October 29, 2005

Absolutely terrible, no good day revisited

Yesterday, I again met the classes I blogged about here. I moved them at a faster pace than on Tuesday, and I added more writing activities. I also explained each step and why we were doing it.

During one such mini-explanation, about how and why to practice in this way, casting about for an explanation they might understand, I asked them
If you wanted to ensure that your partner said the line/answered the question/spoke fluently and correctly, how would you go about it? Their answers were slow in coming at first, but at least it got them thinking. It seems they are mnore accustomed to getting the right answer, or scoring well on a test, than on actually mastering a skill. The ideas that the objective might be to do something well (not just get the right answer), and that there might be effective and ineffective ways of achieving that success, seemed unfamiliar to them.

It occurred to me that maybe they are accustomed to failing. Amongst some of the boys, especially, I hear loud guffaws when their partner answers incorrectly, or fails to understand. I asked them if they believed they were capable of learning to speak English. A few said "yes" immediately. But they were mostly quiet when I asked if they were confident they could. But perhaps that was my cultural error? Asking someone in this culture if they are confident is like asking someone in Britain if they are boastful: no-one's going to answer yes.

Before beginning a short dictation, I asked them if they were ready. Glancing towards the back, I see the kid I've spoken to twice already about messaging in class, with his head down. In a loud voice (to get his attention), I repeat, "ARE YOU READY?!?" To my astonishment, they all perked up and shouted back "YES!" ! Maybe they just need shouting at from time to time....

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