Monitoring: the skill 2

Published on 4th November, 2010 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Last week’s tip looked at some typical difficulties involved in monitoring and how to cater for these, in order to monitor effectively. The two suggestions given were signalling devices to inform students on an implicit level that you as teacher do not want to be directly involved at that point.
However, you may find that you need to make the role of monitoring explicit to your students as this may be something they are unfamiliar with. In this case, inform students why and when you monitor, and how your monitoring might differ depending on the activity. Tell them how you expect them to behave, giving reasons.
You could also try injecting new life into your monitoring from time to time. If students know that your monitoring is typically followed by feedback on problematic language they have used, some may start to have negative associations with it. So, work on being less predictable. You could, for example, sometimes identify only positive examples you hear, or just zoom in on certain areas such as their pronunciation, or functional / discoursal aspects such as turn-taking. At times, you may take notes for later feedback, but give delayed feedback of a day or so, perhaps via a written worksheet. This creates a healthy distance.
From time to time I simply like to join in students’ group discussions, as a participant rather than a teacher. If you do this, keep your own voice low so as not to distract other students and avoid correcting, except in certain contexts.

In two weeks’ time we’ll be looking at student–student monitoring.