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Teaching unmotivated students
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debskirkby



Joined: 28 Oct 2003
Posts: 24
Location: NZ

PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 5:47 am    Post subject: Teaching unmotivated students Reply with quote

Hi from the country of endless vending machines!

Just started a job teaching English at a private Japanese high school and other correspondence schools in the area, and have been shocked to see their lack of interest and motivation to learn English. The teachers describe it as an "English allergy", they find it too hard and reject the subject entirely. Most students see it as their lazy period...they work pretty hard for all their other subjects, so much that they work endless hours at night to do all the homework and sleep in English class.

If anyone has any experience of this and any tips, that would be much appreciated!

Ta very much!
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1368
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might want to take a look at some of the answers in this thread: http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=716
although it was posted to Elementary Education, it really covers preteens and might not be that far off.
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debskirkby



Joined: 28 Oct 2003
Posts: 24
Location: NZ

PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 2:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that Wink
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christine69a



Joined: 09 Jan 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2004 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you have a kitchen at your school? My 12-16 year old (none too bright) students are always hungry and the best lessons we had together were the ones involving food. We baked chocolate chip cookies together and made hamburgers. The students got instructions in very simple English, explaining each little thing they had to do. They also got a little picture dictionary with the most important terms. In the lesson before they had to go on little treasure hunts, following instructions and having to bring the items back we would need for the baking.
Mind you, this sounds easier then it was, though. When we made the hamburgers, one nervous kid handled a raw hamburger pattya little too wildly and it stuck to the ceiling.

Have fun!
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agava



Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2004 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, you must make your students active - I suggest games, TPR activities or listening to their favourite songs ( of course in English) - there are many great idea in Dave's Idea Cookbook - eslcafe page. Best wishes!
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saba



Joined: 28 Feb 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2004 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, my name is Saba, I live in Venice, Italy and I'm studyng to be a teacher. I had some experiences in the classrooms and i sow that students want to be listened and considered. Sometimes thei seems to be unmotived, but if you show them you care about their opinions and their interests. I am going to teach History and Philosophy, but I think that the point is not the subject you teach but the way you do it. I have noticed that students can be motived by the relationship that the teacher has with the group. I ca n suggest you some ways to keep their attention on, like beginning your lesson reading something that can capture the students' attention. For example e piece of a famous movie or of a romance, or a popular song to teach English. Thic method can be applied in other case, teaching History, Philosophy or other arguments.
I hope to have helped you and I'd like to have some suggestions too.
So long
Saba
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serendipity



Joined: 01 Mar 2004
Posts: 110
Location: Wiener Neustadt, Austria

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sometimes students *appear* unmotivated because student participation hasn't been encouraged in the past - in fact, errors may have been corrected in front of everybody else, and this may have been a source of embarrassment, especially when it happened to someone who considered mistakes as something he/she simply shouldn't make, because he/she should know better, because the area had already been covered in class, because others would laugh, well, a whole range of things, really.

I found that in order to increase student participation I'd first of all have to win their trust. I had to get it through to them that I wouldn't impose sanctions if what they came up with wasn't 100% correct, but that I would value the effort - and go through with it, even if it involved grading contributions more favorably than I was about to.

Yes, and then there are the introverts, for whom speaking to others requires effort, no matter what, especially in a foreign language. They're better in a one-to-one setting, I felt, and if they can come up with something reasonably ok there, then this should do, I suppose.

There's a lot more involved than language....
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debskirkby



Joined: 28 Oct 2003
Posts: 24
Location: NZ

PostPosted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, I think there are underlying issues here that have past experience written all over them. I think I am also battling against the norm of teaching here as in I'm trying to get the students to participate as much as possible instead of lecturing...that's how I was taught to teach English, but this feels like quite an uphill battle...all I can hope is that it improves a bit for the next teacher after me so they don't have as much of a hard time.

In terms of gaining their trust and building relationships with the students, I haven't seem them as much as I would like, sometimes only 45 mins. a week, so that's been kinda hard. I fully agree that that is the best way to motivate students, get them enjoyng your class and getting to know you as a person. So I'm hoping my schedule will be a bit better for this next term...

