Sprinting onto the podium – an Olympics-themed observation task

8 08 2012

Continuing my obsession with all things Olympics (see previous posts Olympics Use of English and Opening Ceremony Reading, not to mention I’m wearing my Olympics t-shirt yet again as I write…), I even have an observation task for you with an Olympics theme.

I call it Stages Sprint onto the Podium.

First of all, while watching one of your peers teach, make a note of all the positive things you can discern about each stage of the lesson, breaking that stage down into it’s constituent steps as suggested by the menu column (instructions, examples, monitoring, feedback) as well as any other aspects that occur to you.  In this way, each stage is racing against the other stages of the lesson, trying to be the most successful.

Then, after the lesson, you can use the sprint grid to reflect on what you saw, electing the best three activities to go onto the podium.  The gold medal activity is the most successful, and you should think of the three most convincing reasons why it was so successful.  The second gets silver and only requires two convincing reasons why it was successful, and then the bronze comes in third with a single reason.

This combination of while watching and then reflecting lets you combine both ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ reflection on a lesson and the theme of the observation makes it a little more fun but also ensures you focus on the positive.  This is good news for the teacher you’re watching and can be good news for you as an observer, since it’s often much easier to see what could be improved and focus on that rather than compliment the teacher on their successes.

Of course, you can also use these worksheets to reflect on your own classes, using them both as cold reflection tools, especially for those times when you’re feeling a little down about your classes and you need a shot of positivity.  Enjoy!

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4 responses

9 08 2012
Nati

Great idea Neil!
I think it´d be great to think of the characteristics a gold medal activity should have. I thought of challenging learning. As Scrivener and Underhill point out in Demand High ELT ´How can we stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning?´

9 08 2012
mcneilmahon

Hi Nati,
Thanks for popping by, glad you like the idea. I like yours too! What two other characteristics would you add to gold so that it gets to the top of the podium?

9 08 2012
Nati

Hey Neil, I guess the most important bit would be whether it leads to learning or not and if learning is enhanced by the activity or not. This doesn´t necessarily mean learning something new, it would very much depend on what the objective of the teacher is, it could be retrieval, awareness raising, etc, etc. Of course, I believe that a good feedback stage would normally lead to learning. Another important aspect, would be whether the activity is memorable or not, I guess ss remember more when things are memorable so a very important P for any kind of activity would be Personalisation. Another P would be practicality, sometimes you can waste a lot of time setting up the task, moving students around or bringing lots of materials and this does not always enhance learning. I think good activities are usually simple and practical and when they are not, there really needs to be lots of learning taking place, because if you are going to spend a lot of time preparing materials or moving ss around, you really need to exploit those activities to the most.
So that´s my top three: Learning and PP (personalisation and practicality)

9 08 2012
mcneilmahon

Those three will be hard to beat, Nati. Let’s see if anyone else would like to suggest more golden characteristics of activities…

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