Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Correction of Homework in an ELT Classroom

Last monday we were peer-reviewing students tests sample answers at the lab. That said, it does not sound as the most creative or 21st century writing lesson worthy of a separate post. However, this 21st century mode of working is not just results, but attitude. It's what you do, how you do it and the reflection it all triggers as you do it.

What I'd like to share is that in the middle of something as ordinary as the correction of students language errors and saving them in the wiki discussion, I realised things were developing in a new way. Students were posting their comments and I engaged in their discussion tabs, adding my views and further suggestions. My intention was to give immediate feedback for them to carry on.

As the new mimio blackboard is connected to my machine, my writing process -my clicks/errors/going back and forth in looking at the page and cite into the discussion- was completely visible on a big screen.

I suddenly felt as if my correction job -usually my homework- was projected at the cinema. I could see the faces of my students going away from their screens and focusing completely on my moves. Definitely no one had had the experience of seeing a teacher doing her backstage work live in class.

Fascinating moment. Perhaps the single special thing about it was my being aware. I must confess I felt a little bit uncomfortable for a second. Mind you: it was not disliking the students seeing that I can also type mistakes and go back on them. Or writing a comma between subject and predicate and seeing it after posting. Nope. I secretly feared someone could suddenly point out that they'd prefer me to correct at home and not during class time. I decided to shut up that discouraging voice in my mind and go on.

Now I am convinced this should happen more often in class.

The experience made a difference in many levels, I think.
1) The teachers' job was demystified. A former private act such as correction went public and transparent. I must say there is something charming about the first time things like that happen in a classroom. A wow-component that keeps the students' focus. I should expect that novelty feeling to be gone in the future, perhaps. Add new engaging elements to the experience.

2) Correction of homework was made not only transparent, but more importantly, social. There was an oral debate as I typed. Everyone engaged in a conversation mixed with consulting dictionaries and concordancers online. Suddenly, what I was jotting down as my comment was not just my voice. It was the conclusion of the crowd. I had to clarify in one of the posts to an absent student that the whole class was aiding me in the correction.

3) Students shared authority and authorship of feedback with the teacher. The peer-review activity aims -among other things- at empowering the students with roles that used to be exclusive territory of the teacher. I had shown plenty of examples of how to do it; I had explained as they requested help in the middle of the process. I had omitted live modelling!

The whole class engaged on an unsolicited oral discussion. It was motivating. Profitable. Different. A barrier of sorts has been crossed. I think I have to replicate this experience when we do self-assessment. Shape it a bit first.

I kept wondering after the class. Students looked a little tired. The spontaneous task was cognitive demanding after all. Was it motivating?

The answer came three hours later via Twitter. One of my students posted this:

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