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Balancing Teaching Time in the Classroom

 
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Should I. . .
. . . interrupt the talking ones to ask other students what they think?
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. . . ask the interrupters not to interrupt (though I do it, too, in a conversation)?
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. . . try to start a conversation on 'how to converse' and hope that my students don't think I'm talking down to or unjustly criticizing them?
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. . . do something else entirely?
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Total Votes : 1

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STCrowley



Joined: 15 Jan 2009
Posts: 12
Location: Dresden, Germany

PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:15 am    Post subject: Balancing Teaching Time in the Classroom Reply with quote

I need help. And, I'll say this upfront: I already did a search of the forum, but, if someone knows of a thread that already answered this (I'm sure common) question, just post a link and I'll be grateful.

Here's the thing: I teach English to adults, and I work really hard to create a 'safe zone' where my students feel comfortable talking and, obviously, making mistakes without being embarrassed. And, for the most part, I think I'm successful.

My question is this: after spending so much time making people feel comfortable, I'm running into a related problem: managing student speaking time/student personalities. (Yeah, you can't really manage personalities.)

Most of the time, in the 'practice' or 'performance' part of the lesson, I have no problem letting the students have a discussion. In two different groups, now, I've run into the problem where I have students who aren't good at sharing talking time. They are the first to answer every question, and feel free to interrupt other students when I call on them by name. All of that would really be okay with me, if the other students had the same love-to-talk personality, but they're more shy, and I feel like it's my job to get them their fair share of talking time if they aren't going to just 'take' it the way these two people do.

Here's the thing: is there a way to balance this without really controlling who talks and who doesn't? ("John, tell us what you think, then Cindy will say what she thinks. . .") That's nothing like a real conversation, but I don't think it's my job to teach conversation skills to either student (by either, I mean teaching the gregarious ones to take turns. . . and teaching the shy ones to speak up.)

I'd love advice/book suggestions/experiences that you think might help. I'm really thinking of introducing something like a 'talking stick' or a 'talking ball' that you can throw back and forth . . . but that's not 'real life' practice, either.
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1294
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me you have a real life situation. In real life there are people who dominate and those who are quieter. Often there is a natural facilitator who spreads the conversation around by asking for others opinions. Haven't you ever been at the table where the hostess asks a question and then turns to another person at the table when she thinks that first person has talked long enough? How do hostesses and sometimes hosts learn those skills? I imagine their learned by imitating their parents.

Your responsibility as a teacher is the same as a hostess, to get everyone to talk and have an equal turn at it.

I did talk to the talkative ones and asked them to share class time. I made sure I gave them some extra time at coffee breaks or before or after class because they are more interested in the content than the exercise.

I gave the shy ones a heads up on the topic of discussion two or three days before and had them prepare a response. At first they used to read their responses but gradually gained more confidence and could either quote what they had memorized or even create an answer on the spot from what they had written down.

It is a huge and complicated skill though to think about a topic and remember the words in English so I encouraged baby steps.
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STCrowley



Joined: 15 Jan 2009
Posts: 12
Location: Dresden, Germany

PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Sally!

I like the comparison to a host or hostess. I've also just observed in a really good lesson with an amazing teacher who was really good at doing this with grace and poise and less shy than I would have been about completely changing the subject: "We've just heard about Lucy's husband's Christmas present. John, why don't you tell us how the shed in your garden is coming along."

And, you're right: I think I'll be better off using imitation. I'm sorry I didn't see your answer until now, but it fits in exactly with the lesson I just saw.

Thanks for taking the time!
-Toby
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