English Interruptions

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22 thoughts on “English Interruptions”

  1. This same thing happened to me today AND there was a new student, just waiting to figure out the dynamics of the class. This particular class has a lot of issues and I feel it is because of the way they were scheduled. Too many Freshmen boys in one room, frankly. They did get into the Halloween script (yes, I tried it too!) but it was hard because there were side conversations and they got so excited over discussing the costumes that they spilled out their English words. I thought to myself, I wonder if there’s any mention of this on Ben’s blog and TADA!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  2. I have the same problem with a couple of classes – particularly my level 1 class right after lunch. The following is what is currently working for me:
    After failing to really use the Five Finger Rules, I came up with my new #1. I hold up my index finger and say, “Es gibt eine Konversation. Mit der ganzen Klasse. Auf Deutsch.” When I first started doing it, I made the statement in English, “There’s one conversation. With the whole class. In German.” Then I switched to saying it in German most of the time. Now I pretty much need only hold up the index finger, and students repeat the rule. Occasionally I still say it in English, but most of the time I say it in German. I can tell that some of my students are getting really tired of hearing and seeing the rule indicator – but that’s the idea because the way to avoid it is not to be in a private conversation. What I’m working on is when I get the “But I was just explaining . . . ” comment, instead of responding to that I simply repeat the rule in German. Wow, class management in the target language.
    BTW, I read an article in Foreign Language Annals a couple of years ago that said a big mistake most teachers make is to discipline in the native language rather than the target language. It somehow makes the target language less valid as a means of real communication.

  3. Seating chart changes, tossing offenders out to another classroom on the spot, giving a little lecture in L2, talking to the kid about it before class, calling a parent, these will all have some effect depending on the situation. Today, I would have none of it with two guys, both of whom had acted and therefore thought the class was theirs in a way, and I told them both before class how I was feeling, that staying in L2 is my world and they messed it up yesterday and today I would definitely toss them out – they got that warning – and I moved them both to back rows, then I didn’t interrupt myself in English with stupid little speeches about how the class can’t be in English, and it was a lot better. In fact it was great. I meant it, they knew I meant it, the class was wonderful as the new no-English CI was fantastic, and I learned yet one more time that, as important as SLOW and Circling are, if English creeps in except for What Did I Just Say?, the the class just won’t work. If there is English coming out all the time, what we do won’t work. We have to be able to get kids out to another classroom, and follow up on that, move English speakers, and if a kid throws out some English, we can’t respond in English. This shit is hard. We can’t use English to discipline as Robert says. We have to stay in L2.It’s not how hard the approach is, it’s our use of English and our failure to stay in L2 that kills our work.

  4. Libby Whitesell

    I’m going to try this. I have been letting L1 ruin my classes. Certain kids, especially those in second and third year, are running over me and my class. I have shed too many tears in frustration and anger over these kids. Time to kick them out. Recently teachers were told that we can’t send kids to the hallway for a timeout. I arranged with the teacher next door to send some kids to her room, then I forgot to use it! I’m still using too much English and it’s very frustrating. The kids are not comfortable with silence in the room. Frankly it kind of freaks me out too because they are all waiting for me to say something spectacular. It ain’t going to happen. I drew the circling diagram on the board and after I explained when they could give new information it seemed to help. I pointed to where I was in the circle. There was less English, more circling…. Now I realize that I’m needing to work on that skill too. Oh well, teach for June. Thanks for reading my ramble at 5:30 in the morning.

    1. Libby the promise of the summer conference had to give way to the reality of the year. October should be termed “Rubber Meets the Road Month” in teaching. So much has happened to all of us this month, both good and bad. Libby it is your honesty that will win the day. I want to write a book in response to what you said here.
      Look, we are making strides. Look at the ideas from Nathan just today. Look how Robert and Drew are sending so much information that will lead to changes in the way we assess and that will directly impact classroom discipline. It took me over nine years to figure out the relationship between the two, grading and discipline.
      If we can grade the kids on how they behave, that is, make them show up in terms of the standards, which require that they be civil, holding each kid fully accountable for their decisions about blurting out, etc. each time it happens (that is one of the keys) then we can make this thing work.
      Now, I just got from Jody Noble this morning a great article by Alfie Kohn which I will bump to the head of the queue for obvious reasons. All I can say is that, when these kids act out in class, we have to react and do so swiftly. We can choose from a list of things we have mentioned here lately, including:
      – sending the kid with the worksheet to the back of the room or to a colleague’s room
      – arranging with a sympathetic AP (they do exist) to send the kid to them whenever there is a problem (only can be used with kids who are known as problems throughout the school)
      – seating chart changes (huge – we separate offenders so they can’t see each other)
      – tossing offenders out to another classroom on the spot
      – giving a little lecture in L2 (not very effective if they can’t understand it)
      – talking to the kid about it before class
      – calling a parent
      – others: readers pls. suggest as comments below
      We can do any one or a combination of these things. But we must act. We can’t ignore inappropriate behavior. A lot of this has to do with finding our own personal power. This job requires that we do that, even if it is emotionally uncomfortable. Discipline precedes instruction. I am going in early to work today to talk to a few admin team members about two boys so that I know exactly what I am going to do when they walk out for their ten minute hallway stroll, and I am also going to write up a show off kid whom I moved yesterday (it was the actor in the footage we are in the middle of who now thinks he can do anything he wants because he acted) and who, when I moved him (back out of the way) said, “This is retarded.” No, that comment doesn’t get ignored. I aggressively deal with each individual thing. I know, it makes our work ten times harder when to do that. But this is October, and we don’t have much time left to establish our role as the alpha leaders in our classrooms. If we let each individual inappropriate thing slide, think of what March and April will be like. Onward, Libby. Lucky Bill is there. I loved the way he clearly is into your career – that is one righteous dude to have by your side. And you have all of us. We are going to do this thing!

