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  • amyb72
  • Veteran

    • 88

    • August 04, 2014, 09:01:10 am
    • New Zealand
So I have one 2nd grade middle school class that just don't respond to anything. I will do the same activities with other classes of the same grade and they will respond well and love it. But just this one class doesn't like to do anything, they look bored and sit there staring at me with blank faces, some of them don't even give my class a chance and just come in a straight away put their heads on the desk. Today I tried to do a brainstorm warm up activity with them but when I asked for ideas to put on the board together no one responded or said anything, they sat their dead silent. I tried to get the ball rolling by giving them ideas and telling them they can say it in Korean if they don't know the English word and I will translate it for them. Their level of English is not low. I then just moved onto the writing activity and they did this very well, so I knew they had the ideas they just didn't want to speak out in class. I understand if they are shy but this particular class is Speaking class so I need to get them more comfortable and active in speaking. I have tried new games and activities with them in every class and the only thing they respond well to is writing. But writing is boring and it doesn't give them speaking time unless I get them to read it out but of course no one would volunteer and also that's just them reading from a piece of paper which I don't feel is very constructive.
It's hard to do group work with them because they will stop doing the activity and just speak about whatever they want in Korea and it is hard to monitor them as there are 30 students in the class. I ask my co-teacher every time at the end of the class for advice but every time she just says "they are quiet in other class subjects too".
Any suggestions??


  • Dhazaras
  • Veteran

    • 88

    • November 05, 2015, 08:16:05 am
    • jinju
Ahh the terrible twos. I used to have a lot of high-level grade 2 classes that were terrible to teach. Crickets could be heard every class  :rolleyes:

I usually just tried to be overdramatic to get them say anything.

one time I danced beside a student until she started talking.

Another class we were ten minutes in and no one had said a word and I pretended to start dying on the floor....

Need.....english.... please....speak....  :laugh:

Sometimes it would get them a bit more engaged, but granted it's one of the hardest ages to teach, imo. Those hormones.

Some classes are like that unfortunately  :cry: Good luck!


  • kyndo
  • Moderator LVL 1

    • 5119

    • March 03, 2011, 09:45:24 am
    • Gyeongsangbuk-do
Yeah, G2 can be difficult. Here are some things that have worked well for me:

1. At the beginning of class, have 'em all stand up. Toss a ball to individuals and ask 'em a question. If they can answer in less than 5 seconds, they can sit. Lazy students will always want to sit, so will attempt to answer in order to do so.

2. Team rally races. Have 2 rows stand up. Ask a question. S1 answers it and asks the same question to S2, who answers and asks the same question to S3 etc. First team to have everybody answer sits. Winner gets sarcastic applause from rest of class. Loser gets to compete again against the next row.

3. 2 minute video clips: show a video, have students brain storm related words. If they come up with more than X number of words in 2 minutes, they can watch a second video.

4. Themed ppts. Find what your classes like and pander shamelessly to their hobbies. They like One Peice? Cool. One Piece character .gifs all over the .ppt. One Piece stickers from Daiso as rewards. One Peice trailer videos for brain storming etc.

5. Pour in the energy. Like HäagenDhaz mentioned, melodramatics, an utter lack of inhibition, and tons of coffee can lead to awesome classes! And jitters. Oh god, the jitters...

6. Interact with the little blighters outside of class. Bonding with the kiddos over a lunchtime game of b-ball, or letting them play with your make-up can lead to some great bonding opportunities. Kids that like you are gonna want to earn your respect in class. It also means that they'll be more comfortable interacting with you in general, which can help prevent those long awkward silences.

7.  Personalise your lessons! When demonstrating target vocabulary, use a (hapless) student as your unwitting partner in the dialogue. Use their names (read from their uniform lapels moments before the dialogue demonstration). Put words in their mouth (the more semi-ridiculous the better!). Let that student then choose your next victim for your next vocab example. Get them personally involved in your demonstrations, even if they're just sitting there.

8. Realia. Nobody likes sitting around listening to a teacher ramble. Try to use physical props as often as possible. Lesson about sports? have a bunch of balls in plastic bags and have them guess the sport. Lesson on countries? Bring the postcards from your travels. Lesson about money? Bring different currencies! (But not anything you're not willing to lose. Those kids can make money vanish faster than David Copperfield. :cry:)

Best of luck!


  • amyb72
  • Veteran

    • 88

    • August 04, 2014, 09:01:10 am
    • New Zealand
Thank you for the replies!

Yeah, I have done the dramatic thing too haha and it got a few words out of the silence.

I bonded with them a bit on a field trip but I guess this one needs more time as I did just come to the school last month but definitely agree that bonding will help. I will try to find more opportunities for this!


  • Dhazaras
  • Veteran

    • 88

    • November 05, 2015, 08:16:05 am
    • jinju


5. Pour in the energy. Like HäagenDhaz mentioned, melodramatics, an utter lack of inhibition, and tons of coffee can lead to awesome classes! And jitters. Oh god, the jitters...


...now regretting not making this my username in the first place  :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:


For me it's my first grade students.  They respond to nothing.  They parrot everything I say, curse obscenities or go to sleep.  The girls mostly sit quietly without saying a word or too preoccupied with make up and talking about BTS.  No matter how entertaining to fun the lesson is they could care less.  50 percent can't spell or even know the entire alphabet.  I just do the lessons best I can and get through it.  You can't please everyone.


