Group Dynamics: Looking for solutions 1

Our school poster

Our school poster

I miss the energy I was putting into reading and writing during the vacation time (December/January/February). And I also miss being connected to my PLN on a daily-basis – reading the blogs, twitters, commenting, participating in ELT chats and in many other things I could do while I had only family to be with. But I work for 30 hours in class now, and  + the time I must put into planning, assessing what they do and reflection.

I love doing everything related to teaching, but I still wish though the days could be longer NOW that I have met YOU ALL.
I have been pretty busy as you will notice in my schedule below, but I am happy with so many opportunities to engage myself in RP as well as offering my Ss the best I can. Right now I am facing the challenge of improving the current group dynamic in two of my teens group. And talking about busy busy and how things are going, this is my schedule this semester on a fixed-basis and how one of my groups is going.
  • 2 American Inspiration for Teens groups (level 1 and 2) in the afternoon. We meet once a week for 2 hours;
  • 8 small groups of 9th graders in the morning. We meet once a week for an hour and a half.
  • a group of 8th graders (12 learners), no coursebook, focus on listening and speaking. They have a class weekly (1h30m) with another teacher in the morning to focus on grammar, reading and writing;
  • a 15-year-old group of 8 students in Intermediate level (New American Inside Out), also for 2 hours a week in the evening. Most of them study the whole day (they take technical course in the afternoon and high school program in the morning, it is pretty tiring for them, but classes are very productive and fun.);
  • a beginner level group of 7 students working with NAIO. We meet twice for 2 hours on Sat. mornings;
  • A group of young adults/adults (NAIO) that are moving to intermediate level on Sat. afternoon for 2 hours a week;
  • an 1-2-1 student in pre-intermediate level in his middle-twenties who had decided about a year ago to have lessons alone because he couldn’t follow the group and has some special attention;
  • a group of 10 students preparing for university entrance exams with the focus on grammar (40 minutes a week);
  • and, a conversation class group for an hour every week.

And inspired by Vicky Loras and Michael Griffin’s posts, I have taken the role as a mentee and a mentor. So, every week (mostly) I have skype sessions with Vicky and I accept the request of a teacher in my school to help her with technology. After Mentoring EVO and with the support of Vicky, I have started face-to-face sessions with her in the teachers lab once a week. And I also have sessions with Barbara Butjas every week to discuss the book Big Questions in ELT and share our teaching context which has helped me tremendously. Plus I have coffee with my best friends at work twice a week after teens classes. The topics goes from what just happened in the class to what have our cute kids done recently. It goes from work to personal stuff and back again. And my daily round around FB where I talk to my wonderful friends, family & PLN.

Reflecting on Class dynamics and Issue: looking for solutions on April 9th

Big lesson has sunk in this week in Teaching. Open your mind to the possibilities, solutions to the problems… if any, are just around the corner. If I want to find a solution to a problem, I find not by complaining about it, but by experimenting with different possibilities. This has reminded me of the lessons I learned in Breaking rules course ( with John F. Fanselow and ITDI community ) . By experimenting, we find different ways of doing it and learning, not by being judgemental.

There are 8 teens in AIFT 2 class. I have learners who are in 7th, 8th, 9th and 1st year of high-school. So we have an age gap in the group. Due to this age gap, their tastes as well as their knowledge and relationship with the language differ a lot. Another thing that I notice is that they have difficult bonding which makes it difficult also to create a supporting each other environment. They are working as individuals in the group and engages (or likes to) engage in conversations (L1 in especially) only to those they already are friends with. I have also to manage the way they talk to each other. They are often picky and rude. And there are those who are way too quiet and says only what we ask them too. The only time I saw an improvement in the group dynamic was when I worked with the comparative lesson during the following activity.

Watch the Presentation on Prezi website

Although they are taking level 2, they hadn’t studied together level 1. I know some of them from last semester, but as each group and program have their own dynamics, we are still trying to find ours. We have been together since the last week of February, that is 5 weeks now. And we will be together until July. Not plenty of time, so I need to find a way to get more effective with this particular group. Ways to bring them together and create the right learning environment for them to learn together. How can I do that? Any tips you may have would be more than welcome and appreciated. Some ideas I am thinking of right now:

  • Think carefully every week who is going to work with whom during the pair/group activity and give them as many change as possible to get to know each other; I can say I have had enough time now to know the group and make some assumptions around their personality and tastes. As well as their language skills.
  • Include dynamic activites that involve moving around (mingling, walks around the school and games) and get fresh air. Their classroom is really small. There is no room for mingling or games. However, noise could be an issue. We don’t have our own building yet, and next to our classrooms, the technical courses classrooms are our neighbors. So, that has to be carefully considered – where and how.
  • ???

Any more ideas? Or activities suggestions?

I actually started this post last week. Yesterday though I was considering publishing or trashing for reasons I don’t even know myself. But I decided to publish when I was considering last class, so I edited it. Last class the topic was Vikings liked Music and the grammar point simple past. I used 3 videos clips, played Viking music and showed pictures of instruments. I used the videos, pictures and image to introduce the topic/the text and elicited from them reactions and responses about the material they were watching and asked specific questions.  Then, we read together the text. Much of what they saw in the videos were in the text. Their reaction to the song and images was amazing. I told them to skip the grammar box and go directed to the controlled practice and told them to match the infinitive form os the verbs given with the simple past on the text. I told them also to highlight the verbs in the texts and read the sentences again. After that they had to concentrate on the sentences given in the exercise to complete with the correct verb meaning. At this point, my aim was to show them the importance of the context and how they could match it by paying attention to the same context they were used in the previous text. Some insisted in doing their own way, some did what I asked. At the end they gave it a try. 

They were engaged in the lesson during the whole class, but I was pretty much in control of the whole process. I would like though to see them engaging by themselves and willing to cooperate and eager to learn. At the moment that is not the case and I am going to keep trying, experimenting, raising their awareness, engaging, fighting my frustrating (and theirs) until we get where we suppose to get: to a fun and productive class for all of us.

I read Motivation Lights a Fire and Other Myths of Learning blogpost from Kevin couple of days ago and I found it pretty insightful.

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2 thoughts on “Group Dynamics: Looking for solutions 1

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