I am often surprised at how much even the strongest students seem to lack basic study skills. I think one of our roles as a teacher is to teach people how to learn and give them skills in metacognition. Broadly speaking ‘metacognition’ is thinking about thinking. In terms of teaching English, I’d say it’s teaching students to be aware of how they learn.

 Thinking about thinking
A scientific diagram explaining metacognition. You’re welcome!

Working on EAP courses in the summer I’ve seen how self-reflection has become increasingly important. On two of the last courses I worked on, students had to write diaries reflecting on what they were doing and evaluating how useful it was. I have to say I’m totally on board with anything that gets students thinking about what they do and why they are doing it.

Back in my usual classroom, I asked myself how the idea of self-reflection could be useful for our learners. There are a number of different ways, but I decided to focus on the tricky stage between B1 and B2. I’m sure anyone who has taught this level knows how difficult it can be. Buoyed up by the recent success of passing B1, students are met with the harsh reality of a sudden shift in gear. They are often left floundering and demotivated. At this stage, it’s so important for students to engage with English outside of the classroom to help bridge this gap.  I thought it could be a good idea to combine self-reflection with some active autonomous learning

As a break from the usual workbook or writing homework, I set students a 5-day challenge.

The concept is relatively simple. Students were asked to do something in English for at least 10 minutes on 5 days out of 7. Students could choose what they did but they were asked to record it and then reflect on what they had learned, before deciding if it was useful or not.

5_day_challenge

I gave them a sheet with prompts to record what they had learned and some suggestions for possible activities.

suggestions

Some of the students really engaged with it. Those that were really motivated to pass the B2 within a year rather than two seemed to find it enjoyable and asked for further sheets to continue doing it. However, some others said they found it time-consuming (interestingly, these students did not sit the B2 that year). I also think many students are unused to being asked to reflect on what they are doing and this can make them uncomfortable. I think the next time I try it, the first time I use it with a group I will remove the third column and ask them to only reflect on the usefulness of the activity.

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