Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Leading a horse to water; how to make it drink?

After a month or so of "I don't know", "I guess", "Yeah", "Maybe" & "Not really" responses to just about everything we have tried, Damian & I have been scratching our heads & thinking outside the box for this class, considering a project-based approach. Our learner is far too cool for school, and his English far too good for a traditional approach...plus we know he will start yawning & pull his hoodie back up as soon as we revert to type & try to start teaching. A follow up to an in-class brain-storming activity never got off the ground because the written product was so utterly bizarre I did not know where to pick up...man-eating carrots, flying volcanic robots & reincarnation. My efforts to flesh out the narrative had us going in ever-tightening circles of teen logic & reticence.

Clearly this kid plays way to many games. A Placement Test we rely on had given us our first 'false' reading (I think) in that he was about 2 CEFR levels below where we had pencilled him, so we are still trying to establish a baseline level we can work from. OK. Writing didn't quite work out, so let's see what we can do about a vocabulary exploration.

Word Up the tool of choice here, expecting a short 'it's too hard/boring' after 20 minutes...but no. "Can I use a dictionary" and "I'm gonna loose if I just use 3-letter words, aren't I?" revelations. Uncovered a will to win/compete with people (not just programmes) and thinking about strategy - as well as accepting tips/hints to do better (after outright rejection at first - couple of big scores from me vs 'dog' did the trick!).

So, introspective reluctant learner wants to win - games - and has an impressive vocabulary. Dislikes traditional classroom approach but mum wants him to be given essays for homework! Gamification might be an answer; I have seen a few presentations now of using games for courses, but I'm not a gamer myself...I really doubt I could become a Minecraft ninja in a hurry and build this into a strategy. Likewise, I have no interest in descending into the depths of Second Life and all the escapist/obsessive traits that seems to bring out in people. Last thing we really want to do is loose this learner into an even deeper layer of withdrawal from us! Not that we can play crossword games every week either (fun though that would be for me!).

Conundrum. Any suggestions, fellow teachers?