Defining and Tracking Learning Goals

The goal of this class is that students complete classroom activities (discuss Halloween and how they want to celebrate it -- both here in New York and, theoretically, during a study-abroad semester in Moscow) using Russian 90% of the time. The goal of this observation is to assess the pedagogical advantages and disadvantages of holiday-themed activities in a communicative foreign language classroom.
Newer communicative abilities to be stressed in this lesson are: using adjectives and ordinal numbers when describing location, indicating proximity to a location, giving an address, and providing a telephone number. Communicative abilities that may be reviewed in this lesson include: introducing oneself (occupation, where you live/work, what you study, your major) music/movies likes and dislikes, where you often go, what you have and don't have, what others have and don't have, asking for information about a place, counting things 1-4, and what you used to do and what you (habitually) do now.
The instructor envisions that students will move toward the goal by completing increasingly difficult exercises that require more and more spontaneous and creative speech from the student to communicate necessary information to other students. This entails moving from choral repetition of phonetics and vocabulary in the beginning of the class, to a warm-up exercise that encourages students speak freely by answering questions already provided (reviewing old material), to student interviews that are iterative, peer-based questions-and-answers meant to reinforce previously-drilled concepts, to even less-structured task-driven conversation-based games/activities, which are meant to challenge students to use grammar in realistic communicative contexts with increasingly minimal supports from the instructor.

The instructor intends for the series of activities to build in complexity without pause, without obvious or abrupt transitions between activities, so that communication develops as seamlessly as possible. The temptation is to focus activities around new grammar points; however, the instructor hopes to focus the entire class on real-life communication tasks and contexts, with the new/old grammar merely serving as the means to an end. At this point in the semester, students may still need to receive activity instructions in English, so that they understand what is expected of them, and so that the activity may carried out smoothly without many interruptions. Ideal activities, though, should allow the students to use Russian about 90% of the time while the activity is in progress. Grammatical mistakes are to be expected,and they will be corrected by the instructor. The assessment of the lesson's success will be fundamentally focused on whether or not students were able to successfully communicate information to their peers, and, furthermore, whether students began taking risks in their language production by creating phrases that deviate from phrases modeled by the instructor.
I will track the success of the lesson through before/after student surveys and through the use of videotaped recording of the lesson. In an online survey completed before the observed lesson, students will answer questions about their overall comfort level when speaking Russian in a spontaneous way, creating phrases and sentences that deviate from models demonstrated by the instructor, and taking risks in communication. Students will also be asked if communicative tasks in Russian class are relevant to their lives and interests. After the observed lesson, students will complete an online survey with similar questions.

With the video recording, I will measure progress in students' Russian conversation by: 1) plotting student responses on a four-sector scale that measures successful communication and grammatical accuracy; 2) noting phrase deviation from structures and vocabulary modeled in warm-up and introductory exercises; 3) recording flow of conversation from instructor to student, between students, or from student to instructor; and 4) recording how the ratio of instructor speech to student speech changes through the class. Ideally, student responses will show 1) high communication and high accuracy; 2) high phrase deviation from structure and vocabulary models; 3) more flow of information between students than any other conversation flow; and 4) a speech ratio that has shifted towards the students by the end of the class.


9/25: Observation Planning workshop

10/3: Meet with Holly to write observation plan

10/11: Present observation plan to Teagle Fellows

10/14: Meet with Holly to revise observation plan after presentation

10/29: Send students an invitation to the pre-observation online survey.

10/30: Meet with Holly for a basic explanation of what her students can say in Russian by this point. Meet with Holly and David Blancha to go over how the video/audio recording equipment will be set up in class.

10/31: Observe Holly's class11:00 Arrive at 709 Hamilton Hall to meet Holly and address any last second concerns.
11:40 Class begins. Holly will introduce me to the class, run through a phonetics warm-up with students,using a simple PPT presentation of images. Vocabulary and phrases used in the phonetics warm-up will mix review of old lexicon that will be needed for today's activity with new Halloween-related vocabulary (almost all of which will be cognates and thus easily memorized). Throughout the class, I will observe from the back of the room.
11:45 Warm-up conversation exercise, where students stand up and rotate quickly through new conversation partners. Holly will not correct mistakes unless necessary; the objective of this exercise is to ease students into speaking Russian. The exercise will continue the Halloween theme, but with review of old communicative tasks.11:50 Cultural information: Halloween in Russia! (No Western influence in Soviet Union; then Halloween became popular in Russia; then Russian Orthodox Church starts to pressure Russians not to celebrate Halloween due to its pagan nature; existence of Halloween celebrations among children and especially young adults, despite the Church)
11:55 Moscow study-abroad scenario 1: pair-work exercise involving invitations for Halloween events in Moscow. Pairs choose where they are going (and why).
12:10 Moscow study-abroad scenario 2: given a budget, students discuss with each other which of the Moscow Halloween activities they choose and why.12:20 Students create their own survey questions about Halloween in NYC, with instructor supervision/assistance; instructor writes questions on the board.
12:25 Information gathering activity: students should gather information from their classmates (answer classmates' questions) to complete activity.
12:40 Closing assessment: Holly asks student to report information that they gathered from each other in previous activity.12:45 Class ends.
Send students an invitation to the post-observation online survey.
11/1: Meet with Holly to review the video footage of yesterday's class. With Holly's help, determine the communicative success, grammatical accuracy, and creative deviations of students' responses throughout the class.

11/4: I will compile students' written survey answers and record observation feedback on our private project page.

11/7: Holly and I will meet to debrief the observation and to write the observation report.

Early December: Holly and I present our reflections about the observation to Teagle Fellows.