The story continues

A few days ago I wrote a post  about how I’m using email with one of my classes as a way to extend our lessons, and the learning process,  beyond the classroom.  In that post I looked at the summaries I send out to the class after each lesson. In this post I’d like to take a closer look at what happens next.

During our third lesson together we’d worked on chunks and expressions to describe  activities. In my follow-up email after the lesson, as a footnote to the lesson summary, I suggested the following consolidation task:

A possible task to recycle this vocabulary might be to write about what you like doing at the weekend.  Maybe a short text called “What the weekend means to me”. You might want to use some vocabulary from the next section too.

 And this is how one of the students tackled the task:

to me: is time to be with my family or my friends. We meet up  to have breackfast every Saturday morning. We usually eat breackfast chocalate and churros. Children love. During breackfast we decided  we eat/cook to lunch and we go to the center market to buy it. After lunch everybody to do siesta. Later i call phone my friends and we go out  to have a  couple of drinks, i used to go on facebook, surf on internet, send some e-mails. On Sundays i try to do some sport, mayby i play a game of tennis or i go running along the beach.
I see you later.

I replied to the email writing “between the lines” and added comments in blue under the original text.  Here they are:

 We used to have chocolate and churros for breakfast a lot when we lived in Madrid.  It’s great!  My kids love it too. And I think it’s a great idea to include the kids in deciding what to eat/cook for lunch.  But we never have a siesta after lunch!  My kids are too full of energy to sleep!  

 When you say you “used to go on facebook”, do you mean, “I usually go on facebook”?  “used to” suggests that it’s something you did in the past, but don’t do anymore.  I try not to go on the computer at the weekends, I spend so much time in front of the computer during the week!  But sometimes me and kids do surf the internet, look at funny video clips on youtube, play some games, but only when the weather isn’t so good.   

 (I’ve underlined some expressions in my answer – you can compare them with yours – hope that helps! – let me know, it’s a little experiment – thanks!)  

 I wanted to do two things at the same time, I wanted, principally, to continue the dialogue, to engage in meaningful communication, but I also wanted to give some concrete feedback. To focus on forms and expressions we’d already looked at together, but also to encourage P  to notice new forms and patterns too.

And the dialogue continued. This was what P sent back:

I want to thank you for your revision taks. Of course! I´ll compare them with mine, of that i´m sure. 

Then, I used to have chocolate and churros for breakfast. I see that your kids also love it, like mine. Both, You and I considerer it´s important to involve children early in life in making  decisions, like: what to cook for dinner tonight, who  cleans the kitchen floor or who put the dishes on the table… “Well done teacher” . continuo. I´m realy love a siesta, a half hour no more, but my kids never have a siesta since their was one or their was very child.
You have reason when I wrote “used to” I´d want to say ( to means) I usually go on facebook and surf the internet.

 I really liked the fact that P had decided to continue the dialogue. He hadn’t only read my text as a correction of form, he was responding to the message, the contents of the communication. And, mirroring my underlining, he used bold to show me where he had picked up on the differences between my text and his. But what struck me more than anything was that this second text seemed much more fluid, the expression more confident and the text more cohesive and sophisticated.    

But this left me with another challenge.  There were new “mistakes” in the new text, new expressions and forms to correct. But I really didn’t want to focus on surface errors. P had done what he’d set out to do. He’d used the chunks we’d focused on, and he’d extended the dialogue meaningfully and successfully. What should I do in reply?

Well, this is what I did: 

Hello again!  I’m on a train to Madrid as I write, just going past Cortadura – it looks so beautiful!  Lots of kite surfers, and birds and a silver sea 🙂  Thanks for the reply!  Great corrections, and in a new text too. I wish I could have a siesta sometimes too, but there’s almost never enough time – or maybe I never make enough time!

What do you think? Was it the right thing? Should I have done more? What would you have done?  And I wonder what P wanted me to do.  I’ll ask him in our next class!

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5 Responses to The story continues

  1. Hi Ceri,

    It’s interesting how your post focuses on something I’ve always reflected greatly upon, recently even more so (because of some feedback a student gave me), which is whether to focus on form or content when correcting a student. And I have to say I think you did a wonderful job, because you tackled the question not as whether to focus on form or content but rather WHEN to focus on each. You managed to focus on both, each at its own time. Beautifully done!
    Had you continued to correct the student after his reply I believe you could’ve shun him away, discouraged him. Another perfect example of how balance is the answer – we just have to find it 😉

    Great post!

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Cecilia,
      Thanks for calling by! Yes, it’s always a balancing act – that’s the fun of it! What I found interesting as well, was to see the processing going on from email to email. It’s such a great medium for actually watching the learning process at work. That’s always fascinating. I talked to the class about corrections today (unfortunately P wasn’t there!) and they all seem to like the underlining and the reformulation. I’m going to use various different techniques with them, and see which they prefer. I know where my preferences lie, but I’m curious to explore theirs. My hunch is that different things work for different people (not much of a hunch, eh?) and that what I think is good for them is probably not what they want! Oh no, just turned it into hypothesis-driven research 😉 Mmm … time to take a step back again and see what comes …

  2. crazykites says:

    What a wonderful idea! I might try this with my pre-intermediate adults.

    Kirsten aka lingliziya

  3. Pingback: You’ve got mail | close up

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