Self-Observation Part 2: editing your script


January 7, 2013 by gemmalunn

In part 1 I described my first experience of recording a class. This way was very judgmental and time consuming: I recorded two 45 minute classes so I spent over 90 minutes watching and criticizing the recordings! This is not an amount of time most teachers can afford on a regular basis. A few weeks later, whilst taking the Breaking Rules course through iTDi, John Faneslow (JF) highlighted much more efficient and effective ways of analyzing your classroom recordings. One of his many suggestions was to transcribe one short activity or chunk of the class.

 ‘If you think of the samples of your classes that you transcribe as lines from plays and substitute some alternatives instead of making positive or negative judgments, I think you can make them more meaningful and increase the effectiveness of the communications you have in your classes.’ (JF)

This is ideal for my teaching situation as I repeat a class 6 times over the course of a week so I can record and transcribe one activity and make the improvements for the next 5 classes. I don’t mean to say that I will change every word I say and memorise a script but I can make small changes to the way I ask a question, for example, or the way I give an instruction. These are changes I wouldn’t normally make after the usual reflections where I think about activities or a class as a whole, using the transcription allows me to focus in more detail on specific areas.  By making these small changes I can focus on (and hopefully improve) different aspects of my teaching such as starting a lesson or giving instructions.

I don’t want my classes to be like a well rehearsed scene from Macbeth but a little editing and rehearsing may have a big impact.

My transcription

I transcribed a part of the class where I was explaining a language point; how you can ask someone for a favour. Here are some facts from the transcription:

  • I said: 142 words.
  • Students said: 15 words
  • Students repeated (drilling): 21 words

‘The first time teachers transcribe even 1 page from a class they are shocked when they count the number of words they say in contrast to their students.’ (JF) VERY SHOCKED! Even though I was explaining a language point I still think this is excessive, especially when I look over the transcription and see many unnecessary extra words. At least 41 words could have been omitted and several ‘lines’ re-written to be more meaningful.

 Some other points I noticed

  • Ss could have worked out a lot of rules (that I explained) for themselves.I believe inductive S centered learning is more effective yet here I demonstrated a very deductive activity.
  • Ss are most interested when they are participating – obviously! I noted how the number of students slumping increased the more I talked!
  • I didn’t correct student errors when they were giving answers, this is purposeful as I don’t want to deter them or dent their confidence in any way. However, I think recasting is important so all students are exposed to the correct form; but I only did this with 1 out of 4 errors.

All of the above are common knowledge and things I thought I did in my teaching but, as mentioned in part 1, only when I really examined the class did I see the gap between my teaching beliefs and the reality.

Take 2: re-write your script

What next…?

John Faneslow suggests that transcribing part of your class shouldn’t be time consuming and can even be used as part of your lesson planning. I think for this to be applied it needs to become part of a weekly routine which is easier said than done! However, what better time to start a new routine than the new year….

Note: Setting up and using a video camera to regularly record classes can be difficult. Nowadays, most phones have decent voice recorders so you can record part of your class with your phone in your pocket; much easier and less intrusive.

You could also put your phone on a table and record students during group work to gather information on student interactions and the language they use when you are not monitoring them.



13 thoughts on “Self-Observation Part 2: editing your script

  1. I hadn’t thought about observing one part or activity on it’s own. I’m really interested to see the results myself now (and a bit worried at the word count!)

    • gemmalunn says:

      Yep, it’s much easier and probably more useful than recording a whole class. Look forward to reading about your experience!

  2. LOVE this idea! Have been following you closely, as I am really interested and motivated in starting my own reflective practice. I want to try this!

    • gemmalunn says:

      Thanks Ava. Go for it! Starting reflective practice had such a massive impact on my teaching, more than my Diploma course even!

  3. This is something I have heard about before but never got round to trying myself. I always remember what one teacher trainer said at a seminar a few years ago – “teachers always talk more than they think they do”. 🙂 I’m sure we can always say things in a more concise way but sometimes that can be less authentic too…

    I think a lot depends on what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes, a little bit of teacher talk is good, other times some student input/examples are better.

    • gemmalunn says:

      I agree, I’m not going to become obsessed over how much I speak but just try to be more conscious of what I’m saying. Thanks for the comment.

      • Rose Bard says:

        I wonder Gemma if you and others understood JF suggestions as follow, so here it goes:
        Right in the beginning of the course the very concept of breaking rule was explored and as you probably remember lots of ideas came up. Then we worked with the “believe nothing I said” which put what was the course about into perspective. That said, the first few weeks the concept of BR didn’t come really easy to me until I had the first recording experience. Now another point come clearer to me, the fact that it is not recording at random, but asking specific questions about our beliefs. And putting into check when you record, transcribe and analyze. Then, this is not also about stopping you from experimenting further. On the contrary, You check by recording again a similar teaching/learning situation, and go over the process and analyze. Or you use it to investigate something that you are not aware not and chose to change and recording again, so that you can play with the possibilities.

