The four introductory lessons learning Dutch were well thought out and executed, which led to a good experience for the students. Personally, I found the exercises featuring written text and then clarification of pronunciation and meaning very beneficial, as I benefited from matching phonetic sounds to letters. In particular, the transcript activity used in session three to introduce key ‘hobby’ vocabulary was very useful, as it allowed students a degree of individual work followed by whole group confirmation. I felt that all students benefited from the methods of repetition to learn pronunciation, which were enacted in activities to learn the alphabet, ask introductory phrases and tackle difficult words. Through the use of ‘round up’ activities and refreshing the previous lessons work, the whole class were reminded on what they had already learnt and where that would take them in the future lessons.
Throughout the course the teacher was relaxed and friendly, yet was always in control. This attitude when teaching was perfect considering the age range of the students, their experience and their intention for learning Dutch. It also meant that students relaxed, feeling able to contribute to the lesson without fear of embarrassment. Furthermore, the ability to ‘go off plan’ if conversation changed direction or problems arose showed considered thought of all eventual outcomes. The methodology of teaching within this part of the module was clear at all times – the teacher intended to introduce us to the basics of Dutch through active participation in lesson. This was seen in the encouragement of contribution, searching for vocabulary and practicing spoken Dutch as much as possible. Having a high rate of student talk time improves knowledge of language and confidence in speaking that language, even with the prospect of making mistakes. The materials used in each lesson were always well thought out and used frequently, which enabled students to continue learning outside of the lessons.
As a mini module, it is clear that the introductory Dutch lessons were well planned, because they were well executed and beneficial to the students. As an exercise to observe teaching methods when put into practice, the lessons were a useful tool to reiterate the benefits of considered, active learning.
For the third Dutch lesson, a variety of activities and materials were used. At the beginning of the session the aims of the class were clearly outlined on the whiteboard and verbally by the teacher, which provided students with an idea of the session’s purpose. This was followed by completing an information sheet from the previous lesson. I believe this was used to ensure the module remained on schedule and to guarantee student understanding of further tasks. It also allowed students to refresh knowledge they were starting to forget.
Following this, a task was set using key phrases. Presented on the interactive whiteboard, this ensured the entire class received the same information and allowed the teacher to make notes that everyone could clearly see. This was perhaps used by the teacher to ensure the class recorded accurate information. Using the phrases, a pair work task was set to practice speaking. As this was new information, pair work was ideal for the teacher – students used phrases in small, comfortable groups while the teacher circulated the room and observed.
The students were then given a transcript, and asked to search for vocabulary to use in the following task of discussing hobbies. I believe the teacher decided to use a transcript to encourage students to search for key information within every day conversation. After the completion of the exercise the correct grammatical formation of the new topic was presented. Using the interactive whiteboard again, the entire class could see and note down the correct manner of discussing hobbies. This ensured all students were clear on grammar and pronunciation. Class contribution of different hobbies was a particularly useful activity, which the teacher used to encourage participation and ensure students would relate to the topic.
This was followed by presentation of the relevant questions you would use to discuss hobbies. With a few examples of different ways to ask about hobbies, students then began working out the grammatical pattern of forming the questions. This was used by the teacher to promote student use of previous Dutch knowledge (and languages) in general to figure out new information. After a lot of pair and group work, using a handout and asking students to complete it individually was designed to ensure everyone understood the new grammar, and had not been relying on a select few contributors. This task also gave the teacher time to circulate the classroom, correct individual mistakes and note down common group mistakes.
As the session had over run, the final task would be completed next time – a wise choice by the teacher, as rushing through the task at the end of the session would not have been useful for the students.
During the second Dutch lesson, the student and teacher activity was varied and well balanced to enabled maximum learning. The session began with a whole class activity, in which students asked a basic conversational question (such as ‘What is your name?’ and ‘Where are you from?’) to the student to their right, who answered it and passed the question on. I felt this was a very useful exercise as it enabled speaking practice, allowed students to practice listening and pick up pronunciation, as well as the bonus of giving students the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. This required very little input from the teacher, who only became involved to help the game keep going or to correct minor pronunciation errors. As it was the beginning of the session, having a student led activity engaged the entire group and made sure people were concentrating and paying attention.
Another useful aspect of the session that encouraged a high rate of student talk time was the group practice of Dutch numbers via reciting your own mobile phone number. I found this to be a good follow on activity from the whole class conversation practice, as it divided the class into smaller, less daunting groups. For students, it was a particularly useful exercise as it required practice of both speaking and listening skills (to ensure you recorded other phone numbers correctly). It was also a useful activity to enable the teacher to circulate the room and input any corrections on pronunciation and technique.
The introduction of new grammatical points at the end of the session was somewhat hurried (which was an unfortunate result of the large number of students), but was presented in a clear and easily formatted manner. In this section, as would be expected with the introduction of any new material, there was a greater amount of teacher talk time. However, the planned activity of asking the students to try and guess the grammatical rules meant that student interaction with the materials given remained high. Feedback of what the students thought the grammar would be lead to informative student-teacher interaction, which nicely ended the session.
At the beginning of the first Dutch lesson, the aims and intended outcomes were clearly explained by Miranda – to introduce us to the pronunciation of Dutch letters and numbers as well as to introduce commonly used phrases.
Firstly, we used a ‘listen and repeat’ method to practice the pronunciation of the Dutch alphabet. I found this a very effective teaching method as I was able to note down the phonetic sounds of each individual letter, then use that to aid pronunciation. Having used this method throughout school, I have always found it to be a good technique. From a teacher’s perspective, beginning with an interactive speaking exercise is a good way to ensure concentration from the start of the session and to ensure students have a degree of pronunciation skills for later exercises. The aim to introduce us to pronunciation and fundamental aspects of speaking Dutch was achievable and realistic due to the level of language experience of the group and due to the nature of task. Personally, I found the alphabet task incredibly useful due to the repetition and phonetic thinking I employed.
Through the use of a video clip and transcript, Miranda introduced the group to basic conversational phrases in Dutch (another key aim of the language session). In this instance having the transcript was useful as it reinforced the pronunciation learning from the alphabet exercise. While useful at a beginner’s level, in a more advanced language lesson having the transcript straight away would be counter-productive – students would not focus on the sound clip and would therefore not practice listening to the language. I feel that the aim to introduce us to basic phrases was clearly outlined, but perhaps slightly unrealistic due to the length of the session. After the initial alphabet task, and the finding of the key phrases, there was little time to practice speaking which for me would have been a vital part of remembering the phrases.
Overall, the aims and outcomes were clearly presented at the beginning of the session and throughout the session it was clear which tasks would achieve each aim. The aim to introduce the group to the alphabet and pronunciation of Dutch was more realistic than the intent to teach basic conversation phrases, mainly due to the size and length of the session. With fewer people (or a longer session) a dialogue exercise would have helped with understanding and remembering the Dutch phrases.