Algilez Pilot Lessons completed - some reflections on the course
Purpose of the Algilez pilot course:-
We did not expect to produce a number of students with a good knowledge of Algilez but to demonstrate that they could be taught more features in a shorter time compared with other languages, i.e. to provide a ‘Proof of Concept’ for Algilez.
Issues setting up the Pilot Course
1. Student numbers were small (starting with 10 but ending up with 5). All of the students were volunteers, with other work to do. Apart from a general interest in Algilez there was no real incentive to attend the lessons. (A financial ‘bonus’ of £100 was paid but probably made no difference to those who finished the course).
2. The pilot was originally intended to be for 1½ hours per week over 10 weeks (i.e. 15 hours total). In practice, with introductions, late starts, other interruptions and the 10th lesson being the assessment, we probably only achieved about 10-12 hours of actual teaching. This was the equivalent of just over 2 days of normal teaching time.
What was achieved during the course
1. The grammatical features of Algilez generally appeared to be very quick and easy to both teach and learn. Features such as tenses, questions, passive forms, adjectival affixes etc. etc. could be explained and understood in a matter of minutes. All of the main grammatical features that would normally be covered in a foreign language GCSE course were included in the pilot course. The main omission was simply the necessary vocabulary due to the shorter time of the course.
2. There was certainly an enthusiasm on the part of the students for the structured regularity and simplicity of Algilez.
3. The use of printed lesson plans each week (nicknamed ‘crib sheets’), containing instructions, grammar features, vocabulary and short tests etc. worked extremely well and seemed to be much appreciated by the students.
4. The assessment was taken by 5 students. One student failed, four passed, two of the four (who had attended all of the previous 9 lessons) passed with good marks.
General problem areas:-
1. Low numbers of students meant that we occasionally struggled to retain enough students for pair work in the classes. Only 2 students attended all 9 classes.
2. The week gap between lessons was much more than we would have liked but was unavoidable given the other commitments of the students. This was probably the main reason for students failing to retain what they had learnt from the previous week’s lesson.
3. A very high percentage of the instructions were given in English, which in turn resulted in follow-up questions and comments also in English. We often had a lot of English chatter as well, which was a distraction from the lessons. Fine for an English language class but not good when teaching another language.
4. A lack of knowledge and fluency on the part of both the teachers also didn’t help! Often we teachers were spending time looking up words for the students, since we couldn’t remember them!
5. Some issues arose regarding the Algilez grammar, but these were probably more to do with the wrong choice of items for such a short course rather than problems with the grammar itself. Some items are probably better left simple at this early stage and the alternative forms covered in a longer course.
What we learnt from the pilot:-
1. Probably try to get more committed volunteers in order to maintain the class numbers.
2. Try to arrange more than one lesson per week.
3. For another short pilot course, just teach the simple main forms of the grammar and avoid including the opportunities for flexibility or choice, which just causes confusion in such a short course.
4. Provide better vocabulary lists or printed English-Algilez dictionary for students to use.
5. Increase the amount of meta-language/instructions in Algilez and reduce the use of English to a minimum (this may prove quite difficult).
6. Due to the short time of a pilot course, different techniques to those used in a normal beginners course might be necessary. E.g. less ‘reflection’ time and more time spent in pairs talking and writing on the board (enabling the teacher to see and hear the outputs from the students).