THE SCIENCE AND ART OF CONSULTATION IN ESL CLASSROOMS
I believe SPM Trial Examination 2019 for English Language Paper is over in all schools. Most Form 5 teachers would have finished marking both 1119/1 and 1119/2. No doubt, these common things would be done by the Form 5 English Language teachers once marking is done:
Discussion of answers for both papers
Presentation of comments on common mistakes made by the candidates
Analysis of results and post-morterm
Is that all? What else to be done? I am sure some English Language teachers would call their learners and have a PERSONAL CONSULTATION with them. However, I am not sure how many teachers ensure personal consultation sessions involve each and every one of their learners. Personally, I believe having personal consultations after SPM Trial Examination (in fact, after every examination or test) is MANDATORY.
I would have several sessions for personal consultations either individually, in pairs or small groups (not more than 4 learners in a group). These are a few examples of grouping done for my recent sessions with my learners:
Session 1: 4 learners who score between 65-70 marks
Session 2: 2 learners who score A+
Session 3: 3 learners who score between 85-88 marks
Session 4: 1 learner who scores 60 marks. She is the only one who gets B.
Session 5: 1 learner whose mark drops quite badly (from 76% to 68%)
Generally, if the learners are paired or grouped for the consultation session, we must make sure they have more or less the same issues. It would be easier for us to discuss and comment. As ESL teachers, we have to ensure that our personal consultation sessions aim to:
inform EACH learner’s weaknesses and ways to address them
highlight the potential of EACH learner to score better in the real SPM Examination
motivate EACH learner to give his/her best in the coming examination
show that the teacher is genuinely concerned about EACH learner
To me, conducting personal consultations is a POWERFUL TOOL to enhance learners’ confidence and motivation. It is also a strategy to ensure TEACHER’S PERSONAL TOUCH to each learner. When learners are “touched” by this genuine teacher’s concern, they will gradually change; do their level best; give at least 110% to achieve the targeted result.
WHAT TO FOCUS ON DURING THE CONSULTATION SESSIONS? Well, it depends on the learning issues our learners portray in their answer scripts. If novice Form 5 English Language teachers are not certain, these could be some common issues portrayed in their answer scripts:
Language accuracy in Directed Writing and Continuous Writing essays
Lack of merits in their vocabulary – words used are not wide
Ideas are not developed well
Their ideas fail to arouse readers’ interest
Irrelevant ideas are still included in their summary
Most of the summary content points are not written using own words
Candidates fail to provide opinions in their novel response
One of the requirements in the novel questions is not fulfilled
Personal consultations with learners will become more successful if ESL teachers, especially the novice teachers, are aware of its science and art; basically the concepts of convincing and persuading learners. Here are some useful tips:
Consultation session is akin to feedback session. Make sure feedbacks are conveyed with good intentions. Avoid destructive criticism or words which may insult our learners.
Highlight the chance (in term of percentage) that each learner has in order to achieve the targeted grade in the coming examination. For an example, for someone who scores 72% (A-), tell him that he actually does have a 50% chance to get an A in the actual examination. Similarly, those who get 60% (B), please convince them that they stand a chance to get at least a B+.
Learners are more likely to say “yes” (agree to do what they are supposed to do to improve) to people whom they owe (of course, their English teachers!). Therefore, be persuasive!
Offer strategies which are practical and doable. Moreover, consider their language proficiency as well as their availability of time to prepare and improve.
Make it clear to the learners the areas they need to focus on to improve their performance in the next examination. Each learner may have a different area to be focused on as weaknesses in learning are diverse.
Learners listen to someone whom they regard as having authority. It is significant for ESL teachers to be firm, adamant yet caring in offering strategies to make improvements.
The ideas presented to the learner must be very clear. The keyword or main idea of the first main point should be repeated by the learner before the teacher shares the second main idea or recommendation.
Ensure the session is interactive. Allow learners to make suggestions or comments from time to time. At least, the teacher should stop talking / commenting / giving tips after 1-2 minutes. Welcome responses from the learner (even by saying, “Yes, teacher” or “I will do it, teacher” can make it interactive).
How much ESL teachers are able to persuade and convince their learners during personal consultation sessions depends on a few factors. One of them is who they are in the eyes of their learners. No matter what and how our learners view us, we must have personal consultation sessions right after each examination simply because our learners need personal feedbacks more than they need endless teaching from us. Please take note there is a vast difference between giving feedbacks or tips to 30 learners in front of the class and sharing the same feedbacks or tips with one or two learners in front of us. Trust me, our positive feedbacks, if combined with the right consistent actions from our learners, will lead to a howling success!
I know, some teachers have started compiling and printing 1119 trial papers from various states. Well, that is awesome. However, we should not only focus on completing trial examination papers, state after state but ignore the fact that our learners long for our personal touch. There is nothing as tender as teacher’s personal touch.