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My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« on: December 27, 2019, 07:51:04 am »
So, I have a problem with one of my schools and I need help with how to remedy the situation... One of my middle schools only has 12 people total. The school is in a rural area, so many students don't have good family situations. The class causing me trouble is my 2nd grade class which only has 3 people total(all girls). All semester it has been hard to teach them because many were absent or they want to use my class to sleep. The coteacher has stopped stepping in, as well... Usually out of 3 students I can get one to participate for the whole lesson, but then it switches the next week. I brought this struggle up with my coteacher and he said that the students are sleeping and not going to school for all of the classes. He also told me that they have older boyfriends... (which may or may not be relevant). I really want to have solutions ready for next year...

So, do you have any suggestions on how to motivate them to participate? Has anyone had a similar experience?

One suggestion I've received is to set up a rewards system that they help to create.
Other suggestions are greatly appreciated!


Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2019, 08:17:25 am »
I am not sure what you're doing now, but, I would say it may be best to not stand up and teach them. Put you and them (3 or whatever) in a small tight circle, and work on things together. Maybe choose a song they would like and go through meanings, and close activities (using a small player right there in the middle of you 4). Maybe do that for part of the class, and try to build and throw in a bit of grammar and sentence building off of those. Review some vocabulary and have them go through it alone in a story format (omitting the vocab words), then go over it together. Maybe a couple of class per week (have them scheduled days) look up K-pop stories in English and make reading comprehension and conversation lessons building from them (this could even last two days depending on how you scaffold them to get to the conversation part). That is what I would do with such a small class of girls. I would build your own lessons from k-pop and entertainment articles, and use the style of breakingenglishnews .com as a guide. Good Luck!


Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2019, 08:37:45 am »
A rewards system that they help create would be good. Also, try as best as you can to find the things they are interested in. I had a similar situation with 10-12 students in the middle school. One of my classes had 3 girls and 2 boys. The boys were loud. The girls seemed to not care....they weren't sleeping but they seemed to not care. One of the girls didn't understand and so she did not participate. I taught those kids for 2 years. The second half of my 2nd year, the girls trusted me more. I also found out the things they liked and used those as examples all the time. I also got to spend more one-on-one time with the lower level girl. After I left, the lower level girl asked for my phone number....it was all about building that relationship. I encouraged their skills and complemented them etc.

Try to get your coteacher involved in complementing them on their English etc.  If there are any other teachers (previous NET, or other teachers at the school) you can talk to about the situation that might give you some hints.

Maybe their level is low and you could discuss with your coteacher about using some easier content or starting back at the appropriate level for their skill. I also agree with sitting down with them to teach....it makes them feel more comfortable.

You cannot help the family situation. Maybe school in general is not interesting or they do not understand...so they just sleep. I have had students come from horrible situations (deaths of parents and sick guardians, very poor etc) but be great students and so happy because of the support from friends and teachers at the school. Don't stress what you cannot do anything about. If they are the same way for all of the other classes, maybe they just need someone to help boost their confidence, motivation, and show them that someone cares? I am not a psychologist, but all teachers have seen the effects of home life in the classroom. You may be nice to them and try to help them, but you are not really in a position to help with their homelife situation.

It's a difficult situation, but don't give up trying to help them not matter how frustrating it is. That is definitely not what they need....teachers who give up....I have seen an entire staff give up on 2 students because they were just going to be athletes......it hurts me to see.


  • Cohort 2019
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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2019, 01:00:52 pm »
Sounds like something else is going on in their lives so I would step back and just let them sleep if they don't want to interact with you. Reading between the lines you seem to already have noticed that their home situation isn't all that conducive to their studies as well.

In a completely different context, such worrying behaviour combined with the social-economic circumstances that you described, would require me to report it within the team and eventually with CPS (child protection services), but their truancy record might have already alerted the police, but that's here in Europe, dunno how these tell-tale signs are picked up on in Korea and whether teachers are subject to disciplinary proceedings if they fail to report these valid concerns you have.

Girls usually internalise abuse and withdraw from people and then often get misdiagnosed as bi-polar or having a depression, but I believe the figure was 70-80% are the direct result of some form of abuse. In a Korean context it could also just be 1 girl imposing such behaviour or conformity/dependency onto the others. I do not know much about rural Korea, but as a rule of thumb you could state that rural communities are places where abuse could easily become endemic.

