Report from the Field – Maria Khotomlyanskaya

Dear Ben!

I came across your video on YouTube on “Circling with Balls” and I instantly wanted to know more about this technique. Yesterday I ordered “PQA in a Wink” and dove straight into the “PQA and the Oppositional Student” section. I am absolutely fascinated with your ideas and grateful for your sharing experience and techniques – I have the gut feeling this is going to work with my students!

Of course, a well-planned, fun lesson can go a long way in helping to obviate discipline issues in class, but then I still get certain kids that “don’t buy into any of it” – and then I feel lucky if they just half-participate in the lesson and not ruin it for others (and I feel tremendous guilt that I don’t know how to find an approach to this kid / group of kids – that’s what a good teacher is supposed to know how to do, isn’t it?)

I know that no method can be successful if students aren’t motivated! Needless to say, I am aware of general suggestions on building rapport and motivation, such as personalizing, making students feel good about themselves, creating “situations of success”, but it’s so hard to find concrete, specific examples of HOW to do this, how to get this happening in class! I have already found some awesome tips for doing this in your book – and I’ve just begun reading it! WOW!

I actually just had a go at PQA at a one-to-one private lesson with my toughest student. It was really clumsy on my part, but I was amazed to see that SHE was focused the whole time! Well, she had to be – she was the hero of the lesson, after all! It was so heartwarming to see her eyes light up when I gave her Anne Matava’s questionnaire to complete at home – I could literally read the excitement in her eyes as she started brainstorming possible answers to the questions! It’s not like I’ve never asked her to talk about herself: we had done it every now and then as a lead-in or a follow-up to an activity, but I guess the focus of the lesson was almost always on something else and then I would often catch her immersed in her own thoughts, clearly off-topic.

And, oh, what a relief to be actually encouraged to use L1 in the “establishing meaning” phase. I believe that using L1 to establish meaning helps students feel more confident about what they are learning and keeps anxiety levels down.

Warmest Regards,

Maria
Library for Foreign Literature
Moscow, Russia

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