Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lesson Planning with Intercultural Communication and Critical Thinking

Unit 6: Lesson Planning
1. Overview description of your students (how many, age, language level, and purposes for studying English)

As a junior high English teacher here in Taiwan, I teach three classes, including a normal class of 28 students, a gifted class of 2, and the International Cultural Exchange Club of 18 this school year. There is a huge gap between their English levels. With the normal class, my main concern is to make sure I’ve covered everything in the textbooks, while the other two classes allow me much more freedom to create more challenging tasks, such as Skype sessions, making English-speaking videos, and so on. Therefore, the purposes of studying English for these two approaches also differ significantly from each other.

2. What aspect(s) of critical thinking does this lesson work on?

Of all the critical thinking skills mentioned in the previous lessons, I'd like to choose "Description & Interpretation" for the main target objective of my lesson plan. Students nowadays are constantly overwhelmed with loads of information from social media. Being able to distinguish facts and opinions is becoming more and more important. 

3. What aspect(s) of intercultural awareness and culture does this lesson work on?

For this part of my lesson plan, I'd like to work on one specific area of intercultural awareness, Different Context, Different Meaning, because it is always intriguing for students to make a comparison of something they tend to take for granted in their homeland.

4. How does this lesson address what you learned about your students in your inquiry from Weeks 4 and 5?

From week 4 and 5, I came up with a Task-Based lesson plan, using the identity wheel activity to equip my students with a better understanding of their identities so that they can learn to talk about themselves in English. Because of my students' limited vocabulary, I learned that scaffolding and prompts would be necessary.

5. In this lesson, I anticipate students will be challenged by:

My students' lack of vocabulary and sentence patterns has been a major concern when conducting a task that requires more of their writing and speaking skills. They can generate many brilliant ideas for their identity wheels, but it would also be discouraging if they don't know how to express in English.

6. To address these challenges, I plan to (note the specific activities that will address these challenges):

To cope with this issue, I would provide them with plenty of vocabulary related to each category of their identity wheels. Also, to help them conduct a conversation with each other, I would also give them some useful sentence patterns. By doing so, I'm making sure every student always has something to say, but the downside of it could be students rely on their scripts too much and make their oral presentations unnatural.

7. This is the way I will assess my students (note specific stages and specific activities that you will use for assessment):

I would use two kinds of rubrics to assess my students' performances. One is a paragraph writing rubric, and the other is an oral presentation rubric. The thinking behind this is that students need to create some paragraphs about themselves based on their identity wheels, and afterwards they'll do an oral report.

Objective(s):  By the end of the lesson, students will be able to….
1. With the worksheet of Identity Wheel, students are able to decide on the categories of their identities and then put down keywords or phrases in each identity.
2. With each student's wheel finished, students are able to practice introducing themselves for at least one and a half minute.
3. With the Skype exchange project, students are able to use their wheels and introduce themselves to their counterparts outside of Taiwan for at least one and a half minute.
4. With the teacher’s self-introduction divided into 5 parts, students are able to distinguish between facts and opinions correctly.
5. With my students’ counterparts’ presentations, students are able to find at least one fact/opinion that has a totally different meaning in the local context.

Unit 7: Lesson Planning II
Dear Maryna,

A lot of people in Taiwan believe everything made in Japan is of higher quality. When I invited a Japanese AIESEC volunteer to share her school life with my students, again they tend to think school lunch in Japan is better and more delicious than what we have here in Taiwan. However, according to the photos that the volunteer shared, Taiwanese school lunch is a lot better. The volunteer said so herself.   

However, my students just assumed the Japanese school lunch would without a doubt better than the Taiwanese. The volunteer and I had a hot debate about this with my students. I think this would be an excellent example of how my students have been long manipulated by this long-standing idea, and thus they were confused even with obvious facts. 


Guo Jhen 

Dear Tim,

After carefully reading your lesson plan and the thinking behind it, I'm quite impressed by how you intend to apply what we learned so far from this course and touch on a very sensitive issue in your country. Based on the four activities from your lesson plan, I think you've covered pretty much all the essence of intercultural communication and critical thinking. I especially admire your passion for a more diverse Myanmar and how the leaders of ethnicities in your country should also develop more critical thinking skills to better deal with conflicts.

