View Full Version : communication-oriented class?

October 5th, 2009, 08:48
I think that's a tagline a lot of you have probably heard. it's especially encouraged in my prefecture, too. as I'm responsible for making most of my lesson plans, it's up to me to turn my lessons into something that encourages kids to talk.

I'm mostly concerned about the lesson structure now. with Japanese kids past like the age of 12, it seems like one usually has to have an ordered way for them to participate that has no need for initiative or creativity on their parts. even then, if it's embarrassing for kids at all, they won't participate, or they'll find a way to copy off other people and get around doing the activity.

what are some things you guys have done? I'd like to actually get my kids talking a bit, but with one teacher and 25-35 students, it's pretty challenging at times.

October 6th, 2009, 10:13
what are some things you guys have done? I'd like to actually get my kids talking a bit, but with one teacher and 25-35 students, it's pretty challenging at times.

I don't know if it really counts as communication, but with some classes, I had great success getting them to talk in English (which, for my students is a significant achievement) with charades. I used it to teach the present and past progressive (eg. I am playing guitar, he was driving the car), but you can use it for other things, I'm sure. I just divided them into teams and the students took it in turns to come to the front and mime an action. The first student to call out the answer, in correct English, would win a point for their team.

The only caveat is that it completely bombed with other classes. I can't think of many things more demeaning for all parties than standing with five 16y-year-olds who either refuse or don't know how to mime the sentence, 'what time is it?'

I really have no idea how to get them to actually communicate though. I read these lesson plans online where students have to find partners, or interview people with set conversations and the author's comments are usually something insanely naive like 'make sure they use English! smiley!'. I mean, that's the thing, isn't it: if I could do that I wouldn't be looking for activities and lesson plans.

October 8th, 2009, 09:08
Here's my procedure for a communication activity that's worked in all my classes.

Ahead of time:
1. Write some questions in English. e.g. "What is your hobby? What is your favorite food? Do you play a sport?"

2. Make a chart where students can fill in classmate's answers to the questions. e.g. "Name" and 4 boxes under it, "Hobbies" and 4 boxes under it, "Food" and 4 boxes, "Sport" and 4 boxes.

3. Think up your own answers to the questions for example purposes.

In Class:
1. Hand the students the chart.

2. Write the questions on the blackboard.

3. Do a model dialog with your own answers. I have the JTE ask me the questions.

4. Have the JTE check student understanding of the questions (or if a JTE is not present, you can give the slow students some explanation/translation of the questions in Japanese).

5. Inform the students that they have 3 minutes to write their name and their own answers to the questions in the first box. English only! (In reality, I usually give them as much time as they need to write, but counting down the minutes for them gives them a sense of urgency that makes the students put pen to paper.)

6. Walk around the room and make sure they are writing something, and for students that aren't, point at the chart and say, "write, please." Walk around the room again, and tell the students that still aren't writing several answers they could write for the questions that they're stuck on. If a sizable percentage of the class is stuck on a question, write several model answers on the blackboard that they can choose from.

7. Tell the students that time is up, and you will all practice the questions now. Get them to repeat after you, "What is your hobby?" "What is your favorite food?" "Do you play a sport?"

8. Tell them that they will stand up, ask 3 people the questions, and write their classmates' answers on the chart. When they are finished, they will sit down. (As you are explaining, mime these actions so the students can understand.) Check that they understand your explanation - ideally, have a student who understands translate into Japanese for the students who don't get it.

9. As they are doing the activity, walk around the room cheerfully yelling "eigo dake!" at students who are speaking in Japanese. If they're just copying somebody's sheet and not actually asking the questions, tell them to "ask the questions, please" and hover over their shoulders until they start talking.

10. Finally, after everyone has sat down, pick 2 students to ask each other questions. (If you make some students present in front of the class every time, it helps scare the slackers into doing the activity.) After they finish, you and the class should clap for them.

The whole thing takes about 15 minutes in my classes. We use it as a warm-up.

October 8th, 2009, 09:17
I think that's a great idea, but if I tried that in some of my classes it would result in 50 minutes of silence. Which is why I sympathise with the original poster...

October 8th, 2009, 09:30
I think that's a great idea, but if I tried that in some of my classes it would result in 50 minutes of silence. Which is why I sympathise with the original poster...

Hmm... well... it works with the quietest class in my school, who don't answer me when I say "good morning." So if your class is quieter than that...

Usually the kids are quiet because they're afraid of making a mistake. That's why you take all these steps to make sure they know exactly what to say. So, even my quietest kids can talk if they've written their answers out beforehand. This is the only activity I've seen that will make my creepily quiet class smile.

