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Thread: HS students

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    Default HS students

    ok so i picked up some extra money by teaching conversation class on the side for a small company, my problem is that i cant get the HS level students to talk. anybody got any ideas? i realy need some help

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    Senior Member reed's Avatar
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    Need more info!
    Last edited by reed; February 3rd, 2009 at 18:48. Reason: Asked too many questions, felt silly.

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    ok well i am new to teaching i am actually here with my wife who is the jet. when i say new i mean green, i am a grease monkey by trade and as for the company it is any thing but big, at the moment it is just a small shop in shizowaka (spelled rong) prefecture

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    ok well i am new to teaching i am actually here with my wife who is the jet. when i say new i mean green, i am a grease monkey by trade and as for the company it is any thing but big, at the moment it is just a small shop in shizowaka (spelled rong) prefecture

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    Default Re: HS students

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? i think my computer is tripping out

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    Default Re: HS students

    You've got to find out what interests them - bands they like, big movies that are out right now, even anime characters. It'll take a little research on your part but if you can get them talking even saying "my favourite band is..." or "my favourite movie is..." or "I like [insert character/person from show/movie] more than [insert character/person from show/movie] because..." it'll get them somewhat motivated. Especially with the last one you might even get a decent debate going. You could do like a pros/cons thing on the board with one character on each side (obviously these would have to be popular enough for everyone to know who they are)

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    It is REALLY HARD to make high school kids talk without super-structured activities telling them how to answer. I think it's because, at that age, they've become afraid of making mistakes.

    Easy warm-up activities can help. In some classes, at the beginning of class, I've had the kids toss around a stuffed animal while music plays. When the music stops, they have to say something in English (related to the lesson of the day - for the restaurant lesson, it was naming types of food in English). Would probably work for musical chairs now that I think of it - loser has to say something in English.

    For the bulk of the lesson, you might want to give them some model sentences to base their conversation on, unless they're very high level. Most students aren't confident if you just say, "Ok... talk!"

    "20 Questions" can also work for small classes - my ESS club seems to love it, anyway. Do an example and get them to take turns guessing. Then have one of the students think up an object. If it's too hard for them, you can restrict it to something in view, like "I Spy".

    Quote Originally Posted by Langus View Post
    ..."I like [insert character/person from show/movie] more than [insert character/person from show/movie] because..." it'll get them somewhat motivated. Especially with the last one you might even get a decent debate going. You could do like a pros/cons thing on the board with one character on each side (obviously these would have to be popular enough for everyone to know who they are)
    Earlier this year I tried that kind of plan several times with a small high school class. I don't think the class has the level of English ability to "debate." A typical answer to "Why do you like this?" is "Because cute," followed by silence. Even having them write down lists involved the best student writing everything, and the other students speaking in Japanese or being quiet. It was like pulling teeth to get responses.

    My new activity is giving them all a stack of picture flashcards and having them ask each other questions using comparisons. First I write a bunch of comparison words on the board for the slower students, have them sit in a circle, and hand each student a bunch of flash cards. Then I have them ask the next person in the circle a question using two of the flashcards. That student answers, and asks the next student, and so on. Examples of typical student questions: "Which is bigger - frog or lion?" "Which is better - jam or ice cream?" "Which is more interesting - TV or radio?"

    During the first half of the year, my predecessor had them bring in photos with an English description and questions they made up as homework. They'd take turns describing the picture, then ask each of the other students a question about the picture (something that could be answered by carefully listening to the description, such as, "Who is this?"). I'll probably do that again next year.

    So, I guess, my advice would be bring in some stuff or have your students bring in some stuff to talk about, whether they're actual things or pictures. Or, if possible, show them some video clips. And do warm-up games. Yeah.

    Sorry, this was long.

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    You should also try to find out what they're wanting from the class. Are they there because their parents want them to be? Because they think by sitting silently they'll learn the great secret to passing the English part of the college exams? Or do they have an earnest interest in English, but are just too shy to speak up?