Everybody had a lot of good ideas. Her's my two cents. I had a class like that.  I tried everything.  I eventually realized that my co-teacher had put too much pressure on them to speak so they just kind of shut down.  They would participate much more when she wasn't there.  Tried to work around it best I could.  One thing that at least got them talking was surveys.  They at least talked to each other.  That type of social interaction is really good for the age group and it gets them moving.  Sometimes I had to turn on music and do a musical statues type thing just to get them to move around the room to do surveys. I also tried to distract my co-teacher but only so much I could do there.  The apathy thing here used to drive me nuts but I think it is a reaction to the harsh schooling and system here in general.  I learned to understand that and empathize.  That helped my piece of mind a lot.
I am not a number. I am a free man.


  • debbiem89
  • Expert Waygook

    • 507

    • August 30, 2016, 09:42:49 am
    • South Korea
Cracking that shyness is SO hard.

I also did the mock PLEASE HELP ME OUT HERE thing (but for real it wasn't a joke haha)

I praised them so much when they spoke and was never critical of mistakes.

Team games helped somewhat as they weren't put on the spot.

I didn't ask too much of them in terms of being creative with answers.

If they insisted on sleeping or not paying attention I ended up just letting them if they weren't being disruptive. Scolding them and pleading with them to pay attention just made me lose the rest of the class.

Eventually they started giving back to me a little more every time. Some classes never did though and those I just press on with....


  • creview
  • Explorer

    • 7

    • February 15, 2016, 03:54:57 pm
Sounds like my third grade class. Last week all but 3 students went to sleep. When my co-t and I tried to wake them, they got angry. We don't have much power to control them either because our school is already so small that it's in danger of closing so the principal does everything in his might to please (and keep) the students. Plus they got a major case of senioritis. I tried having them play games and incorporating their interests into the lessons. I tried being strict with them. I tried showing them funny videos related to English as a warm-up. They're just not motivated at all. I work in an extremely rural area and they think they don't need to learn English. They're probably not wrong either. Just keep trying new things. Some days they'll be active and then other days, with the same activities, they'll be zombies.


  • yirj17
  • The Legend

    • 2782

    • September 16, 2015, 02:23:16 am
    • Korealand
I've got a zombie class too.  Everyone has already mentioned good advice so all I'll say is try your best to build up a rapport (some of my students have told me they don't like English but they like me, so that's something at least).  Be friendly and interactive with them both in and out of class.  Your class is a lot bigger than mine, but if you can try to find out some of their interests (try some surveys?) and incorporate those into class, it might help. 

Also, some kids can be pretty shy, it might take some a few months or even longer to warm up to you. 

And in the end, realize that sometimes you can give it your all but that you can't control how others respond.  Do your best but don't take it personally if they don't participate or misbehave.  Every day is a fresh start. 


  • fishead
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1138

    • April 23, 2010, 07:58:05 am
    • Yangju Korea

Look up the book " Tell me More" by Andrew Finch. This book is geared towards passive Korean public school learners and is designed to make them more active. It is also designed for student centered activities.

Bear in mind. Some of these activities such as Peer Dictation can get pretty noisy. You will need a Korean co-teacher in the room to keep to students in line. One that is actually helping and not playing with his /her phone. You should also  make sure that any behavoural problems are sorted out before using this material. Lots of these activities require students to get out of their seats to do the activities. So if you have some troublemakers in some classes have the Korean teacher read them the riot act.

I've used this material in class it is good it fosters autonomous learning. I'll admit when I first saw this material I though there is no way this would work in a Korean public school. Give it a chance ease your way into it.




  • fishead
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1138

    • April 23, 2010, 07:58:05 am
    • Yangju Korea
    Tell Me More
   Andrew Finch

   http://iteslj.org/t/tmm/


  • jenncette
  • Waygookin

    • 17

    • February 29, 2016, 01:08:53 pm
    • Busan
Do you have a reward system in place? It sounds juvenile but all grades of my middle schools like it (I teach in a co-ed and all-boys middle school). I gave them a sticker sheet at the beginning of the year and I give them stickers every time they answer a question, win a game, volunteer to help with an example, or say a dialogue. They also get a sticker for being on time with their textbooks, a file, and a pencil case. When they get 10/20/40/50 stickers they get a candy, 30/60 = chocopie.

Usually each student gets about 30 stickers a semester. I've caught students at my all-boys school trading a single sticker for 500won :rolleyes: while not great it shows that they're into it! Even my 6ft tall burly 3rd graders ask me for specific stickers (the king! I am king!).

Routine is helpful as well. Every single class I make them practice the three simple dialogues in the textbook with a partner for 1 minute (timers they can see are great). Before 1 minute is up, they have their hands in the air to say the dialogue for a sticker.   

Also, even though my students LOVE being loud and crazy, they wouldn't brainstorm for me. Asking for participation is challenging. Demanding participation is key. If I really wanted them to brainstorm I'd put them in groups of four, put a 2 minute timer on the board, and say something like, 'any group that has 10 ideas in 2 minutes can have a sticker'.



    Tell Me More
   Andrew Finch

   http://iteslj.org/t/tmm/

Thanks a lot! That book looks excellent!
I am not a number. I am a free man.


  • fishead
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1138

    • April 23, 2010, 07:58:05 am
    • Yangju Korea
    Tell Me More
   Andrew Finch

   http://iteslj.org/t/tmm/

Thanks a lot! That book looks excellent!

It is great. I've used it in a variety of locations and at various different levels. The guy who wrote it actually had a talk at a GEPIK workshop. He also teaches at a high level University. He is well known to most if not all Korean English teachers. It's something they can't just brush off like they do 90 % of the stuff we bring to the table unless they are really out of the loop.