Quote
but then it switches the next week

This is what had me worried most about your case description.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2019, 01:04:02 pm by Cohort 2019 »
incumbo studiis


  • NorthStar
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2019, 10:39:26 am »
There is no sense in pandering to them.  If they don't want to participate, with the K co-teacher not doing anything to help....why stress over it? 

Keep giving them the option to participate, be nice, say hello and try to initiate something...but, don't pander.  If the invite to learn is turned down, go to your desk and do your own thing (but whilst doing so, make enthusiastic comments about what you are doing/reading/watching and point out that it is too bad they are so tired to participate).


  • pkjh
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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2019, 05:00:10 pm »
I do not know much about rural Korea, but as a rule of thumb you could state that rural communities are places where abuse could easily become endemic.
Korean rural communities, like schools in towns/villages with only a few thousand people and outside of the main town center, are largely a dumping ground for unwanted children. And the reasons are often pretty lame like divorce, or the child being mentally challenged. Essentially it's where lousy parents hide their embarrassing kids. Often the kids are living with their grandparents, or aunts, or uncles or older cousins. Or schools in the main town will 'transfer' their 'troubled' students to these rural schools. However, you'll sometimes see a few kids really excel in English, because there is absolutely no academic pressure/expectations put on them.


  • Piggydee
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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2020, 03:26:43 pm »
I do not know much about rural Korea, but as a rule of thumb you could state that rural communities are places where abuse could easily become endemic.
Korean rural communities, like schools in towns/villages with only a few thousand people and outside of the main town center, are largely a dumping ground for unwanted children. And the reasons are often pretty lame like divorce, or the child being mentally challenged. Essentially it's where lousy parents hide their embarrassing kids. Often the kids are living with their grandparents, or aunts, or uncles or older cousins. Or schools in the main town will 'transfer' their 'troubled' students to these rural schools. However, you'll sometimes see a few kids really excel in English, because there is absolutely no academic pressure/expectations put on them.

^----This comment hits the nail on the head for both of my schools.  I can say that my main school there is a good connection to GET THE KIDS to participate in the lesson not just "oh let him/her be, please continue" attitude I get at my travel school.  However my main school is much smaller so there is personalized focus on those kids that do struggle because of family background, personal troubles, or learning disabilities. 

Despite the fact that I've had my fair share of struggles with my students at my main school, because I have co-teacher and homeroom teacher intervention it really has helped me be able to do my job when I have a student who chooses to cause problems in the class or who just rather clock out mentally and not even pick up their pencil.  When that happens my co-workers swoop in and solve the problem.  Sometimes, the student is removed from my class and given a mini-break from taking my class for about a month or so while they bring a specialist or have the student do something else to supplement my class (like more Korean homework etc.)  then after a while they return to my class refreshed and a more adjusted behavior.  Which has been great for the both of us. 

At my travel school, last year I felt like I was teaching at an alternative school for juvenile delinquents.   We had table legs kicked off, kids who slam the door so hard it punctured a hole in the adjacent wall, ripped up English books, and tables scribbled with permanent sign pens.  We've also had our class usb for our ppt clicker stolen and hidden in the classroom as well has the over all disrespectful behavior or talking while the teacher is talking, throwing things at each other, and generally up walking around during instruction period time to go punch another classmate. 

Pkjh described my situation to a T! It was on par with the course being that it's in a rural location. 

I've also worked in wealthy parts of Seoul (Yongin/Bungdang ) area and yes while the kids there are smart and articulate in English because they are constantly studying all the time, they as have been just as rude as rural kids.  Sure they may not be throwing or stealing things but they also will let you know in prefect English that you aren't as good as the previous English teacher and that you probably aren't even that smart because you didn't go to HAR BARD (Harvard) and you don't know how to spell a scientific word for the arch of the foot (metatarsals; in case you are wondering)  because said student took it upon himself to challenge you to a spelling bee of random words he looked up in a dictionary.   And of course the parents will complain about it too. 

