Content-articulation — Featured student entry#4-A
Conceptualizing a content of any course is multifaceted, yet very flexible process. There are many factors that can influence the course design to go towards or away from the initial intention. Many decisions have to be addressed, questioned, reflected upon, modified and changed. According to Graves, choice is a key, because you cannot explicitly focus on or do everything. As Graves likes to point out, conceptualizing content is a matter of articulating what teacher will explicitly teach or explicitly focus on in the course and knowing why the teacher has made those choices (p. 39). In addition, teacher’s beliefs about the language and his/her beliefs about the learners will play a crucial role. Teacher’s background, experience, social context in which he/she was educated, as well as, the teacher’s perception about language will supply the process of conceptualization.
The course I am formulating the content for is an Online Female Beginners ESL 10-week course. I will have to face myself with a diversity of conflicting ideas. For example, I am expecting the students to be beginners in English language while at the same time I am expecting them to be proficient in digital literacy. I will also have to keep in mind that there may be multiple cultural, social, and learning backgrounds present in the class. How does one teach such class? How does one and should one satisfy all the learning styles present? Is there a point in satisfying the multiple learning styles and personalities!? After all, it is realistically impossible to please every student (regardless of what the class is). To simplify the content conceptualization dilemma I decided to focus my course design on the topics and objectives I want students to meet at the end of the course. I really reasoned with Ian McGrath (2013) statement in which he says that it can only be a specification of the roles that teachers need to play and the knowledge, skills and awareness that they need to fulfil these roles (p.99).
To have a general idea who and where the students are from, what their initial intentions for taking the course are Needs/Wants Pre-Course Assessment will be designed. The goal of assessment is to serve as a general guide to teacher about students’ background, cultural and social context, as well as the students’ learning styles. Being it an online course, the burden of the responsibility of the achievement will be placed on students. In L2 pedagogy, one of the key foundation stones of successful instruction is enabling students to “learn how to learn” (Brown & Lee, p.51). This will be the turning point for me to accomplish. To actually teach students how to learn their target language and to provide them with tools (paper, video, audio) which will contribute to their learning autonomy is the primary objective I am hoping to accomplish. Strategies-based instruction, stimulating awareness, linking style to strategy with “strategic” techniques and providing extra-class assistance for learners are the objectives of my course. My initial content will depend upon the following topics:
- Personal Information (names, subject pronouns, greetings, family, address, marital status)
- School (Simple Present, classroom objects/icons, ask-tell locations, school jobs-safety)
- Shopping ( Yes-No Q/A; body parts, identify clothing colors, shapes, express [dis] likes)
- Time & Housing (Simple Present Vs. Simple Past, how often [exercise/read], time zones)
- Health & Food (favorite food, sports, Future Tense, scheduling doctor’s appointment)
Each objective will be covered in two weeks. The first week will be designed for students to learn new material. The second week will be reserved for the questions/answers and assessment. Upon completion of each session students will be instructed to upload either written, audio or video assignment about the topics discussed in class. At the same time, students will start building a vocabulary map. This map will include the new word, its definition, a sentence about the word, picture which helps students remember the word with some collocations/synonyms. Grammar points will focus heavily on the vocabulary, pronunciation and writing (of the new words), Simple Present, Simple Past and Future Tense. Tenses will be followed up with simple Yes/No Questions/Answers along with some questions that are appropriate for the verb tense that is being covered. Being it an online course, the main resource for the content will be digital realia, website, and videos.
At the end I have anticipated possible obstacles. One of the biggest constraints could be the lack of equipment and Internet. Motivational issues could also emerge. To tackle these issues, students are anticipated to be motivated through their own achievements and autonomy.
Again, the driving force of my content will be focused on the topics which the students are expected to complete by the end of the course. Students will be able to personalize their homework by using their cultural and social content.
Students will be exposed to learning a language as a complex skill which requires an investment of multiple efforts (from their end).