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  • zenbone
  • Adventurer

    • 68

    • January 04, 2011, 01:39:02 am
    • Clearwater, FL
Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« on: March 29, 2011, 09:02:04 am »
So i teach at a "challenging" middle school. I teach first and third middle... the first grade is simple, Listen and speak section then activity or game. They participate and enjoy the activities. They are mostly pretty fun classes.
  The problem is with the third grade, they are too cool and emo for activites. Problem is the book is pretty rough so i am kinda stuck. The classes are boring becuase at this point i am only using the book but if i try to do anything else to add some fun it is received luke warmly or fails. What the hell do i do? I am kinda at a loss. i don't think all the kids dislike the activites but enough that i see them as a failure. any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated


  • Aadi
  • Veteran

    • 78

    • September 10, 2010, 02:27:20 pm
    • Seoul
Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2011, 10:12:43 am »
Same deal for me.  My first graders are easy to manage, like to participate, want to please me, will do anything I tell them to, etc.  My third graders require constant supervision, won't participate if they can possibly avoid it, generally don't seem to care what I think of them, and follow my directions reluctantly, if at all.

I'll tell you what I do with the third graders.  First, discipline is a must.  I have established rules and a point reward system.  I reward participation, cleverness, anything positive.  I crack the whip every time students test the rules.  (Their big problem is talking when I'm talking.) 

With the students more or less cowed I can worry about what to do with them.  For each textbook unit I do one lesson on the speaking/conversation material with cloze worksheets (insisted on by my co-t) and one lesson of game-type activity stuff to compel speaking practice.  I need the game-type, whole-class activity time because my students will not do any pair or group work.  I must direct all activities or they inevitably degenerate into off-topic babbling in Korean. 

Enthusiasm for the whole-class activities I use (typically PPT games) is low.  I try to make up for this and encourage participation by going well over the top with my own enthusiasm.  Wackiness seems to appeal to my third grade:  I do weird stretches while lecturing; when no one will speak I stalk the room saying "Random student, random student, how about.... YOU!" and lunge at someone who isn't looking; I make ridiculous eyebrow gestures (my students are amazed by eyebrow control); I overact dialogs; I do female voices in absurd falsetto; I imitate the bass voice on my textbook's CD and claim to be him or say he should be fired and replaced by yours truly; I make a huge deal out of every whispered contribution students make, screaming "YESSSSSSS!!!" like it's the most amazing thing ever and charging down the aisle to give out a high five; I tell jokes pitched at my co-teacher; I fill lulls in my talking time (e.g. worksheet distribution) with impromptu speeches on random subjects, e.g. hemp paper vs. wood pulp paper or the fine human qualities of and valuable contributions made by my school's copy guy, or improvised songs I know my students don't understand but some seem to enjoy anyway; etc., etc.  I just throw out any goofy nonsense I can come up with.

These performances are absolutely painful because most of my third grade students sit there like statues and getting them to participate is like pulling teeth even after they've known me 6 months.  But a minority are visibly having a good time and some students have come to me after a class to tell me they enjoyed it.  If nothing else, I at least have made the best of a bad situation.


Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2011, 11:18:32 am »
If you structure your class to fill your 45 minutes exactly, I think they'll be pretty good at getting things done.

I do a lot of songs with my kids. Give them a lyrics worksheet where they have to listen to the song and fill in the blanks. I've found that the Beatles have songs with really easy lyrics and I've used them to cover several lessons.

My co-teacher just tried a fun activity too. She typed up a few sentences in big font, printed it, and laminated it. She randomly distributed a word to each student. She would say 1 sentence, and students who hold cards with those words had to get up quickly and arrange themselves.


