ESL Journal: Greet your teacher, and careful of preposition movements

I love walking into a class, saying hello to a group of teenagers, and only one responding.  At least one lad did the other Monday, and his reward for communicating with his teacher was no homework, which the other found ‘unfair.’

greeting students

Should I make my students greet me like this? Photo by alykat

You’d have thought they’d have started saying hello to me in next class; no chance, just the same lad. It’s only me and him who greet each other now. It’s become a running joke, but one day I’ll send them all outside and make them do a Thai Wai, to greet me as they come in the class, which I did a few years back to another group of teenagers, and they hated it. They said hello afterwards.

Giving students time to prepare speaking answers

To be fair they did have one of their best speaking classes later though. This is my least talkative class this year. I’ve struggled with them from day one re speaking. At times I think I might have gone too far and actually scared them into not speaking by going on about it so much. Maybe they just haven’t got all that much to say. Now I’ve backed off a bit they have opened up and are speaking more.

Anyway, I noticed a real improvement in their speaking when I decided to give them five minutes to prepare their answers to some personal questions in the course book. I don’t normally do this as I prefer to let them do it spontaneously, more natural, like they would if they ever went abroad. But giving them a few minutes to have a think about their answers really gave them confidence to be more creative. I was impressed as they began to laugh, smile as they spoke, mainly in English, and seemed to be enjoying it more. When I asked why they spoke so much better they said they had more time to get the vocab ready, and also felt more confident. I’ve tried it with a few other classes, and it definitely helps to gets over awkward silences and cuts down on L1; something we all battle with. 

Won't be demonstrating prepositions like that again. Photo by contibul

Won’t be demonstrating prepositions like that again.
Photo by contibul

Be careful of prepositions

I don’t think I’ll be demonstrating the prepositions: into, through, out of, and towards, with my pen and a circle made by my index finger and thumb anymore. In hindsight it wasn’t the best way to shows these prepositions and the giggling lads showed me they’d cottoned on as well as I had. I would have normally got them to demonstrate with their pens and rings made from their fingers, but that would have been a disaster.

Playback while the song is on

The other day in a young learner’s class I randomly started doing playback while they were listening to one of the songs in the book. They thought it was funny, so I built on it. After we’d sung a bit of the chorus a few times and got people up dancing, I started doing playback with words from the song, basically mouthing the words, and the students had to put up their hand and tell me the word. They loved it, then I got them to do the same in pairs.

I took it one step further by doing playback with lines in the song, and they had to show me with their fingers (to keep them quiet), which line of the song I was doing playback to. They loved doing that in pairs as well. Something for future classes.

Random music in class

I’ve also started playing random songs in class. Especially when I’m doing phonetic activities. Now and then when a student asks me the meaning, or pronunciation of a word and it reminds me of a song, so I just put on the song. The other day I played Physical, by Olivia Newton John, and the little blighters were pronouncing the famous ‘kal’ at the end perfectly, with a schwa and everything.

Last week I played Summer Holiday when someone asked the meaning of vacaciones de verano, Generation by The Who, and today I even put on a bit of ACDC when my student said his Dad was going to a concert here in Sevilla.

Anything to help them with their memory works well I guess.

New way of choosing who answers a question in class

Instead of the usual spinning my pen on the floor, or using a shot glass spinner that I have, I pointed my pen in the direction of the students and asked them to say stop on who had to answer the question. They got a kick out of setting their mates up too.

Funniest quote

“I not scared of tsunami because I can stop, but a tornado I is scared because no can stop”

Most innocent question

“Teacher how do you say Coca Cola in English?”

“It’s an English word.”


Funniest story by a student

“Teacher one year my uncle he went to London. He is cateto (a towny) and no speak English. Everyone was say ‘sorry’ all the time. They say ‘sorry’ ‘sorry’ and then my uncle say to his friend “I no know who this Sorry is, but he very popular.”

Best comment by me

Me duele la boca – my mouth hurts,” said student.

“I’m not surprised with the amount of Spanish you sppeak.”

Have you ever tried letting students prepare their answers before a speaking task? How else would you have demonstrated those prepositions?

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