Friday, April 19, 2013

Sometimes the Best Thing a Teacher Can Do is Shut Up

Sounds ridiculous, but if you've ever been in a language classroom, you know that students don’t learn by hearing their teacher talk about the language. If that were true, then my Spanish and Arabic would be way better!
My students today tackled a huge and intimidating chart on article usage.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Ms. Betty Azar and her books that are chock full of grammar nuggets of knowledge.  It is one of the many tools I use in my classroom; but this chart is just ridiculous.  It makes my head hurt and I already know how to use a, an, and the appropriately. Listening to me talk about the articles would not turn on some magical switch in their brain.
So, taking an idea from the teacher I aspire to be like, Ms. Barbara, I had the students break up into groups of four and create a poster and presentation based on the chart.
I have never heard such debates and discussions about articles in my life!
“No Akam!! Would you say ‘look at the some grass?!’ No…see my point?!”
“Ms. Rachel, can draw a chart and add the different nouns to show how we use them?”
“can we use the board to write examples?”
It’s like Beethoven is composing a symphony for my ears! And what have I done? I've just facilitated.  I gave them the poster paper, a rubric, and some printed directions, and then I shut my mouth.
We have reached that point in the semester.  We only have 12 class days left and now is the time that my charges need to show me that they can handle  level three. They have acquired the speaking and reading skills to successfully complete this small class project, and when it works, oh boy does it work.

Very rarely do I have a student come in and say “Oh yeah! Grammar is my favorite!!” No one says that really.  So having activities that engage them so close to the end of the semester, when the weather is so nice that no one wants to stay inside, and when anything sounds better than 75 minutes of grammar, is a precious commodity around here.

 A day later, with presentations done, I'd say it was a success.  A perfect combination of time management and willingness to learn outside of the box they've been used to all their life, resulted in something of worth. And they said they learned something...the quiz is on Sunday; we'll see if they were telling the truth!

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”  -Khalil Gibran

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