Today, I had to switch to Plan B.
Plan A is personalized questions and storytelling in order to facilitate language acquisition, but sometimes Plan A just doesn’t work. This seems to be the case with my class of third-year students that I see immediately after lunch. The time slot is problematic every year, and this year is no exception. There are simply too many students talking over me and over each other for me to administer consequences and control the chatter, so we’re taking a break.
We’re activating Plan B.
You see, yesterday, I had planned to teach and discuss the structures “saw” and “went”. I had the kids draw a quick two-part sketch of somewhere that they went last weekend and what or who they saw while there. I got through about…one…and realized that few students were listening attentively enough to take in meaningful repetitions of the structures, and I was about to have a conniption. So I paused class, switched to English, and asked the kids if they had any strategies for me or for them that would help control the chatter. Silence.
Today, I typed up a page-long reading based on the drawings that the kids had made yesterday. It just described where everyone went and what they saw. I wrote a list of instructions that would require them to read the text in its entirety multiple times and to focus on the difference in meaning between past and present tense verbs. I wrote a few questions about the reading for the kids to answer, and asked the kids to write any words that they didn’t recognize on the board as they came across them. I wrote the translations for those terms beside the words that the kids added as they came up. Here is the story so that you can see: Plan B, El fin de semana pasado
It wasn’t ideal, but the kids did get many repetitions of the target structures “fue” and “vio”. The greatest problem is that comprehension checks are difficult to complete. I walk around and ask kids to translate individual sentences, but I can’t get a very comprehensive read on the class’s understanding. Tomorrow, we will read through it as a class and go over all of the tasks that they needed to complete today.
At the end of class, I took a few minutes to revisit the question that I posed to them yesterday (about strategies to lessen the chatter), and one girl suggested that they needed a period for talking during the day. I had a response for that, but we eventually agreed that if they are good listeners through the entire period, I will give the last few minutes (3 or so) to talk with their friends before the bell rings. This is a waste of my class time, but if it actually works, I will end up wasting much less than I am now while waiting for everyone to quiet down between every single question or comment I make.
What strategies do you use when you have a class that can’t seem to handle storytelling or discussions?