Thursday, April 03, 2014

the low road

Last week, my Thursday beginners weren't as dynamic and responsive as they could have been. They were tired and a bit mutinous—evincing a sullen, somnolent, and even surly collective demeanor that was also reported by several of my colleagues who had been having trouble with their students. It could have been that last week was a bad week all around, or it could have been something else; whatever the cause of the funk and sulkiness, I was determined that it shouldn't happen again.

So this week, I took the low road and elected to bribe my students with candy, banking on Pavlovian stimuli and blood-sugar spikes to provide the energy and focus that I wanted to see. Obviously, if I were planning to candy one class up, I'd have to candy up several, so I ended up playing games in all of my speaking and conversation classes—both the beginners and the intermediates. I bought an enormous W8000 bag of candy from the local grocer, then led my students through rounds of The Two-headed Monster. My Thursday 3PM class, which had been the worst offender last week, also got to do a review exercise disguised as a crossword puzzle. The crossword/Monster double-whammy broke the normal routine for the 3PMers and kept them interested in the proceedings, which was all I wanted. Class ended cheerfully, and with applause, like during the very first week of the semester.

Candy. I can't resort to such puerile tactics every week, of course, but designing lessons that require my Thursday-afternoon kids to be more physically engaged seems to be the way to go: something along the lines of theater and/or Total Physical Response, requiring the students to get up, move about, and do something task-oriented, will more likely hold their attention than more standard, typical approaches to the material. And come to think of it, this change in tactics could be applicable to more than just the sleepier classes.


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