Encouraging Classroom Language Use - Part 2
Nov 14, 2008 English Language Teaching (ELT) 2930 Views
This article will show how an activity can be modified to encourage the four kinds of classroom language (requests, choices, leadership, and manners and values) described in part 1.
The Basic Activity: Peephole Cards for Vocabulary Review
Stack of large picture cards of vocabulary for review, several A-3-sized, opaque sheets of paper with a hole cut in the middle about half a centimeter to a centimeter square in size (larger hole for younger students). I usually just ran A-3 paper through the copy machine with the cover up (although you will be scolded, like I always was, for doing this).
"What is it?", "It's a ____," "Is it a ____?", "No, it isn't," "Yes, it is."
Students have already been taught the classroom language and are familiar with the non-verbal prompts (gestures, etc.).
Teacher holds up a card with the peephole screen in front of it. "What is it?" she asks mysteriously. Students are perplexed. She moves the card behind the screen so that, through the hole, students can see different parts of the picture. Students yell guesses, teacher replies, until someone gets it right. Teacher demonstrates two more times, using different picture cards, then divides students into pairs and they take turns quizzing each other.
When dividing classes into pairs with different roles, designate one student A and one student B. Explain that all the A's are the quizzers and all the B's the guessers. Call the A's to the front to pick up the cards. As pairs finish, tell the B's to take the peephole screen and choose a new card (as necessary).
Students will not get X unless they request it appropriately (in English, of course). Students must desire X, or they will not be motivated to make the effort of requesting it, and they must have the ability and aids to make that request.
Motivating young children is simple and fun: show them something, make a big deal over it, show them there is enough for everyone, and then blatantly fail to give them any. With some classes, lording it over them, and then crying and feigning agony when you are "forced" to distribute it because they have asked appropriately, is also a great motivator.
A's come to the teacher to get the peephole screens, perhaps carelessly requesting the screen in L1. After fiercely ordering, "Line up," teacher studies the ceiling casually or admires her nails while casually prompting "____, please," with her outstretched hand.
Baffled by what the screens are called, the first A will point to it and ask, "What is it?" (If this question doesn't come, the teacher can remind the student to ask by shrugging her shoulders.) The teacher says, "Black peephole paper" (or whatever). The student says, "Black peephole paper, please," and, after getting the screen, goes to choose a picture card.
This requires students to make choices and requests based on them so shy or reticent students may be unfairly discriminated against. (This can be avoided by letting students take turns choosing first, for example.) It is helpful to demonstrate how to request the choices first, such as by holding up each item and saying what it is before failing to give them away.
The peephole screens can be diversified by having the holes in different shapes, or, rather than being all black, can be of construction paper of different colors. Students then request, "Heart peephole paper, please," or "Blue peephole paper, please." The request can also be simplified if necessary to "Heart paper, please," or just "Heart, please." More peephole screens than pairs can be available, and the quizzers are free to change their screen a limited number of times. Of course, they must first request it: "Change paper, please," for example.
My students were usually in their first or second year of learning English and very young, so I kept the language structure for requests very simple. With students of more experience or older age, I would require longer, more correct requests ("May I have...?" and so on).
Perhaps the more accurate phrase should be "Being in Charge," or "Bossing Your Classmates Around." It's been my experience that nothing excites a child more than power (except, perhaps, causing pain). Minor adjustments to almost any activity can open it up to letting students have more control over certain aspects.
After the second or third time the class has done the activity (and so is comfortable, perhaps even a little bored with it), review the directions up, down, left, right, and stop. Then, as quizzer, communicate that you will not move the hole unless they tell you. (Be sure to clarify whose perspective will be used for left and right.) This makes the activity more fun for both A and B as one gets to choose the card while the other gets to give orders.
Manners and Values
If nothing else, students leave the class knowing "Thank you" and "Please." As much as the subject of the class, teachers embody certain values, and it's always been important to me–especially with the current problems of bullying and classroom collapse–to emphasize respect for each other as well as the teacher and fair play. Students also do better knowing they are in a safe and just environment. (For a discussion of rules and classroom policy, see Effective Classroom Rules).
The first A successfully requests a peephole screen from the teacher and has it in hand, but the teacher does not let go. A tugs and tugs, and is rewarded with a dark look or raised eyebrows from the teacher. A remembers–or is prompted by those behind him–to say, "Thank you!" The teacher says, "You're welcome," and lets go of the peephole screen.
During excited quizzing, A's partner B is unable to guess the picture. A forgets himself and cries out, "Baka! (Stupid!)" The classroom goes silent as the teacher immediately stops all other activity, walks up to A, and says sternly, "We don't say baka in class. No baka. Tell B you're sorry." A tells B, "I'm sorry." B replies, "That's okay." They shake hands. (This may be prompted as necessary).