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Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« on: April 15, 2014, 08:12:00 pm »
   First, I'd like to mention that I've been teaching ESL in both Korea and the States for about 5 years, and I've done all the tricks in the book: hangman, bomb games, 2 truths and 1 lie, minimal pairs pronunciation mazes, role-plays, interview worksheets, card games, games with dice, charades, noon-chi game--the list goes on and on...  I've taught a wide range of  students from little 5-year-old booger-eaters all the way to pruney old ladies.  I've recently returned to Korea to teach again, and was placed in a middle school (again).  But something just isn't clicking at this school for some reason; it's like the kids are either zombies who just stare into space while I'm teaching, or rude 90-pound punks who think they're tough guys--adorable.  I have to teach the speaking section out of the textbooks, which are extremely sparse dialogues I might add, like two or three lines.  I try to spice things up, but I just get...nothing.  Anyone here work at a school like that who might have some words of wisdom?  I've just recently found this site and am digging all the ideas floating around.   I've used quite a bit of them (I'll post some of my own lessons and ideas, too.) but most of it just flops.
I'm not sure if I got placed in a crappy school, or if I've just lost my touch :sad:


Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2014, 07:32:37 am »
Also, it depends on how you act when you get the new 1st graders.

I have my 1st graders (and my previous 1st graders who are now in 2nd grade) trained to read questions as a class and such.

It's about both parties understanding expectations and upholding them.


  • Gekokujou
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2014, 07:35:18 am »
Exactly as Denevius said. As for me, I only focus my attention on those that want to learn and tell everyone else to shut up (in a proper way befitting a teacher of course) or be punished.


  • gagevt
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2014, 07:51:45 am »
Hmmm maybe my students just like me more than all of your students like you.. or something... I always have a decent about of students participating in all 3 grades at my middle school. We laugh, joke, and learn. Yeah I get plenty of sleepers and talkers from time to time, but my co-teachers and I know how to handle them and it's never a large problem (although it can be annoying at times).

I mostly work from the book. 2 weeks per lesson. First week is speaking where there's a lot of reciting from the book. And I get to go to each table, listen and correct students, as well as just interact with them. It's nice. Then second week is listening/review game. It's a little different for my first and second graders, because of a different book, but same basic principle.
"The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword."


Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2014, 08:27:04 am »
If anyone seriously expects your average middle schooler to be worked hard then forget it. Treat them like adults and make them work? Sorry, but that's ridiculous. I was at an extrememly low-level boys Middle School for 2 years without any active help from a KT and it requires chaos, funny pics/gifs and a dark sense of humour. Use humour in every PPT slide (especially the kind of humour where people are getting hurt)

What really helped was becoming good friends with the 'boss' kids in the classroom. There are always those big kids that keep others in line and it helps to have a bit of friendly banter with them (especially if you have a similar interest such as football) Find out what they're interested in and incorporate it as much as possible.

It helps a lot more to be a drill sergeant. If they see you as an easy ride then they'll lay back and not care.
I'm lovely.


Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2014, 09:40:43 am »
It can be the luck of the draw sometimes. They vast majority of my classes in middle school have been pleasant, but I've had a couple of classes where I wondered what in the world I was doing there. Maybe you were really unlucky and just landed up in an area where the parents don't really care about their kids.

My philosophy when it comes to discipline is to be strict from the very start and punish students on the very first day if you have to. I gave detention to several kids on the very first day of class, because I gave them the rules, and they violated them right away. Do everything, including your discipline, with kindness. This has been very effective in general, but there is that small percentage of kids who don't care and will attempt to get under your skin.

Also, survey the kids. Ask what they like, and tell them that you'll include stuff they're into in your lesson plans. As somebody else mentioned, befriend the heckler or boss in the class. You can discipline them, but be kind to them and tell them they are cool, and rub their egos a bit. They might not participate in class, but at the very least, they won't give you a hard time and will help you with classroom management. 




Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2014, 11:13:05 am »

What really helped was becoming good friends with the 'boss' kids in the classroom. There are always those big kids that keep others in line and it helps to have a bit of friendly banter with them (especially if you have a similar interest such as football) Find out what they're interested in and incorporate it as much as possible.


Definitely this. Learn the names of these students and become friends with them. If they like you they'll often shut up the class for you.


  • minamteacher
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2014, 12:05:32 pm »
What really helped was becoming good friends with the 'boss' kids in the classroom. There are always those big kids that keep others in line and it helps to have a bit of friendly banter with them (especially if you have a similar interest such as football) Find out what they're interested in and incorporate it as much as possible.

THIS! Identify who are the lead characters in your class. If you get them on your side then you are on your way. Also, gif's and funny pictures all the time to lighten the mood.


  • Msylissy22
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    • April 29, 2013, 07:27:57 pm
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2014, 08:14:39 am »
I have to disagree with a lot of these methods. My middle school students, besides my grade 1's have been nothing but awful this past year of my contract (ending next Friday). They didn't want to do anything- even the "fun" games that I would bring to class after caving when the book stuff didn't work. Most of my classes would fall on deaf ears and students would just completely ignore me or sleep, do makeup, etc. Listening to songs was pointless as their listening was elementary level at best. I tried videos "what did you see- write ANYTHING, colors, shapes, actions (even one word answers!)"

