Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ICC Mini Lesson Reflection

I've posted the slideshow from our mini-lesson in the previous post.. looking back, it would've been great if I had taken some pictures during the class-activity..  oh well.  On to the reflection!

1) Did the lesson plan provide Ss opportunity to meaningfully learn about an aspect of culture by going through Moran’s stages of learning?

     Yes, I think we covered all of Moran's stages of culturally knowing in our presentation.  We focused on the 'knowing how' stage and gave a little less attention to the 'knowing about' and 'knowing why' stages.  However, I think the way in which we covered those stages still would have been enough to encourage a holistic thought-process concerning the cultural practice of gift-giving in China.  We then encouraged the students to consider the 'knowing oneself' stage through the homework questions, to which the answers would be highly personal.

2) Was the cultural content objective and free of over-generalizations and stereotypes?

     It's always dangerous to ascribe cultural practices and norms to large groups of people like "Chinese people", a term which can be used to describe a huge and varied group of individuals.  Our lesson did not take into account the variety of different ethnic and cultural sub-groups which exist in China or Chinese culture.  However, this sample lesson was merely intended to be a first-exposure to the cultural practice of gift-giving; our goal was to provide a sort of cultural survival-strategy or pattern of behavior which would be acceptable in a majority of conceivable encounters in Chinese society.  While information about the variety of Chinese sub-groups and their practices is valuable and important, it was also important to consider the need to avoid overwhelming students or harming rates of retention.  We decided that the presentation of cultural knowings of less prevalent practices and sub-groups would be more appropriate for a more detailed analysis in a later lesson.

3) Was the cultural content objective and free of over-generalizations and stereotypes?

     I certainly hope we didn't overgeneralize the Chinese practice of gift-giving!  There is a wealth of information to be had concerning the significance of the form, timing, and manner of presentation of gifts, much of which is very detailed.  So while we were sure to have the students 'know about' some of these variables, we decided a first lesson should focus on only one of these formats; we wanted the format to be both widely-used in Chinese society and applicable to the students' potential experiences in the short-term as well as the long-term.  So, in the interest of these things, it was necessitated that the target behavior be fairly general.

4) Was the content and language appropriate for the student profile and proficiency level?

     We tried to keep the language quite simple and were able to include some new target-language like "accept" and "refuse".  I think it would have been manageable by intermediate-low learners.  Concerning the content, gift-giving between friends is applicable to all learners, regardless of age.  So, I think the students of the provided student profile would have been well-served by our lesson.

5) Was it student-centered? Did it provide ample opportunities for students to produce language (especially TLC) in meaningful and contextualized ways?

     I think our production activity was much more student-centered than some of our presentation.  While I really liked the bits where we had the students hypothesizing 'knowing why' information, I was less satisfied with the fill-in-the-blank practice sections we mixed into the presentation.  While this was an effective way to make the students notice the target-language form, it was not meaningful production of output.  We probably could have injected meaning to this bit of the lesson by role-playing interactions in which sample gifts were presented by teachers, or in which students were instructed to present a gift to another student.  The downside, however, would be the time that these activities would have required and the fact that, mid-lesson, the students would not have had all the linguistic tools they needed to negotiate a full interaction, necessitating some explanation or assistance by the teacher in order to navigate the interaction.

6) What aspects of the lesson plan and implementation were you pleased with? Why?

     I was most satisfied with our production activity and the bits when we had the students hypothesize possible explanations for the cultural practices, just before our helpful little 'knowing why' dude explained them :)

     I was satisfied with the production activity because it had the students meaningfully practicing the target language and behavior such that, if a mistake was made, students could monitor each other's output to make corrections. It was meaningful because students were given the opportunity to create their own presents and choose the recipients.  Similarly, they received gifts from unexpected givers, necessitating the consideration of an appropriate reciprocal gift.  These are very realistic situations which elicit the same patterns of thought and behavior which would be necessary outside of the classroom.

     I also thought the moments when students were able to formulate and share their own hypotheses about the reasons for why gift-giving is done in the way its done were also useful, because it required the mental negotiation of the 'knowing why' material, making it more interesting and making acquisition more likely.

7) What  aspects could be improved? Why and how?

     I think our fill-in-the-blank practice activities were the weak point of the lesson.  The absence of meaningful production is a major hurdle to acquisition, making these activities less effective than they could have been.  We discussed this issue when we were designing the lesson but decided not to change the activity, given the 15 minute limit.  For a full lesson, this portion of the activity would have been modified to be meaningful, possibly in the way I described in response #5.

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