Pages of the Oasis

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Teaching in Saudi Arabia Survey Findings Part Three: Activities that work well to keep students on task

Activities that have worked well to keep students on task

We receive a wide variety of responses and specific activity ideas in response to the question “Describe a time when students were not paying attention and how you got them back on task.’’ Changing the lesson plan on the fly to take the students mood into account, using interactive activities, and getting the students up moving were common suggestions.

Below are a collection of quotes detailing activities and responses to the class that worked for these respondents:

Specific activity suggestions:

“If the students are not paying attention then you need to change the flow of the lesson. An active game using the board works well.’’

“As a PM teacher, tackling the lethargy among the students was one of the greatest challenges I experienced. Whenever I felt their attention drifting as a whole, I would request the students to stand, form a circle, and follow a few simple calisthenics/poses/stretches that I would demonstrate. The students were at first very reluctant to participate, but for the most part, grew comfortable with the physical activity. This frequently not only helped me to regain their attention, but also helped students learn or review physical instructions and vocabulary concerning the body and directions.’’

“Choral response, perseverence.’’

“One day a few girls were feeling tired and had their heads on the table and didn't want to really participate. I had a review quiz planned for this lesson and had the girls divided into teams. The quiz had a total of 40 questions with one point awarded for each correct answer so a straight forward quiz where the team with the most points wins. The majority of the girls got very excited and wanted their team to win so I decided to deduct one point per round for any 'sleepers' on the team. This worked very well, with the more exuberant students, ensuring their sleepy teammates' participation to ensure their team would not be penalized. In my experience, Saudi students thrive during team tasks.’’

“I walked over and switched off the light switch several times. The class quieted down almost immediately and I grabbed my moment and told them how much I appreciated them quieting down and expressed how beautiful the silence was. I then continued on with the lesson.’’

“Using the interactive smartboard.’’

“The students were texting, so I made three or four of them the 'online-dictionary-translation-go to-guy'. I put them in the game in that at anytime they had to be ready to translate, using their smart phones, to translate into Arabic any word that wrote on the board. I further put the iPhones against the Blackberrys for a little competitive edge.”

“I have often tried - and failed - to 'just do this one last task' - towards the end of the lesson - because - a) I've planned it, and I like to achieve my goals on my 'plans' b) I can be too ambitious in what I hope to achieve with my students! I've learned....... that you can't always win all the battles all the time ... bear in mind how much you have asked of them already, bear in mind how tired they are, how late in the day it might be, and how late in the semester! Good advice would be to slowly wind down activities towards the end of the lesson - keep tasks light and fun and open to change...............even a general 'open forum' - try not to be too ambitious!’’

“Remove trouble makers to different parts of the room.Give troublemakers a task to fulfill (a responsibility)’’

 “Completely reshuffle the class around (they actually hate this, but it does help stop them from talking). Speak to the individual troublemakers outside of class explaining the importance that they not disturb the rest of the class. The girls like to hear how good they are at something, so approach them with the incentive that they "could be so much better" than they are...if they pay attention. Like the sandwich marking theory, apply this to your reprimand to. Compliment - reprimand - compliment.’’

“When I was teaching most grammar lessons from the book, the students' eyes would glaze over. So I liked to use examples of mis-communication (calling on one student and giving her a broken sentence and waiting for her to say 'what, teacher?'. I would then ask her why she didn't understand me. Then they would listen. I had to constantly remind them they were learning to communicate with native speakers and people just like themselves. This put it into context for them.’’

“Students well below standard and with little aptitude for learning in general. They played constantly on their telephones; they talked in Arabic throughout the class; they didn't bring their books to class. Some even forgot to bring a pencil with them. Others stared out the window in a daze. There were about 5 students who actually tried, though their ability to concentrate was also lacking. This was the same story everyday in the classroom. I ended up physically separating the class and taught just a few students (the ones who wanted to learn). The rest could do what they wanted, which they did. What did I learn? That the syllabus is not suitable for students with a poor ability to learn or low language aptitudes. The student numbers (26) especially of such low level students are too high.’’

“The students didn't want to do anything so I changed from the writing plan to lots of short quizzes based on language points, word games, team games etc. This way they were still learning and revising even though the lesson plan had gone out of the window. Book: 5 Minute activities by Penny Ur = very useful tool for moments like this! I try to have a selection of games/ language activities and worksheets 'up my sleeve' for occasions like this so that time is not wasted.’’

“Task was too difficult e,g listening exercise was too long & for level 2 students most of it would just be 'noise'. Shortened task & gave students key words to listen for.’’

“The directions were complicated and only a few students were game to play. Even with several demonstrations with and by their classmates the majority of the class was bust. I reverted to having them elicit and write sentences on the board. I never gave games with complicated directions after that.’’

“The lesson I learnt was don't make the exercises long, students get bored if there is no kinesthetic activity in class. I like to force them to get up and move around if they are showing signs of deterioration!!’’

“I mainly like to encourage active and cooperative learning. For example in reading/analyzing a text. I would get students to read authentic articles from online news sites (Saudi Gazette, Arab News) as well as other international non-news sites, and they would read a paragraph each from the article to their group. The rest of the group would try to guess what the article topic is by using question words. Then they would summarize the article and present it to the class in their own words. This works well if you do it as a test and reward activity.’’

“Using visual stimulus worked very well for both sections I taught. They could write many things when given a beautiful and interesting picture sans people, of course.’’

“One task I did to teach the importance of cohesion was the one where you write the beginning of a story on a piece of paper, then you fold it over and pass to the next person. That worked extremely well and got quite a lot of laughs. Saudi students certainly like a laugh but that doesn't mean they want you as the teacher to act the clown, but I like to find tasks that will lead to humorous situations.’’

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