TEFL how to record student improvement objectively

A big problem in Teaching English as a foreign language is recording/proving/stating how a student has achieved improvement in their language output in an objective manner.

It is often the case that a teacher can say to a student/their students, “Wow, you are so much better at English now!”, to which the student/s will typically say, “I don’t think so” or “I don’t feel it”.

Many years ago, I started using a classroom system to counteract this: a language review table.

RECORD STUDENT LANGUAGE OUTPUT

So, my language review table that I use in EVERY class I teach has 6 rows and 2 columns.

There are 3 headings: Almost Perfect, Pronunciation and Good Stuff

During the class, when a student makes a mistake that I feel needs correcting, I note it down in the “Almost Perfect” section on the left hand side of the table.

This does not mean that I leave the error uncorrected when it occurs. I try to vary my methods of error correction, so I wouldn’t say that I use one particular error correction method in conjunction with this table.

The Pronunciation section is for similar spoken errors

The Good Stuff section is for noting down any words or phrases that I bring to the class, or that a student produces that is worhty of noting down and remembering/re-using/some English output that should be praised!

 

WHEN TO USE THE LANGUAGE REVIEW TABLE

AT THE END:  I go through the language review table at the end of every class. It takes about 5 or 10 minutes depending on the amount of content.

It’s not necessary to go through every single little item. Use your good sense to choose items that need focus on corection.

Also, ask students to remember the good stuff with prompts. Their recall is far better for new vocabulary retention than you just repeating out the words from before.

AT THE START:  With 1-2-1 students, I always start the next class with a review of the previous lesson’s language review.

This is a timely reminder for the student to try to eliminate fossilised errors or little slips.

 

WHY IS THE LANGUAGE REVIEW TABLE AN IMPORTANT LEARNING/TEACHING TOOL?

The best part, and most gratifying for the teacher, is when the student uses a lexical item from the Good Stuff section in a subsequent class.

It can be a real moment of joy for the student and recognition that they are gradually  improving and expanding their vocabulary.

If you as the teacher consistently use the Language Review Table in this fashion, you will build up an ojective record of language output from your classes – good and bad output.

Over time, students can objectively see and read the mistakes that they are making again and again, and in my experience they start to self correct and eventually delete stubborn mistakes.

After 5 or 10 lessons, you can do a language review test, which encourages students to revise all the output from the class in recent weeks.

I can’t stress enough how useful a tool this has become in my own teaching.

  • Students actually look forward to the review.
  • They strive to make the Good Stuff section bigger in content than the Almost Perfect Section.
  • Students begin to self correct (in real time) their consistent mistakes
  • There is an objective record to show parents or students that effective learning is being done in your classes

 

BEST FORMAT FOR LANGUAGE REVIEW TABLE

I started by doing this on the whiteboard, but quickly changed to my own private notes (now on phone or tablet), as I found it much more effective.

Primarily, when doing this on a whiteboard, the language review table gets wiped off the board at the end of every class and lost forever (unless you are careful enough to photo and organise your photos on a super regular basis). Let’s be honest – we are not! 🙂

More importantly though, writing mistakes on a whiteboard, can embarrass or humiliate a student in class. Even if you have the best intentions with your error correction method, I believe that this should be avoided, as a demoralised student is never going to perform well and be bold enough to attempt ‘n + 1’ language output.

When you write the language review on paper, you lose the bits of paper. Also, the paper quickly piles up as you teach lots and lots of classes.

If you do your language review table in digital format in GoogleDrive, or whatever note-taking software you prefer, it is MUCH easier to organise into folders for different classes/students and simple to order chronologically, simply by giving a title with the group/student name and the date of the lesson.

A further advantage of the digital records, is that you can quickly copy paste elements of the language review table to make up content for future lessons.

The best adavantage of digital storage though, is that you can make the language review table available to all the members of your class, so that they can look at it later. Obviously, not everyone, and only a few, if any, will refer to the language review in their own free time… but it is there available for the most willing and motivated students.

You can also use the table for homework tasks:

  1. Write out the correct version of 5 of the Almost Perfect sentences
  2. Make 3 sentences about your week containing 3 of the Good Stuff phrases/words
  3. Write the most difficult sentence you can think of to say using as many words as possible from the pronunication section (to make your friend say in the next class)

 

Bren Brennan

About Bren Brennan

Bren initially trained here at SGI and then joined the staff in 2005. Since 2006, he has taught abroad in Budapest, Berlin and now at Mondragon University in Spain. He returns to teach at SGI London every summer and completed the SGI Trinity DipTESOL in 2011. He also regularly writes posts for students here. Follow on twitter: @brenbrennan
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