Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Breakthrough, Of Sorts

I may have mentioned that the sophomores are gone this week on a class trip. In case I haven't, the sophomores are gone this week on a class trip. I have seven sessions with the juniors this week, and will use the same lesson next week, when they will be gone and 10th grade is back.

The lesson sort of plays off the fact that they are traveling, and the fact that naval officer Ben is visiting Korea (look for a post on his visit to Seoul as soon as he emails me some pics). After the warm-up, I read from a section of Dr. Seuss's "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" that I have put on a powerpoint. The first activity is to choose a country to which they'd like to go, and write 3 sentences stating facts they already know about the country. Then they write down three questions of things they'd like to know. I give them about 15 minutes, but most don't manage to finish.

The second activity, now that they're thinking like tourists, is to help me make a list of things for my friend to do while he is in Korea. Each student lists 5 places to go in the format (Name of place) is (type of place) where (why the place is of interest), for example: Namsan Tower is a building in Seoul where you can see a view of the city.

I will then randomly call on students to read one of their sentences aloud. But first I ask for volunteers. And this is where the breakthrough occurred. In the past, they have given me a collective look like I had tentacles coming out of my ears when I do that. Today I had two classes, and actually had two kids in each class volunteer! That's four volunteers!

Koreans are perfectionists, especially as they get to high school age, so it has been like pulling teeth to get them to speak English. I have tried very hard to create a class atmosphere where we do not laugh and make fun of imperfect English, and where we encourage any attempt to speak English. I correct them by restating their sentences, emphasizing the preferred language, like Jeju-do is an island with delicious oranges ...

Six hard weeks later, it may be paying off.


Mr. B said...

Amazing! It can be done!

I have a few middle school "volunteers." You know the type. You ask a question and someone mumbles what has the potential to be a pretty good answer. Then, when you try to find out who said it and what exactly they said, the silent stares of terror.

Or one kid will call out an answer to a completely different question. "What time is it?" Shoe! "No, what TIME is it?" Shoe! "No, what--" Shoe! Shoooooe!

Bless 'em. Little go-getters.

Andrew said...

Nice work, Tuttle. However, I use the exact opposite approach. I create an atmosphere where everyone is having a good time, and that way the kids think speaking English is funny.

I also don't correct their grammar too much. I feel that getting them accustomed to speaking English is more important than getting them to speak well.

Just my way of doing things, but of course my way is right and your way sucks. Hahahaha.

By the way, going out for drinks and food tomorrow, I'll give you a call.

Tuttle said...

I would love to visit your class to see how you do that--the students here do not speak English willingly.

Again, I really don't "correct" as much as restate the sentence modeling proper useage.