Monday, July 23, 2007

Students speaking at the front & discipline issues

Jennifer Wallace - Anhui University of Technology, Anhui Province, China

This week I'm going to finish off the activity in progress which led to individuals coming to the front of the class to speak - but that may be the end of it for this class. Last year I had one group that was so bad at group work - they'd sit totally silent! - I ended up giving it up completely with that class.

However, in contrast, with other classes I do include individuals coming to the front of the class, plus we record it - and then we listen to the recording - and I give feedback from the recording, which the students are saying is really good!

One of the reasons I've asked students to speak at the front of the class is that with this one poor class, with both pairwork and group work they often do'nt do, or do it pathetically poorly. Knowing a number of people will then follow on by speaking to the whole of the class does seem to function as some sort of incentive to use the pair/group work as a rehersal - but I'm far from sure of the value of any of this.

One teacher described his use of [throwing] chalk in maintaining classroom order. I could never do this. Many, many years ago, as a classroom assistant in a state school in the UK, a board rubber in my hand, I turned round quickly and crossly to reprimand a student. The board rubber flew out of my hand and cracked the child across the nose. I was lucky I wasn't accused of deliberately assaulting the child - if it happened now in a UK classroom I probably would be. Thowing ANYTHING at a student ANYWHERE is not acceptable, and I'm not going to do that in China for behaviour that doesn't even start to equal the problems many UK teachers face on a daily basis.

I'm being paid by a UK-based international NGO to contribute to the general up-grading of the teaching standards in this department, as well as teach English. My classes are meant to be models of successful modern methodology!

1 comment:

Alex Case said...

I have yet to teach a class that wouldn't do and enjoy pairwork eventually (though I've never had a class more than 50% Chinese). If the magic formula below doesn't work, then you do indeed know to give up on working in groups:
-Make sure their are props and a game factor so you and they can easily see if they are doing nothing at all
-Make sure their is a clear winner, e.g. the person who guesses their partner is lying more often
-Make sure some of the prompts are written in English, so that there is not a possibility of playing the game just in L1, e.g. cards with the answers they have to elicit from their partners written on
-Try a simple, repetitive use of a grammatical formbut leave part of the form blank for students to add their own ideas if they wish, such as chain of First Conditionals that they have to try and make finish with the sentence ending they have been given
-Try to give them preparation time before they start speaking sometimes, e.g. get them to write 5 pieces of information about themselves that their partner has to guess the questions for
-If it is one or two students in the class that ruin their groups all the time by pausing too long etc, do pairwork activities as two teams of twos instead

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