In my last post, I reflected upon the second week, and plans for week 3. As I’m posting every other week, the class is going faster than my blog, so this post will cover a week 3 recap, plans for week 4, the week 4 recap, planning week 5, a week 5 recap, and planning week 6. Almost the end of the semester!
Week 3 Recap
This week, we had two Can-Dos on Monday, “I can write a program for the party” and “I can introduce a speaker”. This turned out to be too much, especially as the video for the second can-do was challenging, so in the future we should split it up. Following this and the TalkAbroad assignment on Tuesday, we moved on to planning. Students had task lists for their committees, and then had to essentially create their own homework of carrying out the tasks (using a structured assignment sheet that asked them what they discussed/did in class, what each person was responsible for, and what they needed to do before the next class). Each group also had to report at the end of class on what they had accomplished. Here, my co-teacher and I were surprised to discover that these assignments were extremely challenging, though not for linguistic reasons. Rather the challenges came from breaking tasks down into smaller activities (such as printing posters being a necessary step between designing and hanging them) and coordinating all of those activities in a group. This definitely led to some frustration for students who felt like they no longer knew exactly what to do, and for my co-teacher and I, who felt like the activities were clearly listed, why were they confused? This led us to wonder whether students were really benefitting from these activities, especially linguistically. On the other hand, learning the skills of breaking tasks down into smaller parts and coordinating committee work are rather valuable life skills, so why not learn them in Arabic class?
Week 4 Planning
Week 4 was a short week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. While we originally were not sure how much planning time students would need, after Week 3 it was clear that this would take longer than we had originally anticipated. So, the plan was as follows:
Monday: I can carry out my tasks for the party
Tuesday: I can carry out my tasks for the party
Wednesday: I can learn a song about a party (this one, as a fun pre-break class)
Week 4 Recap
Week 4 continued to see challenges related to planning and coordinating more than language. An additional challenge was coordinating with the Arabic Club, who had the funds to actually make purchases for the party (departments can no longer spend money on food at my university). Many of the students’ tasks involved emailing the Arabic Club President (in Arabic, cc’ing the teachers) to reserve rooms, technology, and decide on food and decorations. After several rounds of emails, two things became clear: (1) we needed a lesson on email pragmatics, and (2) the teachers needed to keep track of and respond to the emails
To address number 1, I spend most of class on Tuesday discussing pragmatics, using the diagrams from this great book by Rémi A. van Compernolle to help students understand how language places them on continuum of formality, social distance, and relative status, and how they need to consider both how they want to present themselves and what is expected in the situation. I then had them analyze two example emails I wrote (one just a list of decorations, and the other including more information, a greeting, and introduction, etc.) and then write some more example emails taking into account the pragmatics information and their analysis of the emails.
To address number two, and also the planning challenges discussed earlier, my co-teacher and I responded to individual emails, and I also wrote group emails to each committee breaking their todo lists into products (to bring to class Monday) and activities (to determine when and who would complete these).
Week 5 Planning
For week 5, we continued planning, but also focused on how we could help students with the challenges of breaking things down into smaller tasks, coordinating, and mapping these tasks to their schedules. The schedule was as follows:
Monday: I can present my final report for the party (based on the products and activities in the group email I sent on the previous Wednesday)
Tuesday: TalkAbroad assignment: I can discuss party planning
Wednesday: I can plan my schedule for the day of the party
Thursday: I can prepare for the party
Friday: I can celebrate in Arabic!
The major question going into this week was would the party be a success? Would it happen? Would it be worth the frustration?
Week 5 Recap
Week 5 did not start off well, as on Monday, the students were still missing some of their products, and did not have plans for completing all of their activities. There were also challenges in coordinating between the Arabic Club and the students, which led to hurt feelings, stress, and frustration. Tuesday, another TalkAbroad assignment went well as students compared their first recording of the semester with their most recent one and were able to see improvement! Wednesday, students had to prepare their schedules for the day of the party, which was challenging for many (due to thinking about schedules, not language) but then my co-teacher went over the group schedule in class with them, writing it down, which led to a good schedules discussion. Thursday, I returned to the group emails, and printed them out for each group to discuss together and then report item by item to the class. While this look longer than anticipated and printing emails feels a little strange, by the end it was pretty clear that everyone was set for the party in terms of their product, activities, and when they were going to do them. Finally! Following this, I had the student re-read the texts from the first week of party planning, and they were excited to discover that while they still didn’t understand everything in the texts, they understood a lot more after five weeks of party planning. Friday in class students completed final arrangement for the party (like picking up technology) and then Friday at 4:00 started setting up.
And as it turns out, the party (a languages clubs mixer) was a great success! Many of the languages clubs showed up and shared about their activities, and everyone enjoyed the food, music, and mingling with other language students. So while on Wednesday I was considering never doing this unit again, post-party I changed my mind :-)
Week 6 Planning
This is the final week of classes, so we basically have only two days of class activities before review and exams. The plan is to help students reflect upon their party-planning experience, first by describing what happened at the party and what they did, and then by discussing the successes and challenges they experienced in planning the party, and how they can amplify/address these in the future. So:
Monday: I can describe the party (using picture taken at the party, especially if they were unable to attend)
Tuesday: I can reflect on my planning skills
And that concludes the party unit, as Wednesday-Friday are exams and reviews! I’ll be back in my next post with a final report.