As our NELP program grows and changes to fit the needs of the students, we've begun to see some real development in how we approach learning. This term, we're going to see a lot of changes in classroom management.
The first big change is in the use of Japanese in the classroom. Up until now, I've told the students that they may use Japanese to explain to another student something that the student did not understand. However, this is about to change. Recently, I've come to the realization that what at first seemed like a good idea, something that would help less-developed students, is actually something that may be holding them back. I've realized that if I allow students to explain things to one another in Japanese, those students will, essentially, stop listening actively to my English explanation. They'll simply wait for me to finish talking (without really listening) and then ask their friends to explain it in Japanese. In this way, use of Japanese in the classroom, even for what seemed like a beneficial purpose, was actually harming the language development of some of my students.
New Rule: Students may not speak Japanese in the class unless they have my permission, and my permission will be rare. It's important to me that students begin to rely more and more on their English language ability.
During the summer school classes, I explained to my students that, under this new rule, sometimes they will not understand me; sometimes they will not know what to do or how to do it; they will make mistakes; things won't get done, or will be done incorrectly; however, over time, their language ability will improve.
In order to enforce use of Japanese in class, if students use Japanese without permission, they will first get a warning. If they continue to use Japanese without permission, their class participation grade will go down. If they continue to use Japanese, they will be given detention.
This is the next change in classroom management. Starting second term, I plan to reinforce with the students that detention is mandatory. When students are given detention, they will be given a note to take home for their parents to sign. This keeps the parents informed. I will keep a copy of the detention form so that, in the even the student either (a) does not get the parent's signature, or (b) forges the parent's signature and does not show the form to the parents, I may show the original detention form to the parents on Parents' Day.
Currently, I give detention when three or more homework assignments are late, or (from this term) when the student uses too much Japanese in class. If the detention is for homework, then during detention time, I will do the late homework with the student. This provides personal instruction in the event that the student did not understand the work, but was too shy to say so. If the detention was given for use of Japanese in class, then detention time will be used to practice English conversation. This gives students personal instruction in the event that the student either (a) lacks confidence in their language skills, or (b) needs development of skills that will allow them to communicate, even when they lack the vocabulary or grammar to say what they want to say. In this way, detention is not a punishment (or not MERELY a punishment) but a way of helping students develop skills that may need development.
The last major change will be in assessment. From second term, final exams for English B (reading) will include a final project. Half of the final exam grade will be the actual final exam they take on the test day. The other half of their final exam grade (30% of the grade for the term), will be a short research paper. I will give the students a category based on topics and structures we study in class, and the students will choose a research topic in that category. Also from second term, final exams for Oral Communication will include a final presentation. Again, half of the final exam grade will be the actual final exam they take on the test day, and the other half of their final exam grade (again, 30% of the grade for the term), will be a presentation. Again, I will choose the category and the students will choose the topic. The topic for the research report and the presentation will be the same. This means that at the end of the term, the students will turn in a written research report, and will then make an oral presentation about that report.
I have explained to my students that the oral presentation is not a speech. They will not be allowed to read, but they will not be expected to memorize. The idea is to inform themselves about a topic and then explain that topic to the class. Students will be encouraged to use visual aids and auditory aids, such as Powerpoint, videos, music, photos, drawings, and so on.
I think this will contribute in a beneficial way towards reinforcing that what we learn in class are tools for communication and self-expression, and not merely a bunch of rules and tricks that will help us pass an exam. I'm looking forward to seeing how students will approach these new tasks.