  5. By the way Libby, I also am in the situation where I can’t put students in the hallway, so what I’ve started with my worst offending students is to have a stack of worksheets ready. The deal is that if they are getting in the way of other people learning, they don’t get to be part of the group. They go to the back of the class and do a worksheet instead, and that’s where their grade will come from. If they are disruptive doing the worksheet they go to the office and do the worksheet. Prolonged offenders do not just the worksheet but readings and free writes as well.
    If this sounds like a quick and dirty variation of Bryce’s “Alternatives for Unwilling Students” (posted on Ben’s resource page), well it is. I’ve used this for about a year now, and I love the leverage it gives me. I’ve discussed this procedure with my administration and they’re very much on board because I have a local fix that doesn’t involve them until a more advanced stage (which I’ve never actually gotten to).

      1. Nope, because I want that kid to miss the energy he’d be getting otherwise. The point is not so much punishment as rehabilitation. In practice, the kids working on the worksheet usually race through it and go ahead and listen to the entire class anyways so they are still up to speed when it’s time to come back.
        If the kid is still shooting out the negative vibes and disrupting the class, then by all means get him out of the class. I don’t even want to mess with a colleague; send him to the office and follow it up with a phone call home. But I like not having to go with the nuclear option initially because it’s easier to have the kid work his way back into the class.

  6. Nathan, I like your idea, because it makes use of an inferior resource (namely worksheets) in an appropriate way. If students are unable to participate at the authentic human level which we ask of them, then they can do work that does not challenge them to be truly human. Maybe they’ll get the point, and want to participate, but if not, they can stay in their comfort zone, and not interrupt the class conversation. So many teachers (in many fields) use silent reading as a punishment, but what that does is make silent reading a negative thing in students’ minds. This is a great alternative.

    1. I agree John. I guess a better follow up for an extended offender wouldn’t be a reading selection, but the textbook (I still have a few kicking around that aren’t in deep storage). Shoot, I’ll even hand them the teacher’s edition so they can check their answers afterwards.

  7. LOVE the idea of the worksheet (or textbook page 133, exercise A, complete sentences) in the back of the class! Thank you. I will revise my system. I guess there are a few kids, though, that I am actually afraid will prefer this to what we’re doing. Anyone ever run into that? I guess I will just take the leap and see what happens. It sure would suck if suddenly the whole class decided they wanted to do worksheets!

    1. I wonder the same thing. I had a couple of real assholes last year who did prefer to be in the hall than in class. Although it made my life easier to put them in the hall so that I could teach, it also pissed me off because they were getting exactly what they wanted…to be out of class.
      And, I apologize for my ignorance but what does it mean to “teach for June”?

    2. Don’t bet on it. I have done the worksheet thing and within a day or so the banished kid stops doing the worksheet and starts watching with a kind of longing in their eyes to be a part of the classroom process, which somehow looks more fun than the worksheet. That is what most people who try this probably see happen in their classrooms.

      1. The key, though, is to make sure that the worksheet itself is onerous (or “rigorous” if you want to use eduspeak). Also, it’s good to have students where you can keep an eye on them. My classroom isn’t conducive to having students isolated in the room – just too many students (38-40) and too little room. So I have occasionally put students in the doorway with their backs to the class. I can see what they are doing and head off conversations with passing students. They also hear what’s going on but are faced away, so are obviously not part of the class.

