Once we have instructed our learners, they can begin doing the task or activity we have set them. We may feel inclined to breathe a sigh of relief at this point and put our feet up.
Unfortunately, we shouldn’t take our eyes off the road at this point. We need to check that the learners are able to progress with the activity. We do this by moving around the class and making sure that all the learners are on task. In a big class, we might have to walk around, briefly looking over the students’ shoulders to check. In a small class, we might just have to raise our head and check everybody is OK.
Once we are confident that they are able to start doing the task and have cleared up any queries regarding the instructions, we can probably relax a little and give our learners time and space to immerse themselves in the activity without worrying about the teacher. If we over-monitor and continue checking our students, they might feel they are being micro-managed.
Keep yourself available at all times though. I like to position myself in the centre of the room so students can easily get my attention if they need help. Sitting back behind the desk may put a barrier between you and them. After a while, walk around the room again and check that the students are doing the task appropriately. You might want to have a quick look at their written work or listen to their conversations to assess how they are doing. In fact, you might want to provide assistance or correction at this point, especially if they are doing an activity focused on accurate use of specific language. With more communicative activities focused on developing fluency, you might prefer to note down errors and examples of good language the learners are using.
Finally, you should monitor to make sure you know when to end the task. Don’t wait until all of the students have finished as the early finishers will feel bored. On the other hand, finishing the activities when the early-finishers are ready will frustrate the others.
To review, monitoring performs several functions:
We monitor to make sure the students can start the activity
We monitor to provide assistance while they are dong the activity
We monitor to know when to end the activity