View Full Version : Help integrating into SHS oral communication classes

October 20th, 2011, 10:28
Okay, I'm looking for some help here.

Let me describe my situation. I teach at a single Senior Highschool with a dedicated English stream. This stream gives me some awesome classes to teach, which are all in English. I love these classes and the students and I have a good time [they also learn things too... go figure].

The other part of my job is to go into the first year English "oral communication" [grammar class #2] and teach for 20 minute chunks about once every other week (There are a lot of 1st year English classes, so it takes about 2 weeks to cover them all). This part of my job is terrible. The students don't want to communicate, can barely put a sentence together verbally, but are quite proficient at written English and memorization.

What I need help with is breaking the 1st year classes from their routine of memorization into communication. I'm not a particularly interesting person usually, I tend to use whit and charm to get through most things however that is lost on the Japanese students. I have tried to introduce games into the classroom with limited success, as they need to stay focused on the grammar concepts being taught in that particular week. I have tried being super Genki, using praise on attempts and solid praise on accurate results, however I still get the following impressions:
The students don't want me there -- I'm just not "fun" to them, which I understand but I have no understanding of their notion of "fun". Also I'm interrupting their grammar class where they are doing productive work.
The teachers don't want me there -- I'm interrupting the grammar class with a communication activity that doesn't seem to generate results or improvements in abilities

Frankly, I'm getting to the point where I don't want to be there either... because I can tell both groups would function better without me interrupting the flow.

So how can I deal with integrating the communication activities into the class itself? Normally I would've done this by establishing it as part of the classroom culture at the beginning of a year, however I don't have regular contact with the students, and the teachers are not doing it themselves. I also do not believe in bribing the students with gifts/rewards for good behaviour, which might make them more participative but it rewards the wrong thing.

I've asked for help from my friends and they mentioned everything I've already tried, and bribery, so I'm looking for new ideas.

October 20th, 2011, 12:42
TPRS might work, it has some flaws but it gets kids speaking and writing fast according to most who use it.

TPR Storytelling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TPR_Storytelling)

Another option is to looked up something called Dogme teaching method. It is basically winging it every class and working off what the kids want. Its rather hippiish but they have some interesting methods to start discussion amongst low level classes. Dogme people normally keep class journals they post online, so reading a few journal post might give you some good ideas and how effective they are.

Dogme language teaching - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_language_teaching)

I have not been able to test either of these, but have been itching to.

October 20th, 2011, 12:51
Interesting suggestions, (reading right now). It reminds however of one other major problem...

The vocabulary element of the grammar classes is not included in the classes itself. They do not study or use vocab in class, they memorize it at home. The only thing they do in class is their grammar structures book, ZESTAR 27 grammar points. This means I can't even fall back on vocab building, as each class is at different points of vocab without a set structure of testing to rely on.

October 20th, 2011, 13:04
TPRS normally works around 3 phrases or structures. Those are then repeat in many different ways as possible to tell a story. The students normally fill in the details of the story.

So if you had something like

wants to
likes to
has to.

You teach those at the beginning, then start out with a simple story.

The boys likes the water. He wants to swim, but has to go to school.

Then you let kids add in as many details about the boy by asking open ended questions.

There is a boy, Where is he from?
He is a big boy or a little boy?
What is his hobby.
He wants to swim.
Where does he want to swimg?
Does he want to swim or does he want fight?

If a student does not know the vocab write in the board. Try to let the kids make the stories absurd keep their interest.

Its is going to go slow at first, but eventually they will talk. You can even use this tactic for something besides stories like personal questions. Have the kids make name tags with a picture of a club or hobby on it. This gives you something to talk about with each kid.

October 20th, 2011, 13:18
Interesting idea! [+1/like] I'll have to think about how to manage this in a 15-20 minute window. Sounds like something that would take atleast 2 or three times before the class got into it.

October 20th, 2011, 13:20
How is the class behaved? im taking a guess in that they are super quiet, well behaved but wont engage with you right? This kind of thing often happens with japanese students when learning english. The teacher gets them into line and drills them with grammar...they listen, write and only occasionaly answer a question verbally. Then when you come in to teach OC all you get is silence right?
Breaking that atmosphere requires lots of different stuff - can you give us more details of the class and how they are?

