Friday, 6 March 2009

depressing things about teaching (no.53)

The lack of initiative, gumption and imagination in some of my kids' classes is quite astounding. (Only in the field of learning English that is - when it comes to cheating at tests, kicking each other under the table or disrupting the class they are incredibly imaginative, if not terribly subtle.)

This week in my kids' classes we have been revising the use of "going to" to express the future (e.g. I am going to play tennis this weekend.) They have already learned this point in class; they have already been tested on it in fact, and set copious amounts of homework on it. It should be relatively easy for them to understand - they have virtually the same expression in Spanish - yo voy a juegar tenis este fin de semana (although that does literally translate as "I go to play tennis this weekend"). However, they still don't quite get it, so I planned a 90 minute lesson to help them revise the area.

We did listening exercises, we did speaking exercises, we put the grammar points up on the board, we did reading exercises and even writing exercises. Up, down, left, right - every way we could use "I'm going to do/go/play/eat/etc" we did. Finally, to end the class I gave them the lyrics to Pink's song "So what" and asked them to fill in the gaps. The gaps - as astute readers might have guessed - were all linked to "going to" constructions.

I'm __________ to drink my money,
I'm not going _________ his rent,
_____ going to start a fight

Now, even if you've never heard the song, you could probably guess the words that go in those gaps, and I was hoping the kids would also be able to fill in half the gaps before playing the song - just to make sure I had actually left the phrase "I'm going to pay" on the board along with the grammar rules for forming the future with "to go".

After two plays of the song most of the class had blank sheets and even blanker faces - if they'd written anything it was probably either "go" or "pay" (no "to"). It was fair enough if they didn't understand the song, or if they lost their place in the lyrics, but I just couldn't understand how, after 90 minutes, they didn't have the gumption to take a wild guess that "going" would be followed by "to" and preceeded by either "I'm" or "He's".

Fortunately I'd completed all their report cards the week before, or I might have written some very caustic comments.

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