        Remember the example that the teacher praised the students so much that it becomes meaningless? I want to go over all the webinars again and material. It is still pieces of the puzzles that are coming together. 😉 And the post and comments just made me realize that. Tks again.

        On a personal note:
        I used to feel so guilt for being so willing to experiment in class and I was thinking that I was doing this at the expense of the students. However I did talk to some of my colleagues and the outcomes are mostly the same. But my students learned a number of other things and improved their literacy in so many ways. So we change methods, but the problem seems to stay there until students are fully participating in the process and amazing enough, not all of them will get it in the same way no matter how wonderful we think we presented a grammar point. I cannot teach what I don’t know what they need really to learn and operate from there ( I am not talking about curriculum or syllabus here, I’m talking about the day to day encounters with our students). I have seen grammar being taught over and over and over again at school to tons of students in different ways, and they still come to the language center without being able to use it. And so many times, they sit in front of the coursebook lesson ( this is something all teachers have said in our school) and say “Do I have to study this again? I know this.” And all teachers respond in the same way by challening students in a conversation. So the rest you know. However we learn also with time that later that same students go over another level and he looks at the grammar on the book and say the same thing again, same challenge, and there it goes again. Grammar grammar grammar. The focus must be in the wrong place. So there must be something that we ought to consider for learning instead of for teaching. And I don’t see another way if not by investigating reality and challenging ourselves – students and teachers alike.

        😀 Rosie

  4. Rose Bard says:

    Hi Gemma,

    Like I just twitted.. with BR explorers we never stop learning.

    This is a great post and takes me back to the classes we had. TY! I hope other fellow explorers use his ideas and share with us. 🙂 I plan to when I get back into class.

    I found that recording the classes without the students being aware of being recorded captured what was going on better, but I am still playing with different devices to check which one can record better regarding the distance. Even just the voice recording (without the visuals) can give us a lot of information. But I will see if the new tablet can capture visuals too without being intrusive.

    And I found John suggestion on recording students conversation great too. I want to put this also into practice next term. Most of them have smartphones and are able to do this and send me through bluetooth right away.

    I hope I can implement the use of recording and reflecting with students, but this will be cultural change because we seem to be very judgemental in nature. Once I get past that aspect with students, I believe the recordings will be worth doing.

    This makes me recall a particular student I had last semester. He was 11 years old and on one-to-one class. From time to time when I elicited something and he gave me something different from expected, and as I was exploring with him language and possibilities, at the end when I would give him the answer (that takes me to another lesson from BR about giving hints! which I didn’t apply in class as teaching routine), he would say: “That was what I said!” Then, I would kindly tell him that he did not. This was a pattern in his behavior and before BR I remember saying few times to him, “I wish I was recording, so you could see you did not”; then, I would explain to him that it was not about getting the answer right as much as it was about him thinking and playing with the language. Thinking of him, I can see how important to bring students to listen to themselves as much we need to listen to ourselves.

    Now “Believe nothing I say” makes sense to me. Because without the recording our perception of reality can be really not reality at all. 😉

    🙂 Rosie

    • gemmalunn says:

      Hi Rose, thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and comment. Recording students is next on my list, I also want to do what John suggested and go over transcriptions with them. But I agree with you that getting students to not be judgemental is v.important and will take some time. I used my phone to record the beginning of my class today and the recording is fairly clear and that was with me walking about. Using a tablet sounds like a great idea as much less intrusive than a video camera. I definitely agree with you re ‘believe nothing I say’! 🙂

  5. Kathy says:

    Hi Gemma, glad to be able to follow your experience as you experiment with the recommendations from Breaking Rules. It helps to motivate me! i will be recording this week and hope to post about it too! Kathy

  6. Hi Gemma,

    A very happy New Year to you. If I could, I would draw a big thick heart mark around your blog. It’s just fantastic. And I think the way you’ve managed to analyze a snippet of your class is a great snapshot into a very useful RP technique. I transcribe my classes, but I admit, I kind of cheat. I often wait until the activities are rolling before I start transcribing. But I’m inspired and think I will try to consciously pick a section of extended teacher talk next time to transcribe. I can see pretty clearly from your post how it would really help me refine some of my classroom teachniques.

    Thanks for a great read.


    • gemmalunn says:

      Why thank you sir for those very kind words. I don’t think your way is cheating at all and choosing to transcribe on the spot rather than have a rest for a minute is nothing to be ashamed of! Very happy to hear you are inspired by this as I’m always inspired by your posts so hopefully this balances things out a little!
      Thanks again and happy new year to you too.

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