By Joyanne James. I have a class of eight students sitting around a table. The one at my left keeps daydreaming, probably because he thinks I cannot see him. The one next to him looks at his phone every two minutes. The girl who faces me constantly giggles when no one is talking. I believe she is entertained by the drawings in the book of the student next to her. Of course, there is the usual class clown always making everyone laugh with “off topic” comments. Everyone else is now distracted, including me. Today, will be different because a distracted student can’t learn anything if I use traditional teaching techniques.
I am not going to use half of my session trying to discipline students. I am not going to lay down rules such as no daydreaming, no cell phones, no giggling, no drawing, no joking, and no laughing. I have already prepared an extremely boring English lesson that involves a lot of reading, understanding, and answering of questions. If I behave strict and lay down rules for these students, there is no way they would enjoy doing this lesson today. Even if they learn something, they would reject it and remember it as being a task.
Text Twist Word Game for the distracted student
Before I bring out the comprehension passage, we are going to play the word game Text Twist. Look at their faces all bright and ready. They have no idea that I am making them focus and not daydream, stare at their cell phones, giggle, draw, and joke senselessly. Write the word PARTICIPATE in your books and you have ten minutes to use the letters to find as many words as you can, GO! The room is silent, they write, hide their books from each other, look up in the air to think, and gasp when they get ideas. I play along too, and scare them by shouting, “I am on number 10!” They panic and are in disbelief that I have reached so far so quickly. I stop them after ten minutes and they exchange books to mark each other’s words fairly. The student with the most words gets excited as if he passed an exam today.
Since they are already in a competitive mode, I hand out the comprehension passage and set a time for them to read it to themselves. Everyone is worked up and wants to show off that they know what the passage is about. I encourage them to talk as much as possible about the passage. They argue over differing interpretations, make comparisons to their own lives, search the Internet to support their opinions, and come to me to settle their disputes.
I explain to them that thus far they definitely have the right approach to understanding a comprehension passage, and their next move is to explain themselves in writing by answering the questions given. I tell them that while everyone may have different views, it is up to each person to explain themselves clearly and provide evidence from the passage to support their answers.
The excitement simmers as I talk about writing. They do not like to write. I keep reminding them that they are not going to write an oral English examination. It was already a challenge to get them to focus for this lesson, so I will let them write their answers for homework. My work here is done!
April 2016 – Issue 21 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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