    It sounds kind of mean, and the way I'm about to say it makes it sound more severe and awkward than it ever is, but there is one way I've found pretty useful. So, the students feel like talking would be embarassing and uncomfortable. What you have to do, then, is make it embarassing and uncomfortable for them to NOT be talking. Your class might be too small for the crossfire/rows and colums/criss-cross game (and it's more geared towards a classroom anyways), but the idea in that is that everyone stands up, and you ask questions. Anyone can raise their hand to answer, and when they do, they can sit down and choose their row or column to sit down with them. What happens here is that "standing up" is awkward for them, and answering is the quickest way to get to sit back down. When you're doing an activity like this, you get a good mix of outgoing and shy people answering, but usually towards the end, the last two or three people will be the really really shy ones, so what I recommend for that is to ask incredibly easy questions. I teach high school only, and things like this tend to work really well in my classes (and I have a LOT of quiet students).

    Definitely try googling for " esl icebreaker" activities.

    I'll second Langus as well. Definitely try to know what they're interested in, and it's even better if you know something about those things as well.

    Sometimes it's good to do scripted things. I don't often like to do scripted things, but sometimes it's a good way to get them started using English. You could try a simple board game, and give them a sheet of typical phrases used during the game (for example, any games involving a bank might require the players to ask the banker, "Can I have --- dollars?")

    Team activities, where it's either speak or let your team down, can also work well depending on the students.

    Are your classes divided by age, or do you have high school students mixed in with adults? If you've got talkative adults in the same class, you might be able to use them to encourage the high school students to speak, by doing some sort of pair work.

    Sorry, I kind of rambled and don't know if any of that will be insightful. I hope you can get them talking, but I know that sometimes it can be really hard (and honestly I think in a few cases, it's just impossible). But clearly since this is not required school education, they are there for another reason. If you're lucky, it's because of a genuine interest in improving their English. Anyways, good luck!

  9. #9

    Default Re: HS students

    Class size? Length of lesson? What age are the students?

    It's pretty difficult to help you if you don't tell us this stuff.

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    Senior Member Spore13's Avatar
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    Default Re: HS students

    I just did a modified "truth or dare" in class and it worked pretty well. I changed it a bit for class size, but it works well to get them to talk.


    For my larger classes, each column was a group. I had a bunch of folded up questions and DARE pieces of paper to draw from. The first person in every row stood up and the person in group 1 had to draw. If they drew a question, they could choose someone to ask. Once the person answered it, they could sit down and the next person in their group could sit down. If the person drew a dare, they had to choose a dare card and do it themselves. Then they could sit down. The dares and questions were harmless, but interesting enough to keep everyone's attention (like "write your name with your hip" or "have you ever stolen anything")

    For my smaller (10-) classes, it was the same thing, except we sat in a circle without groups. My JTE and I joined in, which helped them open up a bit too.
    I firmly believe that goofy and awkward are the signs of awesome.


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    Earlier this year I tried that kind of plan several times with a small high school class. I don't think the class has the level of English ability to "debate." A typical answer to "Why do you like this?" is "Because cute," followed by silence. Even having them write down lists involved the best student writing everything, and the other students speaking in Japanese or being quiet. It was like pulling teeth to get responses.




    I have another week of debate lessons to finish and they have been exactly like this. I'm trying to think of a way to get it less painful but cover the same material/ basic activity of debate (I have to keep all my students on the same level) any ideas would be lovely!

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    Default Re: HS students

    Sorry the above paragraph was meant to be a quote from violetessence!

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    Absurd pictures and power points I have seen work with middle school students. Not sure how it would go with High Schoolers.

    Ridiculousness has a lot of educational benefits. Have to be careful sometimes it can go overboard. midgets, zombies, weightlifters general awkwardness ect. ect.

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    Default Re: HS students

    there has to be something in it for them and they are more likely to do it "for their team" than for individual benefit. split them into teams and ask questions [start easy]. each correct answer gets a point for their team. keep a tally of the points on huge charts on the wall [paper ones that can be taken down and put up again if you can't have permanent ones]. have a target of x number of points at the top and when the team reaches the target they get the reward [that way, all teams get a reward, just not all at the same time; the first team gets to choose.] i always had several rewards going of various "worth". things like watching a movie/tv episode; doing english karaoke, eating food from my home country [which they had to first order from a menu i made up]...
    "Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning."
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