You can make all the questions yes/no questions if necessary.

October 8th, 2009, 09:43
I think with some of my quiet classes there is a whole other dynamic going on, that goes beyond fear of making a mistake. Anyway, I hope it doesn't seem like I'm criticising your lesson plan - I think it's a good one. But like I say, for some of my difficult classes I have really struggled to find activities that actually force them (or inspire them?) to communicate in English.

Edit: maybe I should clarify what I mean by 'goes beyond fear of making a mistake'. I think some of my students have actual proper issues. One of the other teachers was telling me that a lot of the students here come from single-parent families that are very poor. I think as they have gone through the Japanese school system they have repeatedly been told that they are useless and won't amount to much, and I think that's probably how they feel. I think that they expect to find English difficult, and they do find English difficult, and they see little value in studying it.
On top of that, some of them are actively badly-behaved. I mentioned, above, that I had some success in getting the students to speak by using charades. In one class it completely bombed. Partly that's because one kid instructed his peers not to say anything. I mean, one kid was halfway through calling out the answer and this other kid just told him to shut up. And he did. They all did. For the rest of the lesson. I think that these sorts of issues go well beyond the scope of pre-prepared dialogues to remedy, and even beyond the scope of my limited involvement with them once a week.
Maybe there is no solution. But hopefully I will find some activities that will inspire them to give English a bit more of a go.

October 8th, 2009, 10:32
I think that's a great idea, but if I tried that in some of my classes it would result in 50 minutes of silence. Which is why I sympathise with the original poster...
I have the same problem with some of my classes.

October 10th, 2009, 14:03
I think with some of my quiet classes there is a whole other dynamic going on, that goes beyond fear of making a mistake.

Hmm... I don't have many students like that, so I don't know. Can you give them prizes, like a sticker, candy, or raffle ticket for completing an activity? I don't know if that would help you or not.

October 10th, 2009, 16:46
remember, communicate doesn't mean converse.
could they prepare short talks on something to do with japan and present them to the class? in pairs if they're really that nervous?
you could hand out topics you "really" want to know more about [i don't know, shit like "tell me about japan's 4 seasons" or "tell me about mt fuji"]
let them know they're doing you a favour by giving you this information.

after they've warmed up on that [other topics are japanese pop, baseball, food... you get the idea] and you've heaped on the praise, then you can worry about more free-flowing "chat"]

another idea that might work if they're a bit competitive is to turn the class into 2 equal teams and keep the same members each lesson. [you decide who they are so you can put in a mix of strong and weak kids]
line them up so that one person from each team, at the head of the line, is in front of you. then ask a simple question. first one to answer scores a point for his/her team and goes to the back of the line. the kid who didn't answer stays at the front for 3 tries. the team who gets to the start again first wins.

October 15th, 2009, 15:55
I have similar classes at my high school. What seems to work pretty well is making sure you do mainly group activities. Anytime I try the "have them pair up" or "have them ask each other" it either turns into chaos or a bunch of straight copying. Having them talk to each other is a waste of time, because they just do it in Japanese.

For example, I use a game based off of the telephone game. I have them sit in their rows (adjusting them so the same number is in each row), then have the last person in each row come outside with me. I tell them a sentence (show it to them if you have to) and then take them back inside. When I say go they tell it to the person in front of them- until it reaches the first person. They then have to run and write it on the board first to get the max number of points, but everyone gets something. By rotating who sits in the back, you make sure everyone has to at least say SOMETHING.

I also do a game I call reverse criss-cross (I got it off a site but don't remember where). You have a row of students stand up, then ask them quesstions. The first one to answer sits down. When all but one student is sitting, the column they are in has to stand up. Use questions from what they are studying and random easy questions. I had one boy scream "of course" to the question "are you a girl." I snorted. Anyhoo, if you have one student that doesn't answer, ask a yes or no question while standing next to them and feed them the answer. If you play the whole thing off as a joke, it is less embarassing.

PM me if you think these will work and you want more

October 20th, 2009, 21:39
one of the biggest things for low level/low confidence students is to keep it simple and to build repetitive practice into every part of the activity... i always find it useful to stand back and pretend that i was learning these phrases in Japanese (as im low level) or any other language you arent familiar with.... then add the pressure of the class and their lack confidence... i just spent 4 lessons on one subject with maybe 10 phrases.. they are only just getting confident now

October 21st, 2009, 10:05
Try to make it fun too. Have them stand up and make them move around. Use flashcards at the begining of each class to review and let them use their text book in games. Try to give out rewards too.