Thanks for all suggestions!!!
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Louise Blair



Joined: 29 Apr 2004
Posts: 4
Location: China

PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:43 am    Post subject: unmotivated students Reply with quote

I'm currently teaching ESL in China and am finding that students here are not as motivated and hard-working as I expected. In fact the more I talk to other foreign teachers here, the more it appears to be a myth that education is highly valued by most students here. (It seems to be their parents who value it more highly). Some teachers report that their students are lazy and ill-mannered and really couldn't care less about learning English. And this is not just in foreign teachers' classes. I'm just wondering if others are finding this?
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1312
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't answer for China but Mongolia is next door. All the other teachers told me that their kids were unmotivated, wouldn't talk and didn't like anything they proposed. The first day of class when I walked in the kids were literally swinging from the rafters and didn't respond at all to "Please sit down". I took my school bag and walked to the front of the room to the teachers desk (why is it always in front?) and turned it upside down. Everything fell out all over the place. Then I took my hand cream and squirted a huge amount into my hand and pretended to lick it and eat it as I sat there looking at them. They sat down in horror and amazement and never moved a muscle. I had pictures of my family and things that I enjoyed and music groups that I enjoyed. I got them to teach me Mongolian pat phrases for "open the window", "get out your books". After they got up off the floor from laughing so hard at my pronunication we had established some kind of relathionship. We made posters of every day phrases and took pictures of the kids in the appropriate poses - opening the window, etc. They thought I was crazy and were waiting to see what else I would do. As one of the other teachers said, "She is childish but in the best sense." I made playdough (1 bag of flour, half a bag of salt, gloop of oil and water to make it pliable) and had them do their letters, make parts of the body (the finger was the favourite) and cooked and put post it notes all over the classroom to name things in Mongolian and English. The others in this thread have it right to say that it is a positive, fun loving attitude that gets you far. One of my colleagues called himself, Mr. Entertainment. Have you to tried making animal balloons and doing magic tricks? Think of yourself as an ambassador of English. Give them your best.

Last edited by Sally Olsen on Sat May 29, 2004 11:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All of the suggestions here seem to be constructive and likely to have a good effect in the direction of learning English, which, I just want to remind everyone, is the genuine objective, no?

And in that vein, I'd also like to express a note of concern (very mild, at the moment) for Sally Olsen's colleague who calls himself "Mr. Entertainment". I have no idea why he might call himself that, and he might be a truly excellent teacher, but please, everyone, remember that we are not "entertainers". Suggesting that the classroom experience should be, no, really must be fun and enjoyable in order to be effective is a good idea. However, don't forget that it just as much must not become a theatre where your students merely go to be amused. That is a deadly mistake, because it will trivialize the English class experience. Good teachers have a firm grasp of the line between having fun in the learning experience and just fooling around for the heck of it, or to fill the time.

Larry Latham
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1312
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2004 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are absolutely right Larry. It is the quality of the education that counts but I guess I was thinking of the reality of classes of 50 or more students in Japan, Mongolia and China - sometimes up to 80 with students sitting the halls because they couldn't get into the rooms and only 45 minutes a week with them as the conversational English teacher. Of course, my colleague was frustrated because he could only entertain them and it was not a class but a theatre with the teacher expected to perform or allow them to sleep. Of course, one answer would be to have smaller class sizes and I guess all teachers are campaigning for that everywhere. But what do you do when you have that many kids for such a short time for oral English lessons and there is no mark on the exam for oral testing and no final exam with oral testing, the kids are exhausted from their other courses and homework and some are up in the rafters? Do you think a great entertainer can also teach? I am reminded here of Victor Borge and his "Phonetic Punctuation System" piano performance which I use often (see how old I am - I bet no one knows Victor Borge)ppput (period)
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2004 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I certainly do! (zzkkkraat...pput) I've used that myself. (pput) Laughing (One of Denmark's most delightful exports.)

Larry Latham
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1312
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2004 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of my profs, Devon Woods, says that we do everything that we do in the classroom because of our basic belief system. If you really examine a teacher's beliefs, you can see that every word and every action comes from that. He had us examining our beliefs and had other people examining us to tell us what they saw about us. Then we had to write a Teaching Philosophy. Mine boils down to "The answer is to question." " We are a part of all we meet." and "S/He who laughs, lasts." I think we all have good reasons to do what we do. When I introduce myself to students in the first lesson and show them pictures of my family, explain my interests and so on, I am respecting the deep tradition of the local cultures to know which group you belong to and what traditions you come from. It has been very important in all the countries I have taught in. When I use animal balloons I am trying to determine who in my class can speak English, how they manage with a new skill and for some a frightening one (some kids hate balloons and their tendancy to pop loudly), their ability to teach others and willingness to take risks in trying something not in the book or that I have shown them. It helps me sort the kids into groups with leaders, followers, stablizers, encourages and so on. I also quickly find the hunters or rebels because they pop the balloons, fill them with water and drop them out of the window or make a boy's body appendage to brag about. There are days that I am just surviving of course and passing that 45 minutes but the sweetest sentence I hear my students say is "What ARE we doing today?" Much better than, "Oh, English again, uuuugh!"
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guest of Japan



Joined: 31 Aug 2003
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2004 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've met Victor Borge. He was really nice and had a quick wit.
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