Putting on the brakes


Halfway through school today it dawned on me that the kids don’t know how to talk.

What I mean is, they don’t know when the right and wrong time to talk is.  To them, any time they are not studying for a test is the right time to talk.  So I ditched the idea of even attempting to play what’s my line, and decided to talk about appropriate talking instead.

I modeled 40 students.  Then I circled 4 of them talking.  Then I circled  4 more groups of 4 of them talking.  That’s 20 students talking.  1 teacher to talk louder than 20 students. 1 teacher asking the poor nervous Korean student to please repeat, please repeat, please repeat because I couldn’t hear them.  I explained how American students talk in class – but how it is mostly appropriate – that they know WHEN is OK and WHEN is NOT OK.  I modeled whispering to each other.  I modeled writing notes to each other.  I told them both of these were fine, but that talking out loud while someone else is speaking is disrespectful.

They got it.  They nodded.  I mean, they really got it.  And so I played the game.  And as soon as their excitement over playing a game set in, they totally un got it.  At one point team 4 didn’t even know it was their turn because they were talking to each other.  Yes.  I made quite a spectacle out of that.

IF I ever play a game with them again, it is going to be the right time/wrong time to talk game.  Only, I need to invent this game since it doesn’t seem to exist in any of the ESL class resources anywhere.

So my lesson planning today consists of inventing this game.  And tomorrow I will borrow the school tripod and set my video camera on it.  I don’t know whether to just film some and play it back, or to keep it running and blacked out until I see some oblivious talking going on. Or maybe just the presence of it will cause them to shape up.

The best thing really would be if I could get the class to monitor this.  The students are totally oblivious to the impact of their own mouths.  They are unaware they are even doing anything.  I would love it if instead of me throwing erasers, the class did it instead.

Young-a said she thought the students needed to learn to listen better before they can talk, so my videos and culture lessons are good for that.  And I told her yeah, but they can’t listen when they’re talking, so they need to shut up first.  then listen.  then speak English.

And American teachers think they are powerless.  HA! ha ha ha ha ha!  No tests, no grades, no way to discipline, left on our own with oversized classes.  HA!  Now THAT’s powerless.  I WIN.

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