp.
The way that I ran the clinic was to briefly review everything that we had done so far, in terms of sounds and features. Students then had a chance to work on their speeches alone, checking pronunciation and trying to divide the speech into tone groups. They then read it to their partner, who offered some feedback. Then we invited / coerced volunteers to read their speeches to the class and receive some group feedback. This of course is roughly based on a think/pair/share sort of progression.
As mentioned in my previous post, feedback can be a difficult concept in Korean classrooms given it’s face-threatening (in the sociolinguistic, rather than physical sense) potential. I’ve been working hard to try to negate this, and one of my ideas is to provide feedback in the form of questions. I tried to encourage this in class today, but didn’t really get the chance to monitor if it was successful. In order to make my point a little clearer though, I’m working on a feedback questions sheet for this week. I’ll share that as and when it’s done, and that brings me to the end of my week 2 reflections. Stand by for more soon.