Kobayashi Maru revisited

So 10 lessons down the line, and it’s time to evaluate the attempt to engage Year 9 in their own learning.  If you missed the introductory ramble, you’ll find it here.

I’m really pleased with some aspects of the work.   For example, having the pupils work in peer-designated groups has highlighted which pupils are the ones actually causing the noise.  It just seemed like it was all of them until recently!

I also like the progress that some of the quieter or demotivated ones have made by being in a group with an enthusiastic leader, who went out of her way to include everyone.

I’m not so pleased with the fact that actually getting the pupils to listen at any point, either to each other or to me, is still extremely difficult.  Even though they are fed up with the noise themselves, they haven’t figured out the cause and effect thing yet.

Anyway, here are their comments on the half-term, which I received in response to a questionnaire (I was experimenting with Spicynodes!):

Whatever happens, I will still be meeting the same group of pupils last lesson on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until the end of the year, so I need to keep trying to get through to them.  Guess what I’ll be doing at half-term …

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Kobayashi Maru

Individually, my Year 9 German group (set 2 of 2) are nice pupils, some funny, some a bit odd, but by and large OK.  Put them together, however, last lesson on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they become a different life form.  I have lost track of the number of times I have been unable to actually start the lesson because they come in to the room talking and just don’t shut up.

I’ve tried being calm and quiet, loud and shouty, mixing the groups, working individually – the only thing they seem to engage with is Linguascope.  Great for learning 12 items of vocabulary, but after that …?  Then they complain at me because they didn’t get level 5 on their last assessment.

Those of you who are Star Trek aficionados may recognise Kobayashi Maru – the no-win scenario – and most of the time this is what I feel like with this group.  However, if you do know about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, you may also recall that James Tiberius Kirk actually beat the Kobayashi Maru – he won the no-win scenario.

So this is my 5 week mission to …  OK, I’ll stop the Star Trek references, but I have devised a plan to see if there is any way I can engage this group more successfully.

I have asked the group to tell me how they want to learn for the next half term.  I have given them the non-negotiable facts (which topics and grammar they need to learn, what level they are expected to be working at, and the fact that there will be assessments at the end).

The rest is up to them.  They have been compiling a list of activities they want to do to show off their learning (role play/drama, board games, posters), and have split the work between groups so that they will each be responsible for teaching the class a different aspect of the unit.  They have also made a list of what they need me to do (eg explain about separable verbs, coach on pronunciation).

Over the holidays, my job is to put it all together, and I’ll be handing it over to them in January.

It could work, it could be a disaster.  But at least I’m trying.  I’ll post updates here as we go along.

Languages make you sexy?

It’s that time of year again, when Year 9 are being persuaded to make their option choices.  On the one hand, as a language college, we’re fortunate that choosing one language is a core requirement of the Year 10 curriculum.  On the other, we’d love to have some more GCSE dual linguists, but somehow art, drama or extra science seem to be the preferred option!

So this Tuesday, we will be attempting to a) convince pupils why continuing with one language is a good thing, and b) try to entice some of them into choosing a second language in their options.

Among our weapons will be a fabulous PowerPoint by the wonderful Rachel Hawkes, to whom I am eternally grateful.  Finding her slides also reminded me of an assembly I did last year, based on this article in The Independent from a few years ago.  Hopefully parents might appreciate it, and it made me feel good for a short while!  Feel free to have a look at the slides .