On observing a language class
Observing an English as a Foreign Language class – or maybe any other language class- is different from observing any other school subject. Two things, among many others, are highly appreciated in language classes. First, a language teacher has to take into account the fact that language is taught for the sake of being used in real life. Hence, while teaching, all the tasks and activities should drive towards this final objective. Consequently, evidence of the pupils’ learning would be observed only if they can use what they have learnt in meaningful communicative situations. It is indeed boring- somtimes frustrating- to see a teacher emitating exam-like exercises all along the session. True, there are summative exams and the learners should be prepared for that as well, but this should not blind us to the point of ‘inventing’ a boring language lesson. Exam-like exercises should be targetted in part of the practice stage of the language point being dealt with.
Related to this is that any meaningful interaction activity should normally be conducted in pairs or small groups, more or less the way real-world interactions do take place. It’s ‘dehumanising’ language teaching when you ask students at the end of a grammar, language functions or vocabulary lesson to “give an example”. No problem if that is done while checking understanding of simple concepts or vocabulary items; but as an opportunity for language USE, no one ever asks as to give him/her examples in real life.
FollowIng the textbooks the way they are now would not certainly lead to achieving any of the above points. It’s highly appreciated when teachers strive to build situations (role-plays, e-mail exchange, information-gap activities…) through which the learners interact and use the language they have just learnt.