Observe them

We all monitor our students in class – it’s what we’re trained to do and lets us know that our students are doing what we want them to. But there’s so much more we can learn from our students just from sitting back and watching (not in a sinister Hal 9000 kind of way – but I just love A Space Odyssey).

I often let my young students draw on the board before class. It’s interesting watching them interact with each other, seeing who’s in charge and who gets the most board space. It’s also great to see what they are drawing. At the moment it’s all about Star Wars (which I actively encourage!!).

A couple of weeks ago one student wrote a list on the board…

DSC_0194“Bobbi what’s this list? It looks interesting”

“My favourite TV shows.”

“Oh right! Does anyone else like these programmes?”


A cheer went up from the class and they were very keen to talk about their favourites and attempt to tell me what they were about. 

“Well next week is our last class. Would you like to watch one of these.”

A cheer of ludicrous excitement went up from the students.

So, we all agreed that if everyone worked very hard over the next week, We’d watch half an hour of one of these series in English with subtitles. In true carrot-and-stick style, it really worked and the students did some great work over the next few classes.

This was written by a 6-year-old when he was trying to tell me what he was drawing. We haven’t done any specific work with long and short sounds, but he can clearly hear the difference. I probably should have been able to see that he was trying to draw a ship and not a sheep, but I’m sure his drawing will improve.

I got my teenagers to write some reports about the school and I gave them a few minutes to brainstorm what they wDSC_0195ould like to change. They didn’t have a lot of ideas, but they did come up with a couple of ideas. It turned out that the reason that several of them often turned up without a notebook was that there had been a misunderstanding  about the school supplying them with notebooks. It’s now been resolved, as has the bins issue. The students were getting annoyed that there often wasn’t a bin in this particular classroom. Other points that came up were squeaky hinges on the desks and a few technical problems we’d been having with an IWB. All really useful feedback that came from just asking them to jot a few notes down on the board.

DSC_0264Another YL class I teach has a real boy / girl divide and they’re often at odds with each other. In our break, I gave them some board pens and sat back to see what happened. To my surprise, they organised themselves into teams and started playing hangman… in English!

Not only did this cement for me that fact that Hangman is a real favourite with this class, but it showed me what language they had taken in over the last few months.

My point in this post is that no time is wasted with students, and that you can get just as much out of a few minutes of quiet observation as you can from a well-planned hour of classtime. So, take an interest in what your students are doing!


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