I had "good" students in very few of my classes (mind you up until 6 weeks ago I had 40 kids a class, 30 classes, and saw them 2x a month) and even then they wouldn't be the ring leaders in getting the other kids to quiet down and listen.

My 6 CTs were no help at all. Sometimes they would wake up the kids that were sleeping on my papers or through my class, but it was extremely hard to discipline as most students couldn't say past "hello" or understand past that as well. And I'm pretty sure my CTs didn't translate half of what I said to begin with properly.

The silver lining? Even my CTs have had much of the same problem even when I'm not in the classroom so I came to understand it wasn't me. I'm at the 3rd lowest MS in my province- which is pretty bad as we're at 3 million population- so I had that against me as well.

I think what this country really needs is a better system to light the fire under the students butts. In America, we didn't get candy for participating (which is what I had to do to even feel like I was getting anywhere with these students). We got participation points that went towards our overall grade. Grades and the fear of failing is what kept us motivated to achieve something better than a D average. If we were out of line we'd go to the principal or vice principal and if it was continuous they would have detention, suspension or even expulsion (for very serious cases).

I leave you OP with the best advice that people gave me, though it was advice that left me feeling defeated and with an overall bad experience in what I was hoping would be an awesome year that could lead into another year or even a career in ESL: when you stop caring and just do the "fun" activities with the kids and learn how to laugh with them then it will get you through your contract. Even a CT told me I wasn't here to be a teacher, but to just play games and try to get them to use what little English they knew. So if it's games they want, games they got.

Best of luck!


  • Aqvm
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2014, 12:10:10 pm »
One thing I have noticed is that classes that I like, like me back. If you genuinely enjoy having a class, it just gets better and better and everything works.

It's definitely hard to enjoy class with some groups though, I know for sure. I've got some first year high school kids who just seem to hate the world so much. I think they're still getting used to the beat down of the high school lifestyle but they just seem so wretched. They hate everything. They complain about everything. They're rude to each other and sometimes to me. They do nothing. They don't just look sleepy, they look like wounded animals who are going to wildly attack at any moment.

The thing is, I had a similar impression of last year's first years in high school. I remember them being lazy and grumpy and lame for the first semester. These days, they're my favorite group, and I really look forward to seeing them every time. I'm trying all of the stuff that I always wanted to as a teacher, and they're keeping up no problem. I'm hoping that this kind of turnaround will happen again, but who knows.


Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2014, 12:23:11 am »
There's really no point in me being at this school...

Thats why middle school and high school positions were gutted in most areas.  There wasn't any point in ANYONE being at those schools.  So don't beat yourself up over a lost cause.  Don't listen to people telling you you're going about this with the wrong attitude because they're the ones constantly telling themselves their jobs have meaning when in reality they don't. 

You're doing all you can and honestly if I were you I'd just stop giving a damn.  You know you can't do anything more than what you're doing now so why bother?  Any more wasted efforts will just result in you getting your pride hurt - and for what?  To try and reach out to kids who don't care?  Just let it go (as that train-wreck of a song would suggest).


Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2014, 03:20:18 pm »
I am in the same boat. My school is known as the "bad kids" school :evil:

Your 1st graders are going to be your best bet. They don't really know any better just yet and are going to be great examples for the new 1st graders when they become 2nd graders.

3rd graders: only want to play games
2nd graders: most kids are great only a small portion need extra attention
1st graders: are still angels but that is fading fast

I have been making a better effort this semester to play with my kids during their PE class. Now all my 2nd graders want to play baseball. This has helped so much in my classroom.


Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2014, 12:16:14 pm »
First thing, learn the kids names, it will make a massive difference. Install a points system with reward/punishment. Try to make some initial fun punishments singing/dancing/role plays. Have fun in the class regardless of the kids attitude, don't have any expectations towards the students.


  • fishead
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2014, 12:24:11 pm »
First thing, learn the kids names, it will make a massive difference. Install a points system with reward/punishment. Try to make some initial fun punishments singing/dancing/role plays. Have fun in the class regardless of the kids attitude, don't have any expectations towards the students.

 More realistically learn to read Hanguel. it's pretty easy. Get a copy of the seating plan. All co-teachers have them and use them. If they can't or won't give you a copy of the seating plan there is also the chusok book. Yes it sounds like that holiday. It's basically the attendance book. Once you can call on students to answer questions and perform dialogues you will have much better control of the class.


  • doinmahbest
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Re: Middle School Students Don't Like Anything
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2014, 02:00:20 pm »
Sounds like you need to do some relationship building with the students. Since you've moved around a lot, you've probably noticed different types of students take different amounts of time to adjust to you being their teacher. A lot of times, if the "cool" student likes you in the class, the rest of the class will follow their lead. Sounds like nobody is enjoying your classes (whether or not it's your fault). You have to find some way to motivate them that's either reward oriented or relationship oriented.

Since I don't like buying tons of crap like candy for my students, when I get a new class I zero in on the "cool" students in the class. I get to know them first since they hold the most influence. Find out what they like and what they hate and cater my lessons that way as much as I can. After that, I focus on building relationships with the smaller personalities in the room.
Your only consistency should be unpredictability.