In my humble opinion, to make sure your students can meet the objectives of the lesson plan, you can try to use more observable and measurable behavioral terms to describe what exactly your students have to DO. For example, by " Students will discuss about it deeply", how can we know students have discussed it deeply?

My students' English level is also roughly about pre-intermediate, so I can totally relate to how difficult it can be to apply such kind of materials in our local context, especially with higher-order thinking skills like this from our course. To me, if I really want to carry out the lesson plan in my class, the number one priority is scaffolding.


Guo Jhen

Dear Mayumi,

When reading your description of the lesson plan, somehow it resonated a lot with what I've experienced here in Taiwan. We both are in such a similar test-oriented setting, so we came across almost identical problems. Furthermore, we're experiencing a major educational reform, moving from a teacher-centered to a more student-centered approach. Higher-ordering thinking skills, such as critical thinking, have become more important than ever.

I admire your use of rubrics to go with your lesson plan, which can help students perform better for each activity. From the video you chose, I found indeed there were many fun cultural bumps for foreigners. Putting that in your class brilliantly, your students' interest in learning would be promoted significantly. Also, after that iceberg drawing activity, I appreciate the presentation activity and how you take students' English level into consideration and plan to provide the scaffolding of English expressions.


Guo Jhen

Dear Mike, 

Thanks a lot for your such insightful and thought-provoking feedback on our lesson plans. I'm learning a lot from it, really! Actually, I copied and pasted this article of yours for my own reading material. 

I can relate a lot to what you said about learning objectives being specific and measurable. Also from my participation in one previous E-Teacher Program, I learned about the ABCD model and have adopted this approach in each of my lesson plans since. 

Also, if you don't have observable and measurable objectives, you can't really know whether those objectives have been achieved. I learned to use check-lists and rubrics to assess my students' performances. 

I'm also affiliated with the English Advisory Team here in Taichung, Taiwan. We're promoting professional learning community, collaborative lesson planning, and teaching demonstrations a lot. I'm going to take time to absorb other ideas from your post and put them into practice so that I can also provide the teachers at the workshops something applicable in their own class. 


Guo Jhen

Unit 7: Revising Your Lesson Plan
I received positive feedback and constructive suggestions from Tetiana, Maryana, Tim, Tatyana, and of course, our beloved instructor, Mike. Not only that, I got to learn from my classmates' well-devised lesson plans from different contexts. We all tried to put what we learned from this course, mainly critical thinking and intercultural communication, into practice. Of course, our lesson plans still have room for improvement, so now let me reflect on mine in the order of the assigned questions:

1. Objectives
Also from one of the E-Teacher Programs I participated in several years ago, I learned about the ABCD Model and have started using it to better devise learning objectives. When writing them for my lesson plans, I would constantly remind myself of the most two important features: observable and measurable. With observable objectives, I can then create check-lists to help make sure my students are meeting up the preferred objectives. Then, with measurable ones, I will go search for suitable rubrics online to assess my students' performances.

2. Activities
What type of activities can help students achieve the learning objectives? What do I need to do to prepare my students for assessment? For objectives to match assessment logically, I would ascertain that all the teaching activities create a meaningful context for my students to DO something with the language, such as matching, ordering, ranking, discussing, paragraph writing, presenting, and so on. These are all tasks that are derived from the Task-Based Learning approach. Also, due to my students' limited vocabulary, the scaffolding of necessary English expressions is a must. For that, I still need to develop worksheets and prompt cards to equip my students with the vocabulary and sentence patterns before they prepare for the oral presentations.

3. Timing and Order
Based on my teaching practice, I estimated how much time each activity will take. Of course, you'll never know whether you allow enough time until you actually implement the lesson plan. However, when carefully reading the plan again, I'm concerned that the first two activities might have to take longer time for my students to properly grasp the ideas about Identity Wheel.

