What if your students don’t want to give any real energy to the interactive activities that we have worked so hard to learn as we have retooled our classrooms over to comprehensible input? What if the kids just act totally disinterested? What do we do then?
Bryan offers perhaps the best response I have seen to this serious situation of calculated mass disinterest:
“Each year I usually have one class that can’t seem to pull it together and show me (or each other) the respect that is required of a full-on CI class. Often, I can trace it all back to one bad egg.
“I have [those classes] read, write and translate. This gives them CI, but is easy on you, and keeps them working on the text. I would let them know that they can do more interactive activities once they can show you that they can handle them.
“Have them write their little hands off. I would also do daily quick quizzes at the end of class, or at least weekly/every other day dictées or translation quizzes. Let them feel the pressure. They get this treatment because they deserve it – they are making me work too hard and they aren’t doing anything.
“What texts to use for this activity? It could be any text. We could project a text from one of the FCR readers, or grab something from the stories that we have collected. We could also just write up something like we do when we do in-class writing with Writing Option 1 in the Write option of the star.
“The kicker and what differs from our other classes who do know how to behave, is that they have to copy it down at the same time, and then translate it, with everything handed in for a grade.
“Having them copy down the line in the target language before translating it also makes it easier to grade because you can really just glance at it and make sure they did it or not. You can tell them that this gives them practice in writing in the target language.
“Doing those three things – reading, writing and translating – whether you do them with the same text all at once or separately with different texts, spares you and shields you from their snotty attitudes when you do auditory CI.
“The ultimate version of this self-preservation game for us is grammar worksheets, where they fill out worksheets and translate them to English to verify meaning. Then have them do a day or two of reading, writing, translation, quiz, then repeat until they’re ready to make the CI class work or the end of the year arrives, whichever happens first.
“Thankfully, most of my classes are great, but I’m not going to put in more work and get all stressed out just because they aren’t showing up and putting in their 50%.”
“Another thing you can do is project a story in English (like an Anne Matava script) and tell them that they have to translate it into the target language. While they do that, you do it yourself and then you project that and have them correct it line by line.
“Handing out the punishment in this way really eats up a lot of time and make them feel the pressure. If you want to be nice, supply them with some of the key words, or have them look them up in a dictionary.”
Notice how tricky this is. Not only does it give us a break from what we are doing to a much easier level of how hard we are working, it also sends those bad classes the message that they will be doing a LOT of this kind of writing until they honor us and reciprocate our efforts. And I agree with Bryan that such classes usually get that way due to the influence of “one bad egg”.
Laura Avila shares this excellent variation on Bryan’s idea:
“When I have a class with stinky eggs in it, I have them:
- 1. Take one of the FCR books in the classroom and read for 10-15 minutes.
- 2. On a separate sheet of paper, write down pages read “from/to”.
- 3. Translate line by line all that they’ve read.
- 4. When the entire class is finished, they put the book away and either translate back to Spanish or write a story based with X number of words on what they read.
“If they are really bad, I can keep them on this regimen, day after day, for as long as it takes for them to get the message. Before too long they start begging to go back to auditory CI.”
Russ Albright has one reasonable caution to this way of responding to students who refuse to help the classroom process:
“This is the nuclear option. This is serious punishment – mechanical menial task after mechanical menial task – a fantastic idea. But I would stress caution because this could cause you to lose a ton of hard-earned class community and make kids’ affective filters go through the roof. I hope I don’t have to use this one this year, but last year I would have definitely bailed out to this at least once.”
It’s important to think about why this happens. There are many reasons of course, but, In my own experience, when an entire class chooses to “turn off” the good will, it’s usually because one student – that one bad egg – imperceptibly sways the class in that direction. It may appear to be the whole class, but it’s just that one kid at the root of the problem. If that is true, then the effect of the reading, writing and translating punishment move is to neutralize the power of that one student and get the class back with you, and away from that kid’s passive aggression, where they should be.
And the best part is you never have to confront those few individuals who swayed the class away from you in the first place. The best way to reclaim your power and demand their interest is to not confront such narcissists, but to simply make class so boring that the students beg you for more interaction, for more CI, leaving the bad egg behind.