Let the students teach: Peer teaching in a university English class

Jerry Miller, Yamagata University


Quick guide

  • Key words: Autonomy, teaching practicum, peer teaching
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: University to adult
  • Preparation time: 30-60 minutes
  • Activity time: 1 hour
  • Materials: Sample worksheet, worksheet format handout, class textbook, workbook (if available), seating chart

How can we get students to take more control over their own learning in the classroom? One way is to intertwine language skills with practical skills they will need in their chosen field of study. The idea for this course was to allow future teachers the chance to teach a kind of group mini-lesson. Students planning to acquire their teaching license may find this semester-long exercise instructive. This project gives them the opportunity to present a lesson from their textbook to the entire class in a structured way. In our class, we used Passport Plus (Buckingham & Whitney, 1998) and the accompanying workbook. However, this activity can easily be adapted to other communicative texts.

Step 1: Based on the textbook, plan a model lesson and create a worksheet (Appendix A) that you will later present to students.
Step 2: Make random groups of four students. Groups always sit together.
Step 3: Make a seating chart using first names.

Step 1: Teach the model lesson to the class and have students complete the teacher-made worksheet (Appendix A). Assign workbook homework if available.
Step 2: Have student groups decide which textbook units they will teach. In my class, one member from each group drew a playing card. Higher cards chose their unit first. All units are then taught in the order in which they are presented in the text. Pass out the worksheet format handout (Appendix B). Everyone has a job. Students decide the leader, typist, and presenters for each part of the lesson.
Step 3: Before teaching their group-led lesson, students should send the teacher a copy of their worksheet (see teacher sample in Appendix A) via email. Check for errors and makes copies of the edited version for class.
Step 4: Using their worksheet and your model lesson as a guide, students teach their lesson to the class. Students teach for approximately one hour of a 90-minute lesson. Use the remaining time for teacher-led warm-up activities, homework checking, and review. Student teachers use the seating chart to call on students by name for questions. During the lesson, remind students to teach in English as much as possible, give sample answers to worksheet questions, and interact with individual students in the class by calling on them and circulating around the room to check their progress. The teacher should also circulate, answering questions as necessary. Students may need to be taught classroom English such as Please work in pairs, What did you get for question six?, and That’s right! In addition to the worksheet, have groups play the CD corresponding to the text listening activity. Workbook pages are assigned for homework. The teacher gives a recap of the student-taught lesson.
Step 5: Have the students who taught a unit correct that unit’s workbook pages using an answer key. If a textbook has no workbook, a teacher- or student-produced review worksheet can help reinforce what was learned.
Step 6: Encourage student-teachers to reflect on their teaching and have them write a short report of about 200 words in Japanese or English. Students should highlight the positives and negatives of their lesson in the report. This is handed in the following week together with the marked homework. In our class, although students found this activity challenging, their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Step 7: Student presentations continue until each group has presented once.
Step 8: (Optional) Students fill out a feedback sheet at the end of the semester (Appendix C).

ConclusionTeaching and learning should be a dynamic process that empowers not only teachers but also learners. This activity enables students to become intimately involved in the learning process. After laying the groundwork, students need to be given more responsibility and a chance to show how much they can do. In this area, certainly, both student and teacher will be pleasantly surprised at just how much they can accomplish.

The appendices are available below.