Contrasting conversations

In 1992, Longman published Contrasting Conversations a book about ways to discuss what we do in our lessons with visitors or supervisors or guests such as parents.
It was based on this article“Let’s see–Contrasting conversations about supervision and observation.” 1988. TESOL Quarterly Vol. XXII, March. (Awarded the Malkemes Prize from the American Language Institute of NYU and LINC, 1988; reprinted in Second language teacher education edited by Jack Richards and David Nunan. 1991 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. and in Enriching ESOL Pedagogy–readings and activities for engagement, reflection and inquiry edited by Vivian Zamel and Ruth Spack. 2002.New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum

The article in the TQ is available on line.

To say that sales did not take off would be be an understatement. I had suggested that the title for the book should be “You call your self a teacher?”. The editor said after the book flopped that this title would have probably got more attention.

At any rate, the contrasting conversations title referred to the two ways that visiting teachers whether supervisors, parents or colleagues discuss what they have observed. They either judge what has happened, positively or negatively. Of course the judgments are not either positive or negative but mixed: You had great rapport but your goals were not clear.
The other conversation is to analyze jointly with the teacher and the visitor. This happens about 1 times out of 100! Do not believe me but recollect conversations you have had about your classes with visitors.

The subtitle “Activities for exploring our beliefs and teaching practices” highlights that in the book I provide activities to analyze rather than judge both our own teaching and the teaching of others we observe.

The usual conversation

Here is an example of the usual conversation between a visiting teacher and a visited teacher–my jargon–between a person who prepares teachers and one of those she has prepared. You might after you read it a couple of times write down positive and negative judgments that Adrienne Harrell, the “supervisor” says. Also you might see whether Diane Leonard, the teacher makes judgments.

Diane Leonard, Teacher, Adrienne Harrell, Author

I should add that the usual conversations about teaching make claims without support and rarely use data such as transcriptions or photos of the interactions. You could write claims made by both Diane and Adrienne and any data that they share such as a quote from what a student or the teacher said or wrote or did.

9:29 to 11:12
Adrienne: Tell me a little bit about how you used vocabulary role-play in your classroom.

Diane: I think it’s very important in my class because as you had mentioned my children are primarily learning English as their second language. So quite often, I’m not sure if they have the concept behind the words we encounter or that we’re dealing with. Or the story we are reading. Or that they have the ability to use the word or recognize the word. I’m not sure what their level of word knowledge is. Or what background knowledge they may have in approaching the new word. So it’s important to give them a chance to act out the word especially of course it’s a lot easier if it’s an action word like a verb. But it let’s them memorize that word with their whole body.
And then we try to use it in context as an authentic reading purpose or an authentic writing purpose and they begin to get some ownership over that word.
Adrienne: You did a beautiful job in combining realia into the lesson. So they see what a rake looks like and then use it and have some experience with it. And then the whole idea of words that can be nouns and verbs was very interesting.
Diane: It’s a little bit of a tricky concept at this stage of the school year for them but the particular book Jasper’s Beanstalk leant itself well to the possibility that words can have more than one usage—they can be naming word, a naming word and a verb for an action. And so the since many of our children come from agricultural families and they may have the concept of some of these tools but they don’t have the English label to attach to it. It just made sense to bring in replicas of the tools and label them and then go ahead and talk about how we can then use the same word as a verb, as an action word when they are using the tools.

Adrienne: I thought you did a beautiful job of demonstrating the need for repetitiveness so they don’t just hear the word one time but can encounter it in several different contexts And they were obviously really understanding it by the time the lesson was completed.

Diane: The longer we practice. And we practiced a couple of different ways to hit different learning modalities or their different learning strengths, the more the smiles began to grow with the children. And I did sneak in a couple of new tools that they were not familiar with but by the end of the lesson they were getting good pretty familiar with them and then of course throughout the day as the day progressed I would challenge them and ask them holding up the tools and asking “Do you remember what this tool is?” And they had me going by the end of the day. They would so practice, practice makes perfect.

183 seconds or around 3 minutes, 525 words minus 20—names in dialog, title, Information on reading level so around 175 words per minute

Flesch Reading Ease 67% Grade Level 9.5

PS A transcript of Diane’s lesson you can access on my iTDi blog.

Enjoy, enjoy.

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