        1. I had to do this yesterday with 2 kids, but since I was not really “prepared” and had no idea what I would give them, I picked a random thing from a textbook. Probably not onerous enough. But it definitely achieved the effect of “oh, she means business.” This is a young class (8th and 9th grade) so probably a bit more impressionable.
          Can you give an example of an onerous sheet? Like, should I have given them a workbook sheet, fill in the blank thing? Verb conjugations? Sorry to ask such a silly question. I really don’t want to put any time/thought into this but I need a bit of a road map so next time I will choose the right thing.
          I am kind of bracing myself for using this with a particular student in my French 2 class–4%-er– who just doesn’t seem to be buying in. She’s refusing to signal when she doesn’t understand. She said this in a reflection: “I don’t think this helps. I try to figure it out myself from the context.” And she has been kind of sulky and negative in the last week. Complaining that all we do is sit, and then she “just sat” when we had a short “dance party” yesterday??? Obviously I will talk to her, but she may need to do some worksheets for awhile to figure out that this will not help her improve her listening comprehension and eventual oral communication.
          A question I have regarding her refusal to signal, is this: a few weeks ago she said the same thing (I don’t think signaling helps). At that point I made it clear that of course using context is a great strategy for reading, but that for listening, at this point I want them to signal as soon as they are unclear. I made up an example of a real life situation where signaling could be critical for their personal safety: they are talking to a guy and the guy asks them a question and they just say yes but they don’t really know what they said yes to….
          Am I off base on this?

          1. First thought on worksheets is that you shouldn’t worry about “the perfect” worksheet. The first time I tried this, I tried a worksheet that was a standard grammar, fill in the blank exercise and my students had no idea how to approach it. I felt a quick glow of happiness that “They don’t know how to do worksheets” (who would have thought that doing worksheets constitutes its own skill set, but it’s true), but in reality it gave the kid an excuse to sit there with what he thought was a valid excuse to sit there and say “I can’t do this because you didn’t make it clear.”
            Now I don’t want to spend any more time on a worksheet than I have to, so I just start them with something doable to show “he means business” like you said. Starting the second offense when they need something tougher I will point out with a smile that “I have much harder worksheets than this, so if you’re telling me this is how you want to learn, I will still accomodate you and push you.”
            My thought about your 4%er is that maybe she actually would appreciate some worksheets. I had one student a couple years back who just couldn’t handle the freestyle environment that is my classroom and needed a worksheet to provide order for her brain. Yes, it was an illusion of order, but I fed her worksheets and she was much happier. When she came in with a completed worksheet, we spent a few minutes going through it and I complimented her up and down and asked for questions. Was she learning more? She thought so, and that’s what it took to open her heart. In other words, because she really wanted worksheets, that’s the tool I had to use to build a relationship with her.

          2. Thank you Nathan.
            That is a great reminder that for some kids their affective filter will lower / they will be more open when they have something comforting and orderly! Like a worksheet or a verb chart!
            How did you work with that student? Did you give her worksheets to do in class? For homework? What was your expectation as far as the listening to CI piece (in class PQA, reading discussion or whatever else is going on)?

          3. I like the verb chart idea. You could print up a quick conjugation overview and allow her to paste it in her composition notebook sort of as a safety blanket.
            The key to working with that particular student was in making myself available and interested in her wanting to pound the grammar, but leaving the frequency and intensity of worksheets up to her. I wouldn’t allow the worksheet to happen in class, because class is my time and I only want real learning to occur there.
            I did allow her to do worksheets as homework, but you have to remember that my homework is a free-form “do something German related outside of class” that they then report to me back on. Where most kids were listening to German music or texting their friends, she was doing the worksheets and everybody was happy.
            In summary, my 4%er did worksheets, but that was an extra resource just for her that I was providing as a favor. If she didn’t want to do worksheets some weeks, I just let it ride. I made myself available for what amounted to extra tutoring, but left it up to her how often she wanted to avail herself of that option. Some weeks she did and others she didn’t, so it didn’t really turn out to be too much extra work for me.
            Basically the key is that although your student may be a 4%er, she’s also a teenager, and most of them aren’t looking for extra work. I’ll accommodate my students to their hearts’ content for grammar worksheets and books (another kid borrowed a grammar book from me over this past summer–one of my old college texts– and came back having studied most of it and was totally energized and ready to roll). But they have to come to me; that way I don’t get an extra job I have to track, and when it does happen, it’s a way to build the relationship.
            My operative philosophy here is that although these kids

      2. I guess the problem I ran into last year is I just threw them into the hall, no worksheet. I’m going to run off some copies of worksheets on Monday to keep in handy. Of course sitting in the hall not having to do anything would be more appealing than sitting in class, especially since last year I wasn’t doing TPRS, so it was a worksheet class, I’d rather be in the hall too

  8. I tried the worksheet thing (with a textbook) two years ago with a few students in a particularly disruptive class. It didn’t work well with these particular students because I think they were just too far gone, unfortunately. They wouldn’t do the work, just continue to disrupt the class and accept zeroes for the work. They had to be removed, but I don’t have any administrative support (it’s up to us to “control” our classes). I wouldn’t ask colleagues to take them because they would just destroy the colleague’s class. These kids were in 8th grade at the time, and have continued to be serious trouble in the high school. I guess my point is that this tactic does have merit, and I will use it again, but it can be very tricky depending on the kid and the administrative situation.

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