(Originally posted 11/7/10)
Marc has started an amazing forum for TPSRers in Japan. His thoughtful questions generate a lot of discussion. I responded to one of his posts on that list and wanted to share that answer here because we all have those “uninterested” students.
I wonder if it might be worthwhile to look at a couple of other options. It may be that your lower-level students are not skilled at using their imagination or visualization skills. So not only are things that aren’t about them not interesting….they don’t exist literally…they can’t “see” anything that you are talking about and so they definitely get bored with that information.
Students who are very literal often display some or many of the following characteristics:
* they answer in one or two word utterances even in L1
* they don’t ask questions/display curiosity
* they like activities which result in a concrete result ie a game w/ a score
* they value personal privacy
* they see information of any kind on a “need to know” continuum…if they don’t have a concrete reason to need to know/share, they don’t.
* they are often very good at mechanical skills: fixing an engine, building etc.
* they do not enjoy reading
* they prefer action films to romance/comedy etc.
These students actually need storytelling, but are missing a key skill: imagination. They are the students who need, in increments, illustrations and the opportunity to add details to stories so that they can “see” what the story is about. They need to start with short stories and build as the year progresses to longer pieces. They need immediate feedback.
Another possibility is that these are students who have no idea that they can be successful. They have been labeled for years as “low-achieving”. They don’t even see themselves as students and here you are expecting them to pay attention and answer as students. It may take a while for them to begin to see that this IS something that they can do. Then, even when they do begin to see themselves as successful, they may freak out and react to that as well. It may always feel like you are pulling teeth with these kids because you will be. They stopped giving willingly in the classroom shortly after their first days of school when they realized that the system was not for them and didn’t like them. (even if the Japanese system doesn’t “fit” that concept, human beings do.
Regardless of the culture that we grew up in, we all have a need to be recognized and appreciated. )
These students will not respond as predictably as your higher-achievers, but their progress will be incredibly powerful and rewarding….and they willl progress!!!! The difference is that high-achieving students tend to progress predictably and in a linear fashion. This group will lay “dormant” for periods of time and then make leaps when you least expect it. That is how they grow. But they are the students for whom TPRS can be life-changing. Teaching them can be career-changing. Keep us posted!
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