by Arif Uzel & Sümeyye Tetik
The first semester of second year, we had Approaches to the English Language Teaching Course. In this course rather than usual mid-term, final procedure we were supposed to make a final project which includes a practice teaching with a partner. After each student chose his or her partner, everyone began to look for schools that are close to campus. Our first destination was our prep school but unfortunately, they didn’t accept some of us. Then we went to the Yüzüncü Yıl and Çukurambar, every school that we entered with big hopes rejected us, thanks to the state of emergency in Turkey. Teachers, assistant directors, and directors were all afraid of accepting us so they all wanted an official document from National Education Directorate. Finally, we contacted with a former student of our teacher and we met with the preparation school assistant director then she directed us to our mentor teacher. I surprised seeing so many METU graduates in the Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University.
Our class was an A2+ elementary group in an English preparation school of this university. There are 19 students in the class, 3 of them from foreign countries. Compared to Metu’s preparation school, it is relatively less crowded. I definitely expected much more students and seeing a small class size makes me feel like we are in a deserted place. There is a magnetic detector in the entrance of the school which also terrifies you. Lecturers are busy with their works, on the other hand, they look happy.
Our Mentor Teacher graduated from METU. She did her master’s in ELT and now she is in the process of writing her thesis of the doctorate. According to her, students must be the center of teaching and if she doesn’t enjoy teaching then students also don’t enjoy it. For her, the most important things about the teaching process are student participation, communicating with students, keeping motivation high, and active usage of technology in the class. When we asked her about her favorite method, she smiled and said that you know the common sayings ‘There is no best method’ and ‘methods are dead’. She associates her teaching somewhat with Post Method, though. On the other hand, she always uses information gap, repetition, drills and tries hard in order to make lessons communicative.
According to me, (this is Sümeyye) the most beneficial part of our observations was interviewing with her because she is a METU graduate, I asked all the confusing questions about my career planning. We have common ideas about teaching for example, she said besides being a teacher, she also loves the learning process.
As far as I observe, there is no respect problem in the class. On the other hand, students didn’t look happy or motivated. In the university, all prep school classes are changed after eight weeks. After eight weeks, students in the same proficiency level are getting blended in a different classroom. Actually, we realized that adult learners are much more uneasy and shy in comparison to children. Somehow we found them not ambitious enough to learn English. However, when we talked to them, they told me that they have to learn English. Even one of them ‘Aysu’ said that she didn’t enter English Proficiency Examination because she wanted to start from scratch.
Student- Teacher Interaction
Due to skill based curriculum and student-centered approach, the teacher is like a facilitator or behaves in a blended style according to the needs of students and her experience. In some activities when she uses peer correction or small groups tasks she is like a facilitator, but in others like drills, reflective listening or language games she is a controller figure. In the end, it all depends on the students because of the elementary level shy students. Our mentor teacher is obliged to speak all the time. Even, to make them speak, she has to ask a lot of questions. Students are passive learners, there are a lot of grammatical structures to teach in order to make them speak fluently, for example, they don’t learn the relative clauses yet. The mentor teacher tried to make them play a kind of Taboo game in order to practice present continuous, but students had little enthusiasm to play it. They think they couldn’t express themselves eloquently.
Medium of Instruction
The mentor teacher generally speaks in the target language. From time to time, she switches to L1 but very little bit. Either due to lack of confidence or fluency, students choose to speak in L1. As we said above, the school uses a standard skill based approach so students are learning by using each one of the skills. They are doing reading on Friday, writing on Thursdays and speaking with a separate native speaking teacher . A separate teacher for speaking maybe a beneficial idea, on the other hand, students find the accent of the native speaker teacher much more different from our mentor teacher, this was a demotivating truth for us.
When we first entered the class, we realized the colorful pictures and sentences that were printed to A4 paper. Some example of the sentences are: What do you think of the music, nice to talk you and I hope we meet again. Due to being brand new sophomores who took approaches course for the first time, we thought they were the examples of peripheral learning and the teacher was trying to use desuggestopedia, however when we asked about that our mentor said that they were not the materials of her, and she also thought they maybe used in order to teach using desuggestopedia method.
All the classrooms are following the same course book, the same theme based subject in the same week. Our mentor teacher said that they have a lesson plan that should be covered in given time. Their main objective is to make students qualified in all four skills. Because of the importance given to the skills, grammar is the second tier. We talked later on this, their strictly planned lesson plan may become a limitation for the teacher to celebrate all of her creativity about teaching.
Their grammar focus was ‘present continuous tense’ so the teacher told them in this activity, they will work with their partners then distributed two different pictures to each pair and told them to find the differences by describing the pictures to their partners. This activity is also a part of Communicative Language Teaching. If we had a chance to observe their speaking lessons, I am sure I would come across with more communicative activities.
The second day we went to observe they played a game about present tense in “Kahoot”. It was an example of question and answer drill because they had to answer quickly and gain points in the game. This activity resembles the one in the audio-lingual method. That day they learned the present and present continuous tense inductively by playing games and doing exercises. Last day they listened to lots of listening material about present tense and learned how to organize an interrogative sentence in the present tense. So the teacher said that there is not an exact method they use in the class but we think they are using a mixture of GTM, Direct Method, and Audio-Lingual Method.
Types Of Materials and Activities Used In The Class
They are using a theme-based coursebook called “Language Leader” and a different reading book called “Reading Explorer 1”. The teacher is also using technology to catch their attention in class and I think it is working. She used slides and internet sites like “Kahoot” to make the subject more interesting. Exercises in the coursebook are not fun but worksheets that the teacher prepared were better. Students looked more willing to participate in those exercises.
When we learned that most of the class members are at the same age with us and some of them are even older than us, we were surprised and feared a bit. It is quite different to teach someone older than you and we didn’t expect it to happen that early. Another interesting thing was that, when we entered the classroom for the first time, they thought we are students like them and one of them gave us her coursebook so that we can follow it too.
OVERALL REFLECTION ON SCHOOL OBSERVATION
When we talked with our mentor teacher about our final project and observation, she told us it is really rational because it would be too late in our senior year. Thanks to her helpful attitude, we learned about what it is like to be a lecturer in a lecturer’s shoes in our sincere talks. She had experience with a private university and we also talked about it. We had a chance to observe adult learners which we had never had worked before. However, the process of finding a school, and going to AYBU preparation school before sunrise was a very exhausting process for us.