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Initiating interaction among students

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Joined: 07 May 2012
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:54 pm    Post subject: Initiating interaction among students Reply with quote

What is a good method of initiating interaction among adult students? I once sat in on a very diverse intermediate ESL class where half of the class was very talkative and the other half was very quiet. It seemed like this was a result of the cultural differences of the classroom. Maybe in some countries interaction in the classroom is discouraged. How do I show them that it is okay to speak in class? What is a good way to get everybody interacting, without pushing them too much?
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Joined: 06 May 2012
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you brought up a good point about the expectations for classroom interaction that other cultures may have. Especially for adult ELLs who already went through school in another country and are accustomed to that culture’s style of teaching and learning. For example, students may be use to only speaking in class when the teacher specifically calls on them or assume that the teacher has all the correct answers and will present them in a lecture. The concept of volunteering ideas or talking questions through with fellow students could be very new to them. I think encouraging interaction through group or pair work is a good start, but may take some time to get everyone comfortable enough to participate. I would love to hear some suggestions from ESL teachers!
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teresa roll

Joined: 08 Jun 2012
Posts: 5
Location: New York

PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:33 pm    Post subject: Assign groups and partners for some activities Reply with quote

When I first started teaching ESL classes, I had the same problem. Fortunately, I had the luxury of having several volunteers, so I could divide and mix the class into conversation groups every other class. Most of the time the groups would be pre-arranged according to the activity. I would be certain to divide the different cultures, as well as include those students who are extroverted with those who are quieter. Please note that I learned to use a timer and train the volunteers to monitor the conversations to make certain students had equitable opportunities. Also, I was careful to understand whether it would be appropriate to mix certain male/female students together because of their cultures, i.e. Muslim.

Sometimes, provided that the students were at similar levels, I would simply have students draw a name of their speaker partner from a fishbowl. Also to divide groups, on holidays or special occasions I would give out an assortment of stickers, candy, or favors. The students would then be grouped by whatever they were given.
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