Someone once asked this truly important question a few years ago, so this is a repost:
I need help! I have a VERY challenging group of Spanish 1 at the worst time of day. They are energetic but compulsively talk chatter and joke with each other. They came with a reputation. Anyways their card talk is not interesting any more. Does it have to be something they love to do? Can I switch it up? Ask them to say what famous person they would like to meet, cat versus dogs, etc…?
Perhaps you are trying too hard to make the class work. Is that possible? If it feels hard to you, like a kind of challenge that is hard to meet in class after class after class, then it won’t really work.
If class flows, is free-flowing and natural with no planning and no fear involved, it can work. My view is that you need strategies that draw them in in spite of their snark. Really, they can’t be blamed. They are, in their own awkward way, just trying to have fun. It is not directed at you.
It’s just that in my opinion if they don’t see you enjoying yourself they will try to bring it themselves, in spite of what you are trying to do. They want to get out of the discomfort.
In any group of kids where discomfort is there, the brave ones will try to loosen things up. We can harness that energy and direct it into making fun classes happen, but I personally don’t see how we can do that with targeted strategies, and I say that in spite of the past year and a half of people saying otherwise.
I admire those who are able to make their classes fun with targets. They are strong! But perhaps you might want to explore non-targeted instruction to find a way to harness the oppositional energy that you currently see in your students in order to turn it around in your favor.
This is just my own opinion, however. Few people in our CI movement feel that way. They like to know what they are teaching/covering “next”. They ask themselves, “What words do I teach today?” To me, that is as boring as a dictionary.