Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, July 01, 2005

Continued Frustrations With Group Work

by AJ

Today I used "speed dating" with my Freshman classes and it went very very well. But when I put them in groups for discussion, some of them did not use English (unlike my Thursday classes, which are higher level and used English exclusively once we had done speed dating).

I find this situation very frustrating. I hoped to group students according to their self-chosen interests. I hoped they would bring in articles about their interests and discuss them in English. Some do. But some just chat and gossip in Thai.

Im not a speaking nazi. I dont believe in pressuring students too much about speaking. The problem is, if I use groupwork activities and they speak Thai... they are also getting no listening practice and no reading practice. In other words... absolutely no comprehensible input. From an English language acquisition standpoint, its a complete and total waste of time.

So while I love the idea of students choosing their own topics and guiding their learning... the way Im doing it now, by using group work, does not seem to be working (especially not with my Freshman and Russian majors classes).

So its time to change. I plan to phase out these groups and phase in movies (using the focal skills movie technique).

Another problem Ive had... again, mainly with the Russian and Freshman classes, is with free reading. My Tuesday and Thursday classes (older students) are very good about reading quietly from their books. But the younger students tend to sit and chat to each other in Thai. Again, a total waste of time. Im going to give them a warning about this next week. If it continues, I will end free reading with these classes.

In general, the younger students just dont seem to take as much initiative. The older students seem comfortable with directing their own learning. They bring articles, they discuss issues in their groups (in English), they read their books at the end of class.

But I think the younger students need more leadership and direction from me. These are not American/European students who are used to being pushed to be independent. I think they see my attempts as a sign of slackness or laziness rather than as an attempt to involve them more.

There's no use whining about this. Its the way it is. My task is to help them acquire English as best I can. With the older students, independent study works well. But it seems I need to take more control with the younger ones.