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field notes (Guided Individual Reflection)

Riley's picture

I'm a little frustrated, because I haven't been able to attend my field placement for the past two weeks due to being sick, and then the students having a Friday off (which I wasn't told about!). I'm choosing an event from my French teaching assistant (TA) work from a week ago that I still remember well.

1. and 2.: Collect stories/What happened?

The TA sessions that I lead for intermediate French students are meant to be conversation-based. I have nine students this semester. The professor who organizes TA meetings is mostly responsible for the content of our sessions (activities, lesson ideas, etc). We have quite a bit of freedom with timing and pacing of the lesson, which I like.

We are usually given way more activities than the students are capable of completing in any given weekly hour-long session. The activities are not completed for a grade--it's just extra practice. This week, the professor gave me specific activities scanned from a workbook on the subject of film/cinema in France, since this was the focus of vocabulary for the students that week.

One of the activities was a page with printed song lyrics on it. There is the name of the song, the artist, and the lyrics--that's all. The song had some complicated themes going on (figures of speech, new vocabulary words they weren't familiar with). I approached this activity a little sloppily--I found the song on YouTube and didn't give the song much introduction, other than telling the students to listen to the lyrics, following along on the page, and try and figure out what the meaning of the song is. 

After we watched the video, I asked the group what they thought the song was about. I got blank stares...nobody could even give me a word on what the song was about (and the lyrics were in front of them...). One student actually responded to me, when asked if she understood, "" (English isn't allowed in my TA sessions!) In an act of desperation, I said something along the lines of, "Well...let's move on, because I want you all to talk, and I'm talking too much." It was an awkward transition because it was clear that the students didn't understand the song and I made not much effort to help them understand because I felt the need to move on. Luckily, my students are very forgiving--it was still a little awkward though.

3. Why did it happen?

I think I got overwhelmed by all of the activities that we had to do after this listening activity, and I just wanted to get everyone talking somehow. I think the activity was structured badly--I should have given some context for the song, or asked the students specific questions to answer after listening to the song. I completely took for granted their intermediate vocabulary level--which I don't usually do. I am a little disappointed in myself.

4. What might it mean?

It means that I need to structure a lesson centered around the students' participation.

5. What are the implications for practice?

I think I should be more creative with the activities I'm given and change them if they need to be changed. I could have easily scratched out some words in the song on the page copy they were given so that they would be listening more actively for missing words in the lyrics. I definitely need to keep in mind the need to get the students talking above all else. Sometimes I sacrifice this to make sure they are enjoying themselves and having fun--for example, me leading a conversation to show interest in what a student is saying instead of letting the student lead--which is important in building a comfortable learning atmosphere. But next time, I will keep this student-centric perspective in mind and plan for it before going into a lesson.


et502's picture


If you're trying to develop a more "student-centric" lesson, do you think you could also get the students' input? Maybe they know what kind of help they want, or what framing will be most useful to get a conversation going? Have students asked you to go over anything?

Also, I'm thinking back to my experience in language classes - I really liked having repetition when listening to recordings, and specific questions to answer, so maybe playing the song a couple times would have been useful.