Thursday, June 30, 2005
Lucky break--a way to handle a tough class
As a symbol of this lucky break I have included an image of my cat, Lucky. We call him Lucky, because we saved him from crows that were after him when he was a tiny little kitten that someone had abandoned. We figured he was pretty lucky to have found a family that cares about him. He is by far the friendliest of our cats, to me at least. I am also testing out the new image option that Blogger features.
I have this class that I have been struggling with all semester. They are really interested in lots of stuff other than English. So my job was to get them interested, or at least moving in the right direction. I finally happened on a way. I made a review of the previous lesson's content and a summary of today's objectives, including conversations that they should be able to conduct as a result of their learning. They each had one and followed along as we completed each of the tasks. Then at 20 minutes before the class ended, each student got a fresh review and summary which became a short quiz. As some wrote, I went around to each student to do the role-play that was the conversation goal of the class.
At first the students were really surprised that I would do such a thing, but since they had done all of it in that class, they soon got over that and had some fun with it. They were happy to get immediate feed back, too. I graded them immediately. All of them got A's, though their scores varied. (An A at most Japanese universities starts at 80 and goes to 100. Talk about grade inflation.) They were all excited and those with the higher A's were boastful, but the student with the highest score is one who is probably the least popular socially in class. He has some unusual personality quirks that tickle some of my neophyte learners. They were put in their place when they found out that he learns and speaks faster than anyone else.
Though this worked well the first time, there is an ethical problem. In order to grade the papers in the very limited time I had, I had to do it in front of everyone. That means that all of the students were privy to everyone else's score. That is a problem I need to solve in order to protect students' privacy.