So really OP, try your best.  I know you care.  Most of us do!  We really want to see our student succeed!  But when you create all the games, make a lesson plan where they can translate their favorite kpop songs to English, and you try to find fun and exciting ways to engage the student and IT'S STILL MET with heads on the desk/who cares attitudes well the old saying goes  "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."   It's their education that they are throwing away.   That's life.   
« Last Edit: January 02, 2020, 03:42:34 pm by Piggydee »


Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2020, 03:40:27 pm »
I have a school with about 700 students and the classes are around 30 students each. I am not out in a rural area, but do have some kids in more unfortunate situations. In each class there are at least 2 or 3 students who are super disruptive and rude. Then there are a few more who are not disruptive or rude, but refuse to ever pick up a pencil, even to write down answers to an activity they clearly did not do. Some students come to exam time (midterm and final) write their name and then put their heads down.

I personally feel that cell phones are contributing to this "노잼, teacher game GAME GAMEEEEEEEE that I always hear the students shouting during my class or even during events that are supposed to be fun and stress free...sports day etc. Students do not want to try if it is the least bit difficult and cannot focus for very long. I don't remember where I heard it but, I heard attentions spans are equal to your age...at least for kids....so 5 years old is about 5 or 6 minutes


  • pkjh
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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    • May 02, 2012, 02:59:44 pm
Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2020, 04:08:58 pm »
With larger classes, I don't really care if they don't want to do anything. But if they are disruptive, that's where I draw the line. Usually it's a few in each class. Get rid of the few students that are noisy, and concentrate on the ones that actually want to hear you.

With smaller classes, if all of them are like that. Not sure, haven't really encountered that yet, because in my case there are always someone that wants to learn something. The closest thing was with a group of middle school 3rd graders after they wrote their finals. There were only 3 of them, and I only had like 5 more classes with them. Most of the time they were doing something school related already before I walked into the class, so I let them roll with it, and occasionally someone would try to talk me in English. In one class I took them to a local store to buy them some ice cream bars. Showed a movie only once in those 5 classes.

Anyways, OP if you do figure it out, be sure to post how you did it, so I can put it into my bag of methods to resolve issues.


Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2020, 12:17:50 am »
Sorry OP. It sounds similar to my situation where you are placed in a school that doesn't care. I'm not saying give up but def don't stress about it. Prepare to the best of your ability and go with the flow. Some students won't like anything you do no matter what. I have students that won't even say hello back. Something has caused them to be mad at the world.

The only upside is that the students in these places have zero expectations academically. Are you sure your school even cares about what they do? I ask this because my co-teacher asked me to do the "class" for about 20 min and spend the rest playing games (an actual request from a fully certified professional lol). All the games were a pain to prepare but my class was basically like a semester-long English camp. And by games I really mean games. No correlation to English whatsoever and the co-teacher didn't give af lol. My true purpose was just to keep them busy and doing a "fun" activity created a slightly better mood overall as the semester went by. Way better than struggling for the entire 45 minutes.

So my advice would be to have a chill class and don't worry too much about them learning the book material. Do it for half the lesson and do something else you think they'd find enjoyable. If your school is strict about this then I guess you can try reward systems even though I despise them. Seriously gets on my nerves seeing teenagers having to be given candy to behave as if they were preschoolers.

Good Luck!


  • leaponover
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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2020, 12:54:24 pm »
I am not sure what you're doing now, but, I would say it may be best to not stand up and teach them. Put you and them (3 or whatever) in a small tight circle, and work on things together. Maybe choose a song they would like and go through meanings, and close activities (using a small player right there in the middle of you 4). Maybe do that for part of the class, and try to build and throw in a bit of grammar and sentence building off of those. Review some vocabulary and have them go through it alone in a story format (omitting the vocab words), then go over it together. Maybe a couple of class per week (have them scheduled days) look up K-pop stories in English and make reading comprehension and conversation lessons building from them (this could even last two days depending on how you scaffold them to get to the conversation part). That is what I would do with such a small class of girls. I would build your own lessons from k-pop and entertainment articles, and use the style of breakingenglishnews .com as a guide. Good Luck!

Best answer so far.

Heck, I'd sit down with them with a tablet and start watching YouTube Videos.  Eventually you'll find one where they say "Muay aye yo?" and you can start from there.


  • hangook77
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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2020, 08:37:12 am »
2nd grade middle school pretty typical. 

Also, such a small class hard to build excitement off each other. 



  • L I
  • The Legend

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Re: My small middle school 2nd grade class won't participate
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2020, 09:31:42 am »
Play more games. (Educational games related to the vocabulary being studied.) Small class sizes are good for that.