Sep 26, Oct 07

Materials and Work implementation

General reflections

Every lesson before starting a lesson I asked students if they need any help with selecting the material. I reminded them that starting from October they will have to implement their self-study plans. In general the reaction was neutral. Many students were just smiling and it was clear that they are not going to do anything and they probably still believe that this is a joke and I will forget about it soon. Some students raised from time to time the eternal question ‘why do we need it’. I reminded them that they need to be able to understand their own problems and work on them and I also referred to the aims of education nowadays. Probably I have better to think of a better motivation telling them that they can learn English easier if they do things they are interested in (listen to the music, watch videos) and at the same time learn English.

From time to time it seemed that some students start thinking about doing something (for instance, one student from form 11 told me if he can listen to RAP where many swear words are used. I replied that he can listen to whatever he wants and if he listens to one new RAP song every week and works with the text then at the end he can ‘read’ any RAP song he wishes to the class, thus showing that he had been working with it). It seemed to work as an argument as he didn’t expect me to agree and allow such an activity but I know that he hasn’t started doing anything yet so probably he was just looking for an excuse.

There were only 3 people (out of 53 students) who asked for help with materials. One student told me he wants to become a lawyer so would like to work with the text connected with law, another student needed links to online English books. I send them some direct links to possible resources they might use (for instance, to some newspapers where the ‘law’ topic is discussed). I am not sure if this is the best resource but for the start it might work.
One more student found a website ( and looks very enthusiastic about it. He shared the information with his classmates and is regularly working with the website. Of course, it makes me glad he does something and shares his positivism. On the other hand, a little bit later I will try to make him think if the work he does on the website corresponds to his aims.

In general, I would say that there are only around 5 students out of 53 who do something. Al other are either complaining all the time ‘why do we need it’, ‘we do not understand what you want’, ‘why do we need the teacher’ and ‘why don’t we follow the programme as all other students do’ or just doing nothing and I expect that at a certain point they will join the group that is complaining. And it honestly is very hard to bear.

In order to follow what my students are doing I offered them a template that they have to fill in regularly and show me once a week (normally, it should be Monday but for some days due to some reasons it might also be Friday) together with some evidence of their work: what did you plan to do; what have you done; what have you learnt.
Let’s see how it works. So far, almost nothing looks positive.

On Oct 14 one of my groups (form 10) made a real riot saying they do not absolutely understand what I want from them with that self-study and what we are doing on our lessons and why they are so much different from ‘normal’ lessons. One student asked me if I really believed that if one watches movies and stops them every minute to understand the text (s)he would be able to learn English. When I said ‘yes’, the student said I am telling nonsense and she does not believe me and would ask her class teacher for the right to change the group. I will have to be able to come back to the question of self-study the week that is coming and honestly that obviously won’t be easy.

When I asked two students from form 11 if they understand what I want from them about their self-study, they told me ‘yes’ and ‘you are the only one who wants us do something’ and ‘those who normally work will do self-study as they understand why they need it but those who generally do not do anything will continue doing nothing’.

At certain points you start asking yourself if you really do good things. If almost ALL your students are unhappy isn’t that the reason to go upset?


# Alexander Sokol 2011-12-03 18:48
Renata, riots are definitely unpleasant even if they are natural (there are not many people who want to learn). A few ideas you can use:
- Educational Standards in Latvia require all students to be involved in self-study;
- take those students in the group whose English is better and ask how they've learned English. I bet most of them have been doing something you expect the rest to be involved in (watching cartoons, playing computer games, etc.)
- if you've got ambitious people (and they normally are ambtious in Year 10), ask them if they are fine to have mediocre results in English. Show them their entry test results and comment on them in terms of achievent. Tell them that they can leave everything as it is, of course, but this will mean it's fine for them to have mediocre English.
This is just one perspective (and also a bit harsh :)). I guess the rest of the group will be able to offer more ideas.
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