Out of Discomfort

Someone on FB asked this truly important question:

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 eachother. 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…?

My response:

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. I am suggesting to you that you 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.



3 thoughts on “Out of Discomfort”

  1. At our workshop this summer Ben and Tina talked about the beauty of simply walking over to the rules poster, pointing to the rule that they’re not following and smiling while waiting for them to notice that you’re smiling at them. I haven’t been able to do it all the time, but when I have, it has been really effective. I’m finding myself doing it more and more, even though it slows down the class, a lot. Would that be a strategy that would work?

    I’ve had that kind of class before, in social studies, and they were so challenging all semester long. I was thankful for wine that semester. Lol

  2. I agree. Doug Lemov, in the book “Teach Like a Champion” says you should not proceed in the class till everyone is with you and quiet. The pause and point to the rules that Ben and Tina models is awesome. Wish I could have learned that 5 years ago!

    I am also using Craig Sheehy’s “Daily Behavior Log” system and it’s working out quite well. I tell my kids that Set of Rules #1 (Ben’s Rules) is how we be a good student and the DBL Rules (Craig Sheehy) is how we are decent human beings.

    It might be that they are ready to move on from card talk and go to the OWI and 7 step stories though.

    I also found that a good way to get students quiet is do a re-tell that you record with the videocamera….obviously they can’t talk because they’d ruin the video.

  3. Dear Fellow Teacher of Level I students,

    I don’t have any real discipline-y tricks that work wonders on rough groups at rough times of the day, but…

    when I see that things aren’t working and won’t work, I have to always break down all of the spoken material from some past lesson into an instant story. So, I type out as I project the sentences/paragraphs with the LCD projector, and just have the students jot the story down for a grade. The grade is P/F — they either do it or not. We may add details as a group or I may add details myself. Then, they have to draw and label, and then we spin another plot element, with a quote, and then we draw… etc. Then, we may get to the acting or not….

    I have made a few decisions about my high school Level I classroom for the next few weeks (we are two weeks into the school year already.) We are going to do a somewhat silly mini-story, a non-romantic, physical comedy one day (the boys like this) and then we will do a romantic-comedy story the next (which the girls like). The boys have to let the girls make up all the details, and I will quietly interview the girls as they walk into class to see which character will fall in love with which.

    In the past, I never seemed to get the balance right. This week, I am going to try to help my high school girls engage more. Wish me luck!

    My thoughts will be with you this week! We all know how frustrating those resistant/silly groups are.

    –Leigh Anne

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