I felt we had spent enough time building the toolbox, but the question remained: would they use those tools? I felt more determined than ever not to let conversation time turn into the same disastrous scene as always--with me running around trying to police the violators of the NO DICTIONARIES and NO L1 rules.
Here are some things I did to ensure a better outcome:
- Made the text as simple and short as possible given the students' objectives. (It's a multilevel class with some functioning at CLB 2/3 in listening.)
- Gave them the text the day before so the dictionary addicts could look up unknown words that night.
- Explained to them how it made me feel when they used their first language during conversation time. I compared myself to the coach of a bike race team who has planned a wonderful route through gorgeous hilly countryside for the team to practice for the Tour de France. How do you think the coach feels, I asked them, if one cyclist sneaks off and catches a ride to the finish line in a buddy's car? What's the goal--getting to the finish line first, or practicing cycling? They got it and nodded in agreement.
- Offered to let them spend ten minutes with dictionaries, L1 allowed, before the dedicated conversation time, during which the strict rules would come into force. They wanted that prep time.
- Reminded them of our tools, pointing to the little coloured posters hanging around the classroom with gambits such as, "How do you say _____ in our language?" and "What does X mean?"
- Told them that policing them is not fun for me. They are adults and policing them is not my job. They can police themselves and each other. They agreed.
I welcome ALL respectful comments, suggestions, typo corrections, or reports on what you had for lunch. :)