ESL Services at UT
ELP Intermediate (Section 4B) Reading and Discussion
October 27, 2009
Class Observation and Report
Before I observed this particular class, I looked up information about the English Language Program (ELP) on-line. This program is designed for people who wish to expand their English for communication, study, business, pleasure, etc. This program offers four core courses. The core course that I observed was an Intermediate Reading and Discussion group which meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00-3:15.
Before the class observation:
I met the instructor before class to discuss overall goals as well as goals for that day’s lesson. The overall goal of the course is to improve reading comprehension skills, increase vocabulary and reading speed, and develop discussion skills. The goal of that day’s lesson was to work on reading strategies: scanning, identifying main ideas, and understanding details. The instructor mentioned that there are only 10 people in the class and almost all of them are between the ages of 18-20 (with the exception of one man who is about 25 and one woman who is in her 30’s). They are all at pretty much the same level, although there is some slight variation.
During the observation:
The instructor starts the class by picking up one assignment that was due and they check three other assignments together. All of the students call out the answers in unison. (The chapter in the textbook that they check was about bullies.)
Then she hands out strips of paper with five discussion questions that pertain to the topic of bullies, for example “Why do you think children become bullies?” and “What would you do if someone bullies your child?” Students get into groups of two to discuss their opinions on these questions. The instructor walks around from group to group and listens. She elicits more responses from the students and scaffolds them as needed. It seems as though she employs an integrated focus on form approach to error correction because “the learner’s attention is drawn to language form during communicative or content-based instruction” (Lightbrown and Spada, 2008 p. 186), where the primary focus is on meaning. She appears to be genuinely interested in hearing their thoughts and she laughs with them when they make funny remarks. Students appear to be comfortable and engaged. She seems to be creating a positive environment in which to learn. After the students discussed these questions in groups, they share their ideas with the rest of the class. The instructor goes around the room and each student answers one of the questions. The instructor elicits more responses with each student. If the students make any errors, she doesn’t correct them so as not to embarrass them. It also seems like she’s more interested in having them speak freely than correctly.
Next the instructor gives students a handout for reading strategy practice. The first section is on how to use guide words in a dictionary in order to find words quicker, the second section is on studying details in a sentence, and the third section is on drawing conclusions from the information given. After the students complete each section on their own, they go over their answers together. The last section consists of timed word selections where students get one minute to find as many words as possible. This is to help the students practice scanning when they read. It is evident that reading strategies practice is a core part of this class. The instructor appears to be promoting learner autonomy through strategies training (Rivera-Mills and Plosky, 2007)The instructor then allows the students to take a ten-minute break.
After the break, students begin their timed reading exercises with the SRA Reading Laboratory. This exercise is individualized. Students work on the color that corresponds to their current reading level, which is great since their levels vary to some degree....