Keep Students Interested

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When I talk to teachers, I often hear the following question:

“My students don’t seem interested in the topics I bring into class. What can I do to keep them interested?”

Our lessons are much more successful when we plan activities and topics that will keep our students engaged. They will be more likely to volunteer and eagerly join in if they are interested. Yet, we all have had times when our students are distracted and uninterested.

So what can we do to keep our students interested?

At the beginning of a term, I find it’s beneficial to take the time to find out about students’ favorite activities and other things they like to do. Students are usually happy to tell you about things they like. Even the youngest group of learners will raise their hands to show which activity they like when you show them a picture. Once you know this, you can carefully plan practice and extension activities and topics for your lesson that you know your students will enjoy.

As you start Let’s Go 1, you can use picture cards from Let’s Begin to review actions that they already know. Here are some of the actions students learned in Let’s Begin (Units 3, 5 and 8).

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Show each picture card and have students identify the activity and do the action.

Now do a simple class survey. Demonstrate for the students how to indicate when you like an activity, with thumbs up, and a thumbs down, when you don’t. Practice with 3-4 cards and have students give you a thumbs up or thumbs down. Now do the survey. Put the cards on the board and point to one card at a time. Have students put thumbs up if they like the activity. Count the thumbs up for each picture. Then write the number on the board under each picture. Later, you can make a chart to display these results in the class.

Doing this simple survey helps me learn more about my students’ interests. It gives me a better idea of how much time I need to have students up and moving in each class. It also helps me prepare supplementary pictures, conversations, and stories about activities that the students would enjoy.

I also try to find out what kind of music they like. I use different types of rhythm, chants and music in my classes. Let’s Go includes many types of music and rhythms in the songs and chants. I have my students clap, sing-along and do motions with the songs and chants. I watch closely to see which songs the students respond to with the most interest and enthusiasm. Then I use those favorite songs as a way to energize the class when the students are rather inactive or distracted. It helps to break up your lesson with a song or chant that students really like.

It’s best if you can talk to each student personally about likes and dislikes. However, I realize that sometimes this is not practical, especially if you have a large class. So I try to learn very quickly about the topics and activities students like and those they do not like. I also organize my lessons with a variety of activities, games and music to keep things interesting. I watch closely, and make a note about which children seem to prefer a particular activity. Then I consider what I know about my students as I plan the activities for each of my lessons. I try to do this for each class to ensure that the activities I use work with the students in the class. This helps me include activities in my lessons that my students find interesting and enjoyable.

Karen Frazier Tsai

About Karen Frazier Tsai

Karen Frazier Tsai earned a degree in Speech, with an emphasis on Speech Pathology and has a Masters degree in Linguistics. She has over 30 years’ experience working with English language learners in the USA and Taiwan, as an ESL/EFL teacher at various levels. She has also conducted teacher-training workshops in Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the USA. In addition, she has been an advisor for international students of all ages and their families. She currently works with English Language Learners Alliance (ELLA) to help students of all ages, including moms, tots and preschoolers, develop their English skills and the confidence in using English in the community. http://www.ellalliance.org. She is also helping the Bellevue School District through Eastside Pathways, which is focusing on school readiness for all children. http://eastsidepathways.org. Karen is very interested in helping equip all ELT students with the language, confidence and other skills they need to be successful in an English language environment.

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