Moving to university

“Use the material to get to know the students, rather than using student input to get to the material.” (Laurie Clarcq)

I started teaching at the university level this week. Terrified! And it’s going to be a learning curve, since there are a lot of moving parts, many of which have to do with the LMS, and many others of which have to do with the fact that these are new textbooks to me, with vocabulary lists a mile long. Textbooks have never been my thing. But I’m plunging ahead. And honestly, these are great textbooks: they have lots of readings and exercises that I can use easily and that are appropriate for the context in the classroom.

Skip from Maine saved me by suggesting what he did for his first class: students sent pictures: one that showed something they liked to do, and another something they used to do. My students added their pictures to a Google slide show. Because their names were on them, I was able to recognize almost everyone. And we spent much of the first class (90 minutes!) talking about their pictures. A (native speaker) took notes and typed them up for me, so I was able to use the writing as a reading, then chop it up into a Quizlet Live game, and then we’ll use it for a Google Voice quiz.

While the projection system was freaking out on me that first night (no – I was the one freaking out), students in pairs answered three of the chapter questions with two truths and a lie. That gave me some time to mess with the computer, and it also gave me a chance to hear their speech levels. Then everyone had to explain in front of the whole class what the lie was that their partner told. In the advanced class, students had to line up by height as a way to form pairs. They looked at me as though I had two heads. Guess that doesn’t often happen in university classes! They’re already getting used to me now.

Tonight, we read the notes, corrected a few mistakes, did some vocabulary review (but personalized), and led up to the story that was told by a music video. Unfortunately, the previous instructor had used the same music video, but luckily I knew in advance for the higher level class at least, so I could really string out our parallel story. Then we watched the video, and they realized we’d pushed in a direction to match it. Finally, we discussed the presentations that they’re going to be doing on songs: everyone will find one, translate it, present it, talk about the band, the singers, the topic…they seemed very enthusiastic about this assignment. For the more advanced group, it fits well with the focus on biography.

After class, a student told me he’d been dreading this semester, and now he’s motivated. What a relief! What we do has to support what they need for further coursework, but the teaching has to remain true to my principles. Use the material to learn about the students. It works!

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