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Teacher Facilitates Cooperative Learning

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May 7, 2016

Teacher Facilitates Cooperative Learning

Students, are you paying attention? Are you listening to me? Is this lesson clear to all?
Many of us as teachers have used one or perhaps all of these questions in classroom situations to arrest the attention of learners or to drive home an idea to conclude a lesson affectively. But are these questions really successful in achieving specific goals with learners? Let us think this through!

If any teacher raises a question, ‘Are you paying attention,’ then how many learners are likely to respond honestly to this? After all, no teacher ever heard from a learner, ‘No ma’am! I am not paying attention.’

Though the idea may seem hilarious, it doesn’t fail to point out a flawed premise in the teaching-learning classroom situation— how should one retain learners’ attention while teaching?

Since learner retention is pretty ephemeral, even the best of speakers and most inspirational among motivators cannot encourage a classroom full of mixed talent to pay attention.

As a paradigm shift from teacher-centred teaching to learner-centred learning, it is important to first reduce the teacher talk time (TTT) in the classroom and replace it with learner talk time (LTT). This is vital to acquire a productive skill like Speaking.

It is absolutely essential for a glib teacher to understand that lecturing in any way would only promote short-term retention for the receptive skill called Listening.

A skill such as Speaking can only be activated in a learner by two ways: Acquisition and Learning. Acquisition is different from learning because in most of the cases with young learners, they already are aware of a few words before coming to the classrooms. In semi urban and urban families with prior knowledge of English language, young learners pick up some words back at home even before entering the classrooms. A teacher must relate with that and try to build up on the already existing knowledge of the learner. Since young learners are activity makers and it would be unreal of a teacher to expect them to stay anchored to their seats, a kinesthetic activity followed by group/pair work can help in achieving a learning goal in a better way.

For example, spellings can be learnt using ‘Think, Pair and Share’. Students use this strategy to explore spelling patterns, e.g. the /a/ (short a) sound. Allow students to think about the words and then hunt for patterns among them to seek the correct words. Pair work with their partner would allow them to remain truly invested in the lesson.

The activity as an end result would produce a richer list of words from the learners, and it is any day better than presenting the learners with a pre-made list of words that entail an existing pattern.

Material required: Paper and pencil Objectives:

(i) Learners will mull word patterns as they make connections with the spellings.

(ii) Students will think of words that include the short a sound.

Procedure: Learners must be instructed that the teacher would ask them a question about words with short a sounds; thereafter the facilitator would instruct the learners to raise their hands ahead of response.

Thereafter, allow them a few minutes to work in pairs, and then they must write down their thoughts on a piece of scrap paper (provided by the teacher). The teacher at this point of time must clarify the question with a few examples of such words such as alligator or bat. Thereafter, he must use the glass board/white board/blackboard to explain which sound is the short a sound and circle the letter a.

The teacher must repeat the pronunciation with the repeat drill with students. Once the teacher is sure that students understand the question, allow them three to five minutes to jot down their choices and chosen words on the distributed piece of paper.

At this point, the teacher must not observe from a distance but moderate by roaming in the classroom and answering learners’ query/queries if any. This would allow learners to ask and clear doubts and it would aid the teacher to build a better rapport with the learner.

After the allotted time has ended, the teacher must change groups and ask the learners to compare their lists of words with their new partners. The newlypaired learners must be given five minutes to discuss their lists. This time to compare could be decreased or increased by a minute depending upon the speed at which the learners finish their task.

Among receptive skills, Reading poses herculean problems for teachers in the application of pedagogy. Learners just don’t want to read.

A pre-reading task/activity as an introduction to the topic or some open-ended questions that are interesting from the learner’s point of view could prove to be extremely good ice-breakers in the class.

Include… Meaning: (of the chosen word from the text) Tip: The teacher must give the meaning and elicit the word. Phonology: (sound of the chosen word) Tip: If the teacher is choosing to teach primary stress in a word, they must use an example sentence and not teach the word in isolation.

Form: (Is the chosen word a noun or a verb?)

Tip: While using the glass board/ white board to explain the grammatical form of the word in a sentence, ask the learner what part of speech is the ‘chosen word’.

As the famous maxim goes, only by involvement can we retain and not by preaching can we attain. A teacher must try and achieve this through multi-faceted pair work and learner-centred activities.

With four years of experience in teaching ‘young learners’ in league with editorial flair from two English dailies, namely, Hindustan Times and The Pioneer, Akash Shukla is a Cambridge-certified ELT educator from the British Council. He has a dual masters in Journalism and Linguistics and his interests include, Applied Linguistics, book writing and developing better content for the learners of English. Since grade appropriate development of content cannot be achieved in isolation, the writer likes to dabble in both—‘ELT editorial’ and ‘Language Teaching’. The author may be contacted at akash.celta.

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