Over the three years that I have taught EFL, I have learned that students generally enjoy finding ways to get out of doing their classwork. I believe that some students take it as a chance to act out, and interact with their instructor. As an instructor, I take these moments as opportunities to apply some creative improvisation, and help steer the students towards using the target vocabulary and grammar. Allowing students this controlled-freedom gives them a chance to express themselves in a more natural way, and often helps them overcome any apprehensions they might have about using a foreign language.
Writing is the students’ least favorite activity. No matter how little they are asked to write, they would much rather speak. However, I find that writing exercises help improve their accuracy, by forcing them to come face to face with whatever gaps they might face in their understanding of the grammar and sentence structure. Whenever I introduce a writing activity, there are always one or two students that try to get out of it. Usually, the common ploy is to pretend to “think” about the exercise. Typically an exchange between myself and such a student would unfold as follows.
Student (not writing): I’m thinking.
Teacher Menelik: I want to see your thoughts on paper. Think with your hands.
That usually works. However, during one of my final classes of the last session, I had a student who would not fall for my “think with your hands” trick. Instead, he decided to turn the tables on me by taking my instruction literally – he started to mime the answers. The entire class started laughing, and I along with them. Not to be one-upped, I decided to take my student’s lead, and started to mime that I could not understand him, and used hand gestures to suggest that he should write.
I enjoy it when my attempts to out-smart my students backfire. It helps keep the mood light, while allowing me to show my personality. I find it easier to teach students when they find me relatable. Also, I find that when students realize that I have a goofy sense of humor, they will attempt to bring that out in their writing and speaking exercises, which always lends a slightly competitive feel to the class.
So, have you ever come across a student who gave you a run for your money, or challenged you to step your game up? How did you react? Would you have handled my situation differently? Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.