  • mariag
  • Adventurer

    • 27

    • October 05, 2009, 08:08:10 am
    • Seoul, Korea
Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2011, 11:44:15 am »
I have the same problem. I teach first grade and third grade in a low-level school. My first grade classes are definitely better but also painful. They are like babies and sometimes I feel like I'm in an elementary school with them. However, they are a lot more enthusiastic than my third graders.
My third graders just don't care. I try to make things as interesting as possible by using entertaining pictures etc. or trying to do some kind of interesting activity at the end of the class. I have to use the book a lot though and they have no interest in it whatsoever. I'm not capable of the theatrics that Aadi advised (although they all sound great); I find it very hard to be enthusiastic if the students are not. I agree with Aadi on the strictness point. I try to be as strict as possible but often it depends on the co-teachers. Try your best; a lot of this is trial and error . Also, middle school students are notoriously difficult. I don't beat myself up about it these days but I did at the start. It's also difficult to work with the books and make the material interesting, especially for low level students. Aadi, I'd be interested to know what ppts you find best? Any kind of bomb game goes down a treat with me. Bingo is always a big winner as are any kind of word games.


Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2011, 11:55:16 am »
Why don't you try word/sentence scramble with the whiteboards and give rewards. They might like a fun game that seems sorta serious


  • odie
  • Veteran

    • 99

    • December 20, 2010, 09:15:10 am
    • Seoul
Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2011, 12:01:28 pm »
I was in that situation last year. My formula was focus and game:

Since they were low level, I worked with that. One topic/grammar point per class, one game. Keep it simple and drill the hell out of it.

The game should be competitive. Each team (led by a captain) must compete and each student must speak. Reward to follow the game.

They paid attention because they knew what was coming, game, which I rewarded with candy or leaving first or whatever the order of the day was. I separated my classes into teams for the whole year and picked rough soccer players for captains.They're used to getting people motivated and they're competitive.  (One I even nicknamed Napoleon. You can guess what a short, little ray of sunshine he was) Each student had to talk (I did a lot of BAAM, team bingo, jeopardy with dice, Scrabble, etc.) and the top team got a reward.

I also had a big reward for the end of the year with snacks and movies which I dangled over their heads class after class (showing previews of what they could be watching/eating if they were the top class).

It wasn't magical or anything but participation did grow significantly after I started doing it this way. Oh, and some classes lined up outside the class in a neat line before I let them in. Calms them down and keeps them "in line". I hope this helps!
Seoul.AngloINFO.com

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.


  • mariag
  • Adventurer

    • 27

    • October 05, 2009, 08:08:10 am
    • Seoul, Korea
Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2011, 12:10:55 pm »
I also forgot to mention that bringing a bit of drama into the class can be a lot of fun. Even if you just use a dialogue from the book. Show the students what you want by acting it out yourself and exaggerating a lot. Then have two students come to the front and act it out. Some will do a really great job and have the whole class laughing. It lightens things up even for a few minutes.


  • Aadi
  • Veteran

    • 78

    • September 10, 2010, 02:27:20 pm
    • Seoul
Re: Activity or no activity... THAT is the question.
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2011, 02:19:50 pm »
Aadi, I'd be interested to know what ppts you find best? Any kind of bomb game goes down a treat with me. Bingo is always a big winner as are any kind of word games.

I use Rufus' bomb game and lucky wheel templates a lot (thanks Rufus); my students get into the suspense brought on by the randomness.  Whenever I try games that reward skill alone there's always one team with the one high-level person in the class that dominates and demotivates the others.  So I favor games with unpredictable rewards and punishments.  I always give a slide's reward/punishment after compelling a team to give some answer--even a bad one--so the game's really about luck, not skill.  The bomb game's particularly good because of the way it builds a pile of points, shifts between teams and occasionally annihilates it.  I also play up the drama during games:

Me:  I bet that's going to be worth a lot of points.
Random student:  -50!
Me:  No, like a million points!  Lots of points, lots of points, lots of points....
Lucky Wheel:  -50
Students:  [laughter]
Me:  Noooooooo!  Why!!!!  The Wheel is merciless!  I can't control it.  It just spins around!! 

I haven't done much with bingo games because I hate sheet management.  PPT games are also great because they let me show funny pictures.  I use (textless) lolcats or funny primates whenever possible.