A Day of Adventures


March 17, 2011 by k. liz

So . . . today was a rather unorthodox day for me as far as teaching goes. I’ve been getting progressively more interested in incorporating technology into my classroom. Now, I’m a brand new teacher, so I’m not saying this like I’ve never used technology in class before. I usually use Keynote or videos, but I’ve been interested in getting my students to use the technology to practice their language. So, today was an experimental day with having my brother-in-law call on Skype during my first hour class. I wanted to see how my students responded to speaking to someone who was actually in America. The 20 minutes we were on call with him actually went surprisingly well. I’d given them a list of questions to ask (because the unit this week was on asking for information.) At first, the students were hesitant to talk, but after a few minutes they started jumping in with questions of their own. It was fun to watch them form their questions, and then wait for a response, and have the opportunity to ask whatever they wanted. So, hour one, success. I was very happy.

We then had a 10 minute break, after which I continued class with the same group of students. Wasted. They wrote short thank-you notes to my brother-in-law to thank him for talking with them, and then . . . we didn’t get much farther than that. We practiced a little bit of the language from the week, and I was attempted to have them create a bitstrips comic with me using invitation language and special occasions language, but they all checked out. I know this is revealing my major faults as a teacher, but my students have almost no motivation to learn English. A few are hoping to travel to America someday, but in reality, they are very happy living in Turkey and have no reason to learn English other than that the University teaches in English (because it is an international school.) The students in my school are all given apple laptops when they come, and this is a huge dilemma. At first, it was awesome, I was thinking of all of the activities we could do in class and for homework with these laptops. Then I learned three very cruel facts – 1) we have limited bandwith. 2) 70% of the University internet traffic is to facebook. 3) very few of these students have internet at home. That is when the laptops became one of my greatest enemies. Sorry, I’m off on a tangent here, but if anyone can offer any help to my dilemma, I would greatly appreciate it! You see, I am constantly closing laptops on students’ fingers, reminding them again that they are not allowed to use the computer during my class. Then, after the next offense, I confiscate the precious technological wonder and set it on my desk. The next thing I know, I am across the room helping someone with their worksheet, and the offender has wandered up to the front of the room to “throw something away” and suddenly has their computer again! Any suggestions on this kind of behavior? Our school does not have a discipline plan in place, and . . . well, I often leave class discouraged that facebook is so much more successful than I am.

Anyway . . . moving on. This week was also midterm exam week. So, I had told one of my classes that they could make çiğ köfte (a traditional Turkish dish) in my class. This consists of mixing raw lamb, onions, bulgur, red pepper paste, and some spices together with your hands for approximately 35-40 minutes. But, the end result is delicious, if a bit spicy. So, we enjoyed a sort of party in that class, and one of my quieter students came and sat next to me while another student was mixing the dish and showed me many of his pictures and talked to me about when he visited America. So, maybe they didn’t all speak, but that class was worth it for the one that sat next to me and carried on a 15 minute conversation with me.

Next was another reading and vocabulary class. This class I lectured severely yesterday, and so I didn’t have very high attendance today. But, I did receive all of the homework I requested on why they could not be late, use their computers or their cell phones in class. I believe that will be interesting reading for tomorrow. We tried to use bitstrips in this class as well, with a little success, but not much.

Finally, I was to the last hour of my day, and it was a beautiful day outside, so my students convinced me to take them outside for class. Thank goodness for my pictureaka cards! We played a few games talking about the pictures on the cards, and then one round of whisper down the lane (in which the sentence passed was “Everybody doesn’t like lesson.” How encouraging.)

Now I am home, and onto planning for tomorrow. Still looking for ways to incorporate new technologies and tools into the classroom in order to trick my students into learning English.


2 thoughts on “A Day of Adventures

  1. Having limited bandwidth is a problem but if all the students are bringing laptops to school and all on Facebook then maybe a closed Facebook group would help you out – though I’d understand if you didn’t want to do that. My Facebook is for my personal life, I don’t really want to have contact with my teenage students through it.

    Basic activities such as online polling, etc, as part of a larger Task Based Project could also pacify the students who feel much happier and relaxed with the laptop open. Not great advice, I know, but something you could try out. I think Nik Peachey has posted a few things about online polling in the classroom though I don’t have a specific link to suggest at the moment.

    I tried something similar to your Skype idea, trying to get my students pen-friends with former students of mine in other countries. It worked well but in the end it became a logistical nightmare for the teacher (me) and as a result it kinda faded into obscurity. Might try to revive it with Google Docs though, we’ll see.

    Just be grateful only 70% of the traffic is going to Facebook… among my students they reckon their usage is more like 90-100%! 🙂

    • k. liz says:

      Thanks for your thoughts! Those are good ideas. I’m moving to Kindergarten this next year, so if I’m dealing with Facebook, I’ve got bigger problems! But, if I head back to University, I may try your closed facebook groups. I hadn’t thought of using that in the classroom. Thanks a lot for the suggestion!! And . . . I totally understand your logistical nightmare comment . . . things always seem so good until I have to document or grade them!!

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