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My classes responded very well to our musical performances and extracurricular introductions! This was a topic upon which we could all relate. This week I prioritized the part of the lesson where each student shares about their favorite hobby, while I prompt them with follow-up questions – this seems to be the most important part because it’s a sort of proof-of-concept. The whole reason we bother learning foreign languages is to make connections with other people, and through this exercise, we prove that our language learning is working! It’s also been great practice for them to speak in complete sentences.

The single largest hindrance to this goal of eliciting their speaking is probably the internet connection: if they can’t hear my full directions, or can’t understand what we want from them, our lessons begin to fall apart. When giving directions, I make sure to speak slowly and clearly, using simple words and a smile. But still, many times, they will be confused about what we’re doing for several moments. One solution that my co teachers and I have found is typing our instructions/questions in the chat. What’s your favorite activity, and why? What is happening in the picture?

Another hindrance to this goal is shyness (probably, or maybe it’s just self-doubt.) When I specifically ask the class to do something, and they just don’t do it, it can become a bit frustrating. For example, I might encourage the class to read something aloud (“Let’s read this together! Everyone! Let’s say it together out loud!”), and they look at me blankly. Next, I will try starting them off by giving the first couple words of a sentence. At this point, I assume they just didn’t understand what I said, so I will type it in the chat. Sometimes I will ask a student with stronger English skills to give my directions to their classmates. Maybe there’s a diffusion of responsibility because we’re on Zoom, since I can’t really imagine this happening if we were teaching in person. A solution to this that I’ve found is to pick on one person individually to read or answer a question, but I also don’t want to be the mean teacher who just randomly calls on people all the time. On one hand, I have an urge to just move on to the next part of the lesson, but on the other hand, I’m not a quitter, and I think it sets a bad precedent to give up in front of the students. Working around this problem, and getting comfortable with it since it happens a lot, will be one of my ongoing personal goals as I continue teaching.