October 20th, 2011, 13:32
Sure. You actually rather accurately described it to be honest, it's quite stereo typically quiet. HOWEVER, even the classes with the delinquents (or useless little ****ts like one of my teachers call them), though much more interactive (IE they at least acknowledge they were asked a question rather than just try to drill holes through their desks with their laser eyes), still refuse to talk English. They are at least fun to teach if exhausting.

October 20th, 2011, 14:53
Another interesting thing i saw once, Was take a few white boards, papers, or what ever and write like, dislike, dont care, or something a long those lines. You then can make a statement and the kids have to go to one of the boards. Since the kids are up and moving you might be able to drag some one liners from them about why they like or dislike something.

October 20th, 2011, 15:30
Sure. You actually rather accurately described it to be honest, it's quite stereo typically quiet. HOWEVER, even the classes with the delinquents (or useless little ****ts like one of my teachers call them), though much more interactive (IE they at least acknowledge they were asked a question rather than just try to drill holes through their desks with their laser eyes), still refuse to talk English. They are at least fun to teach if exhausting.
hmm well considering you only have 20 min every other week and not much leeway with what you try to teach them it will be hard. The truth is they are most likely following a lot of what you do and I'm sure the majority could answer..IF they felt comfortable to do so. Breaking that silence and making them feel comfortable interacting with you is the key. Does the JTE stand in the corner like a dead weight? They really need to be involved as much as possible - the kids will often take their que from the teacher.
If i were doing it i would stick with activities that are only competitive in groups, that involve group decision making and discussion that, to start with, are easy. You need them to relax before you can do anything productive. Something like a group quiz/jeopardy game is good to warm them up - put them in groups with whiteboards and write a question on the board (it can be multiple choice) and have the JTE translate difficult words and work them through the question. Then the groups have 30 sec to decide their answer and write it down. Its a super simple activity but as long as the questions are interesting and about things they might not know the answer to (or can guess) it works great.

Also about bribes - i used to feel the same, but ive changed my mind - i use cheap ass stickers for everything now - you would be amazed what some of those useless little "#(I"$ will do to get a sticker

October 20th, 2011, 20:51
I had a class today that was the exact same type...the 'very quiet and won't interact'. Wouldn't even raise their hands when I was doing a show of hands to see who liked rock, who liked pop, who liked jazz etc. It was like pulling teeth. I know their teacher (my JTE) only makes them do memorization and drilling...no asking questions or anything...which in my mind does not allow the kids to even think for themselves and make their own decisions and actually engage their brains. No wonder they hate English...

The other two classes today were awesome...obviously the JTE there lets them ask questions and answer as they're totally into interacting with me.

I try to do lots of pair and group work, especially competitions. Letting the kids work out things together, using their different skills and abilities to sort out the answers. Incentives such as my Kiwi points (a kiwi stamp that they get when I hear them practice their English in conversations and activities, or do good work. When they earn to a certain point they get a prize) seem to be working well to help motivate as well.

I'm also a total believer in bribery, even back in NZ. I like to see it as in the real world when you do good work you normally get a bonus or a payrise or extra special treatment. Kids will do wonders for a piece of candy sometimes. And hell if it gets a kid who normally doesn't do anything, to lift a finger and attempt some work (and thus not distracting others) I'm happy.

October 21st, 2011, 11:01
I also do a lot of pair / group work. You could probably adapt some junior high activities for your kids if you don't have any ideas. I just recently did a cutting sentences activity that the kids really seemed to enjoy. One of my JTEs does a warm up activity I really like: put the kids into pairs, tell one kid of each pair to cover their eyes, draw a picture on the board, have the other kid describe the picture only using English (just words is OK if they are low level). I was surprised how creative some of them got.

I give out stickers sometimes as well. I was really surprised that they still like stickers. I just changed over from junior high and was debating on taking my stickers with me, thinking that high school kids wouldn't like them. I'm glad I actually brought them; a bunch of my kids have their bags/ pencases covered in Pokemon stickers. They also really like getting stamps, if you don't want to give out stickers.

October 21st, 2011, 14:07
You can always make them stand up and hold their bags out arms length and dont let them put it down till they say something in english. Seems to work for the military.