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2013

Observation 3
ESP
Institution: Facultad de Ciencias Econmicas, UNC, Crdoba. Class: Mdulo de Idiomas. Number of Students: 20 (approx.) Age: 20 years old (approx.). Teacher: Julia Mariano. Material used: Handout. Date: May 30th. Timetable: from 11 am to 1 pm (2 hours).

Judith E. Alaluf Observacin y Prctica II 07/06/2013

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DESCRIPTIVE NARRATIVE This third observation was carried out in the Business School, National University of Crdoba. It is important to highlight that this was the last class before the term-test; so, the activities done were mainly for revision. The teacher (T) started the class with some consolidation exercises. Students (Ss) had to identify the type of logical relationships established between two ideas bearing in mind the connectors used in the text. Right after this, the Ss reviewed quickly and orally all the connectors they had learnt classifying them into different groups. In order to do this, the T mentioned one of the classifications (E.g.: Connectors of contrast) and asked individual Ss to name all the connectors he/she remembered. (E.g.: However, but, nevertheless, although, and so on.) Then, students re-read a text from a guide they had been working with so as to complete the questions in the guide. The T asked them to read it silently trying to get the gist of the reading passage. In doing so, Ss asked several questions about vocabulary. The T answered using gestures, miming and explanations; however, if the term was very difficult to explain she provided Ss with the equivalent in Spanish. Next, she advised them to read the activities they had to do -that is to say the statements of the True and False exerciseand to go back to the text, this time, looking specifically for the information they needed. After that, students answered some content questions on the text about developing countries and global economic crisis and finally they focused on lexical phrases taken from the text. When performing the checking of the activities, the T named individual Ss to read aloud their own answers and invited the rest of the class to decide whether they agreed with the given answer or not. The checking of the True and False activity caused an interesting debate in the class since there were many interpretations of the statements. Nevertheless, the correction of the comprehension questions was fast and did not pose any problem either for the T or the Ss. As regards vocabulary checking, since the phrases to be checked were rather complex and difficult to interpret, the T resorted to the scaffolding technique and guided Ss on their interpretations. First, she helped them structure the phrases syntactically identifying their heads and the prepositions. Then, she recommended students to adapt the content words for the phrase to make sense in Spanish. Apart from describing the teaching process of the class, I think it is worthwhile mentioning that the T was effusive and humorous all throughout the lesson. I believe this had a positive impact on students motivation and learning process.

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REFLECTION In my opinion, the T started the lesson with the revision of connectors because they contribute to the coherence of the text and help Ss identify the relationships built among ideas. The T did not stress the significance of the discourse marker itself but the type of ideas it linked (consequence, addition, contrast). Thus, if Ss can understand the type of connectors, they may improve their reading comprehension skills, which I consider to be the major goal of the course. This activity was performed orally and briefly at the beginning of the class; consequently, it also served the purpose of activating schemata and it involved a higher-level reading process since it stimulated background knowledge. I emphasize the fact that the T asked Ss to re-read the text before doing the activities with two main purposes: to skim the text quickly and to activate prior knowledge. Maybe, her long-term goal in asking Ss to read the texts several times would be gaining certain degree of automaticity and developing fluency in reading. The while-reading activities were well-developed following a gradual continuum: The first reading was for general information (skimming) and the second one, for specific information (scanning). The T made Ss read the activities before re-reading the text for the second reading to be more active and for learners to know where to focus their attention; this is a good reading strategy to implement, that is to say, specifying a purpose for the reading. I believe the objectives of the activities that followed the reading (Comprehension questions and true and false exercise) were to help students understand the structure of the foreign language and be able to spot relevant information in context. I think these activities aimed at improving students reading comprehension strategies by activating both higher and lower-level processes if we draw on Grabe and Stollers processing components of reading. The lower-level processes would mainly be syntactic parsing and the activation of the working memory while the higher-process set in motion here would be building a text model of comprehension for Ss to be able to answer content questions. When dealing with vocabulary, T provided explanations and resorted to gestures from which Ss inferred meaning. In this way, Ss may have learnt that there is no need to remember literal equivalents of certain terms but to focus on the concepts they represent. When checking the activities related to vocabulary, I think the T tried to make Ss become aware and make use of the lower-level reading processes of syntactic parsing and word recognition because, as I mentioned above, the T provided help in identifying elements that contributed to the structuring of the sentence such as prepositions and nouns. I emphasize from this class the cooperative work of Ss and T to interpret meanings. We should be able to play the role of collaborators in these courses. I have also learnt from this observation task that the ESP teacher may do without grammar explanations. This T just concentrated on reading comprehension. Hence, she provided Ss with useful strategies

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such as inferencing from context or deducing the meaning of a specific term relating it to a familiar one. For instance, the meaning of short-term was deduced from the known expression long-term. Learners implementation of these strategies and processes on a regular base can contribute to the development of reading skills. I have also discovered the significant role syntax plays in this learning context. It was very interesting to see that the T helped Ss identify the different parts of the nominal phrases. By guiding learners in the organization of the syntactic component of a phrase, complex and highly technical foreign expressions can be a lot more easily interpreted by L2 Ss. As the above-mentioned authors pointed out in their implications of reading research, this teacher was helping students become strategic readers by focusing on metacognitive awareness and strategy learning. Grabe and Stoller in Celce-Murcia (2001:188) Summing up, in this class the T resorted to several reading comprehension techniques that made learners implement both higher and lower-level reading processes for achieving reading comprehension. She also employed an interactive model of reading where she could adjust her linguistic and mental resources and strategies to cater for the academic reading needs of students.