Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Classes

I have two classes in the evening. One is with three 6 graders and the other is with 4 high schoolers and 2 university students.

The first class has done Step test level 5 textbooks and lately switched to an intensive reading course book. They read a short easy story and answer comprehension questions along with it. Two of them have good reading skill but one boy is the way behind. The good news is he is still trying quite hard to catch other classmates but from time to time, he loses his patience. He is one of the brightest kids I had and his brothers are brilliant at reading. I have been puzzled why such a smart boy struggle to acquire simple phonics rules so much. He loves reading in his own language and extensively read books. So, it is not about the literacy problem some of other kids have. He doesn't hesitate to interact with others in English. In fact, he usually the one who enjoy communicative activities the most. At school, he is definitely one of the most inquisitive students and his high intellectual level is more than obvious. His motivation gets low from time to time but not significantly low, even a little higher than most of high schoolers. Especially lately, after we started using the course book, he has shown so much interests and really lively in the class. Other two students are quite motivated and get to the point where they would work without anybody's support. They knew their high English proficiency for their age and quite proud of that. In other words, they have become autonomous learners.

This week, I experimented to give some Japanese translation as I read the story for the first time while they listened. I tried to make it less obvious as I make the japanese part as short and brief as possible. This idea is from interlingual communication which I have heard at one of workshops for poets. Quite interesting idea and wanted to see how it works in my classroom. So, since we read a poetic story about a lonely moon, I spontaneously switched English into Japanese and then English again at some words I assume they didn't know. Interestingly, one of the students started taking notes and other two followed. I peeked at their notes. Unexpectedly, those translations I put were written.  They surprised me greatly, which I love, for I often need to ask high schoolers if they don't need to take notes what I said. some students, if not many, are trained to be absolutely passive in a classroom and they don't do anything unless they are told so. Therefore the spontaneous action of them are unexpected and finding learner's autonomy in the class made my day.  Furthermore, the boy did excellently in comprehension questions.
This might be controversial to give some Japanese translations for it would spoil the joy of discovery or guessing skill, however, I wonder if it is rather effective and pleasurable for students if we do so limitedly not throughly word by word translation. I wonder if this interlingual concept can be a middle ground between anti-grammer-translation and deadly tiring grammer-translation. It is too early to say anything but at least I had such a positive reaction from some students.

The second class has quite motivated students. All of them have stayed with me more than 6 years and three of them have nearly 10 years of history with me. I feel fully responsible on their English proficiency and I am not satisfied with my teaching skill. They are great kids but I don't see learner's autonomy in them yet. They are rather passive in spite of their friendliness and well-mannered behavior in the class. We are emotionally bonded for sure due to the long history we shared, however, my ultimate goal is to cultivate their intellectual curiosity and I haven't fulfilled the mission yet I am afraid. Two girls in the class have mentioned they would love to go abroad and expand their horizon in the future but other 4 students have no intention to get out of their cozy small world. After all, it is not entirely my responsibility how they live but it is a shame if they can't see their full potential. And I believe it is my fault if lack of confidence in their English abilities is the reason for their apathy toward overseas.
In order to stimulate their adventurous spirits, I started using stories written by other EFL teenage students, hoping one day they would get out of here to see the world for I believe we perceive who we really are only in comparison and I also believe we want to know who we are as much as possible.

This week, I asked them why they study English. What motivate them to do so. I got only one expected answer. Which is "To get into an university." Other answers were quite surprising and exciting as follows:
To live in Spain in the future
To study in Canada in the future
To visit Australia in the future
To be able to write original English songs
To be able to read all the papers regarding the world history

I hope each of them find a way to achieve their goals and wish I could be a bit of support for them.

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