Burn

I teach a couple of conversation classes. Actually, I only teach one right now as the other one hasn’t yet started, but it should start soon and then I will be teaching my full complement of classes. Anyway, I taught my conversation class on Friday, in the morning (at 7am so that sucks, cause who wants to converse in a second language that early–especially on a Friday?) and it went all right. It could have gone better.

Pros:

* The students used English to speak to one another about the topic (movies). I make a point of them using English because they are supposed to, but all too often a lot of my students will revert to using Czech instead. There is nothing wrong with the occasional use of their native tongue (you cannot outlaw it) but they are in class to learn English, and if they do not use it they will not get anymore comfortable with it, and the class runs the risk of just being a waste.

*They seemed to enjoy the topic. This is important (especially in conversation) because if the students aren’t interested, or if they don’t like the subject, then the class can go really slow, and they will not be as enthusiastic about participating. In a conversation class, participation is extremely important (obviously). It’s important in all classes, sure, but you simply cannot have a conversation without participation.

Cons:

*Not all of the students were into it. This happens, I know, but it is still a bummer. One of them, when she was supposed to be involved in a group discussion, was busy tearing strips of paper. This reminded me of that dude Balki played in the television version of Stephen King’s The Langoliers, and it did nothing to affirm my ability to lead a conversation. When I asked her why she wasn’t joining with the group, she told me that she had already said her piece. I nodded and said that was good, but half of conversation is listening, so she should try and pay more attention to what her classmates were saying. She smiled and gave kind of an eye roll, but she did seem to focus more on the group discussion than she had been.

*We had a debate about which was better–watching movies at home or at the Cinema. The students were split into groups, each having to defend their position. Some of the pro-Cinema students did not believe in their position–they much preferred to watch movies at home–and were resistant to arguing for the other side. I understand this. It is difficult to play devil’s advocate and argue for something you don’t agree with sometimes. But sometimes it is necessary. I mentioned to the student, and luckily he was willing to at least try. That’s all I ask, really, is that my students try–oh, and that they use English.

*Some students seemed reluctant to offer their position to the rest of the class. When I asked one group–after they had debated the virtues of home viewing vs. cinema viewing–what some of the reasons for watching movies at the cinema they did not give me an answer. I asked them: you had no argument for watching at the cinema? They shook their heads and said nothing. Then I asked what some of the reasons for watching at home were, and some of the group answered. Then I asked for a consensus, asking if they agreed that it was better to watch at home than at the cinema. At this point the group that was supposed to argue in favor of the cinema said that they disagreed that it was better to watch movies at home. To this I asked why they had said that they did not have any reasons when I asked them earlier. They did not answer, so I asked them what their reasons were, which they gave freely.

Fridays experience, while not bad, was not as good as it could have been, and I realized that I am going to have to do a lot more work in terms of getting the students to speak. Which is unfortunate because the conversation class is not there for me to speak, it is there for them to speak, and when they don’t, the whole class suffers. Not being a great conversationalist myself, I see the increased dependence the students seem to have on me as being a problem.

Does anyone have any ideas for conversation topics? I’m all ears. I need the help and welcome it.

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