According to the Backward Design lesson planning approach, the order of activities is so important that it helps students acquire what's necessary and build up to the next one. For example, to get my students to speak English, I'll ask them to write something down first so that even slow learners can just read what's written out loud. Prior to that, I'll get them to discuss an issue, with the leader making sure each member contributes, the recorder putting down everybody's ideas on the mini whiteboard, and finally the presenter sharing orally. Before that, I'll allow some time for them to ponder over the questions, so it's the teacher's job to prepare good questions in advance. These activities look logically connected on paper, but again, I'll only be able to reflect on the plan after carrying them out in my class.

4. Assessment
I would use two kinds of rubrics to assess my students' performances. One is a paragraph writing rubric, and the other is an oral presentation rubric. The thinking behind this is that students need to create some paragraphs about themselves based on their identity wheels, and afterwards, they'll do an oral report. The rest of the activities require my students to identify facts/opinions and "Different Context, Different Meaning". These are observable behaviors, so I'll just have to watch them do the tasks right.

5. Role as the Teacher
My role as a teacher in a class like this would be a facilitator, enabling my students to work collaboratively and complete each task. I'll keep them busy throughout the whole class with a variety of tasks. Also, I'll walk among the groups and provide individual guidance when necessary. I'll create a relaxing atmosphere and praise every good behavior. To better support my students' learning, I'll have to provide effective scaffolding for them to rely on when doing the tasks.

Unit 8: Teaching Reflection
1. The new semester just began last week, and I didn't have enough time to fully implement the whole lesson plan because we only have one class a week for the International Cultural Club. Once again, I'll just have to talk about what my students' potential reaction would be like after discussing with my colleagues. With the matching activities of The Teacher’s Identity Wheel, Description vs. Interpretation, and Different Context, Different Meaning, my students will develop, reuse and recycle the concepts of some practical critical thinking skills. Also, by creating their own identity wheels and practicing doing self-introduction with it, students will not only dig deeper how different identities shape who they are but apply what they learned into the Skype exchange sessions.

2. Because all the desired outcomes of the lesson plan are observable and measurable, check-lists and rubrics are going to help me know my students have achieved the learning objectives. I'm going to use the check-list to make sure students' identity wheels include all the necessary factors so that their self-introduction goes well with each identity. After that, with rubrics of paragraph writing and oral presentation, students will pay attention to volume, eye contact, structure, and delivery. Finally, being able to tell the difference between description and interpretation directly leads to one of the main areas of this course, complete with giving examples of different context, different meaning from their counterparts' presentations during the Skype exchange sessions.

3. With higher level students of 18 from the International Cultural Exchange Club, I didn't include lectures on some basic ideas of critical thinking. Instead, I used the Fly Swap game, the matching task, and the discussion activity to pinpoint two critical thinking skills. If I'm going to use this lesson plan in my homeroom class of 28, a class of mixed abilities, I think I'll have to develop a PowerPoint presentation and a worksheet to go with the Identity Wheel activity because of their much more limited vocabulary and structures.

4. Before this online course, I never thought about questions that I would ask the students to deepen their learning. Now looking back, I think this part of the lesson plan can help achieve each objective of the tasks. For example, with the Description vs. Interpretation task, I asked students, Which do you think this is? Is it a fact? Or, is it an opinion? They would focus their attention on telling the difference with my modeling presentation. Following that, with the Different Context, Different Meaning task, I asked my students this question: What’s so special about his or her presentation? Is what he or she said about school uniforms/rules or club activities so different from what we have here? This would be the most fun part of the Skype session because they realized what we used to take for granted here in Taiwan could be a big cultural shock to us.

5. After this course, I am going to share what I learned from this course at numerous workshops, in the form of lecturing, micro-teaching, and lesson planning. The new national curriculum guidelines emphasize core competencies, and one of them is "Multiculture and International Awareness", which has a lot to do with this course. I've been thinking about how to combine what I learned with my practical experience in this field, including Skype exchange sessions, my students' interacting with foreign volunteers, and introducing the beauty of Taichung. Therefore, with the lesson planning practice from this course, I will not only lecture on ideas and principals of critical thinking but have an actual class with the participants involved in the tasks of my lesson plan.

AE E-Teacher Program

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