Asked me the same question 100 times

'Those are interesting questions Timmy. I suggest you ask your search engine.'

Well, not everything is perfect, but the not so good lessons can teach us something, right?! Let’s see what I can take from this episode.

Like most teachers, I am not a big fan of having to explain the same thing many times. Whether it is instructions for an activity, some language feature, or the meaning of a word (we are not dictionaries!). I have been trying – since ever! – to minimize questions by using some techniques:

  • Class Menu – every lesson I write a menu of the activities we are going to do so that students know what to expect. Sometimes I even write the material they are going to need (books, notebooks, colour pencils). I also include the aim of the lesson and elicit the day of the week and date. So, whenever a student desperately needs to know if we are going to play a game in the lesson, I just point to the menu on the board and it saves time and teacher-talking-time! 🙂
  • Routines – incorporating routines is a TTT minimizer and time-saver. Students just know what to do. It takes time for them to get used to the routines and they may vary for different groups and ages. With my current students I have a routine for: how are you today? (by throwing a big dice and asking each other the questions), leaving the classroom (by saying a password, something they have learned in the lesson) and evaluating their English use.
  • Pre-teaching vocabulary – before any reading or listening activity, I try to make sure to work with some language I think may be difficult for the students. I also try to have students use their predicting skills by focusing on pictures and titles, and I teach them reading and listening strategies, so that I can remind them (remember that it helps to underline the same words in the questions and in the text…).
  • Ask your friend – last but not least, when I just don’t want to answer the same question for the 50th time, I just tell them to ask their friends.

So, today, despite using almost all of the techniques above, my students kept asking me how to say ‘great-grandmother’, what the meaning of ‘loudest’ was, and so on. It was very frustrating, but, looking back, I believe I could have used a simple miming game for them to practice the adjectives before having to use them in the writing activity. However, students were especially misbehaved today, so I am not entirely to blame.

'I find the best way to stop students from always talking to each other in class, is to keep asking questions. Then they have nothing to say.'

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Tried to use more L2 in class

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Excellent English strategy

In a monolingual context, it is often a challenge to get students to use L2 in class, especially if they are beginners. After almost eight years of teaching, I have tried many techniques with different groups in order to get them to speak English. Some of them worked for some groups, some didn’t work at all, but I can say that it is the students who will inform your decision of choosing a certain strategy. Here are a few:

  • L1 Pass – a friend’s idea that consists of giving students one or two “passes” (cards, coins…) every class so that they can use their first language when they need to. The teacher may take a pass from them if they use L1 inappropriately. This works well in quieter groups and with students that will follow rules.
  • Points on the board – write all students names on the board when the class begins and whenever one uses L1, draw a line next  to his name. The teacher can choose whatever punishment according to the groups and the school’s policy (removing points from the final grade is particularly threatening for teenagers). This strategy goes in the opposite direction of Behaviorist’s positive reinforcement concept.
  • L2 “thermometer” – during the lesson, students move up and down an L2 thermometer. If they are using L2, they go on to the positive end, if they are using L1, they go down. This requires a lot of work on the teacher’s part, and may cause stress between the students if they thing your judgement is unfair. However, it works well with a highly motivated group.
  • Excellent English – the one I am currently using with my students. By the end of the lesson, students line up and evaluate their L2 use during the activities, they move their tag up or down accordingly. During the class, my job is to call their attention and remind them of the routine whenever they start overusing L1. It works well with small groups and with highly motivated students. It helps create a sense of responsibility, because they will be responsible for their own growth in the usage of the new language. I would not use it with teenagers, though.

What do you do with your students to get them to speak English in class? 🙂

The poster image and balloons are from Twinkl.