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Keeping students busy

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:27 am
by ncaraway
I have two 90-minute conversation classes (advanced and beginner) that meet once a week. As with many adult ed classes class size varies weekly but averages 6-12 students. Classroom layout is traditional lecture hall style, which is unfortunate, but I cannot change that. I am given a topic by the school and I spend about 30 minutes introducing the topic and related vocabulary. I then typically give students a handful of questions related to the topic of the day and ask them to interview the person beside them. They are then to report back to the class what they learned about their partner. Most are too shy to speak loud enough so the class can hear them so they end up speaking just to me. (I could make them come to the front of the class and use the microphone but I know that would drive students away) Some classmates listen but most start getting bored. I'm trying to think of something to give the other students to do so they don't get bored. I give them other topics and encourage them to discuss them with other classmates but few do this. Any thoughts?

Posted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:42 am
by beckibenedict
I recommend more student talk time. If it is a conversation class, then the students are expecting to speak as much as possible.

Rather than working in pairs, try assigning groups of 3-4 students. Give each student a role in the group, so everyone participates. Then, when it is time to report back to the class, the other students only have to listen to the reporter in each group (3 students rather than all 12). Tell the students that you will randomly call on someone after each presentation to answer a question. This will encourage all the students to listen.

Each week change the groups and encourage students to choose different roles.

Posted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 10:50 am
by Sally Olsen
You could use a mobile microphone. But if the class is that big, some people will probably still be bored when other students speak. I never understood that myself because you can learn a lot from your peers. We are thoroughly trained to think the teacher is the only one worth listening to I guess.

Learning to speak in front of a group is a valuable skill though but one that must be learned gradually. You might want to check on what Toastmasters does to make people comfortable in speaking in front of a group and make sure the students know that you are encouraging them to learn to do that as well as learn English.

We often do so many things when we teach English but don't realize or teach the skills to do those other things so it bombs.

When people are explaining how things work, they often forget to be shy. Have them teach something to the others in their group and get volunteers to teach the whole group. It can be something simple, such as how to tie a tie, how to tie a scarf, or how to play a card game. It is amazing what students come up with when given time to think of it and is often a lot of fun. I used to teach my fellow students how to make animal balloons.

Posted: Thu May 29, 2014 12:51 pm
by ncaraway
Many thanks for these ideas. I am grateful.

I decided to partially ignore the school's format and try something different. I still spend the first 20-30 minutes introducing the school's required topic and vocabulary. I then ask students if anyone has a story they would like to share or news they would like to discuss. A few of the more talkative students usually speak up at this point. I let them speak and try to facilitate group interaction until it starts to feel forced (usually 5-15 minutes). At that point I break the class into groups of 3-6 students and give them a series of questions to ask each other or a game to play. I find they really like silly speaking activities. After they finish the activities I ask if anyone learned anything that they would like to share. Sometimes they do, most times they do not. The reporting is not important because I succeeded in getting them to spend most of the time conversing with each other (while I monitored and responded to questions).

I've been getting ideas for the activities from busyteacher.org. Ones I've tried so far include:

http://busyteacher.org/19015-explain-yourself.html

http://busyteacher.org/3052-what-a-life ... ivity.html

The class is now filled with students talking and laughing. I hope I can continue to find activities like these.