The point system, one month on.

Don't have tons of time at the moment, as Busan is due to arrive in a couple of hours and I still have to wash the teenage boy grime off of me before he does, but I did kind of want to be redundant and talk about something I briefly mentioned on the other blog yesterday, and expand. Which is that the boys are kind of blowing my mind this semester. Specifically, B ban.

These boys don't know shit as far as English goes, it's important to mention. But they are giving it 110% so far this semester. The point system is a big pile of fail as far as using it for classroom management, because I can't seem to remember the concept of "minus points" when they're pulling any bull, and just auto-pilot into, "You better cut the crap or you're gonna be sorry," mode instead. But there hasn't even honestly been much of a need for that. My goal this semester is to not shout, at all. If possible. There are bound to still be Those Days with That Class where a little bit of the scare tactic is necessary, but I'm really going to try my best not to be a scary teacher unless I absolutely have to, and try to reason with them more instead.

They mostly don't start crap during actual class time anymore, and if they do, it only takes a few seconds to get them reined back in, but my real struggle is with that first five minutes when they can't seem to get it together and get sat down as soon as the bell rings. It drives me up the wall, mostly probably because our Western system (especially maybe the schools I went to) is so uptight about it, whereas my coworkers tend to not even be in the classroom at all until five to ten minutes after the bell. That's the time when I tend to shout most often. Because I really don't know what the fuck they are doing that they can't just sit down. They know it bugs me, too, so I don't understand why it's so surprising every single time. But that's teenagers for you. As my grams likes to say, every day they wake up in a new world.

But. But. The 'plus point' portion of the point system is like a fucking miracle. I don't know how much of their work ethic this time around is just them, and how much of it is knowing that if they get their assignment done before the last five minutes of class, they'll have a chance to use it to earn a stamp, but whatever it is, I've never seen the B ban boys so focused before.

The way it works is that, whatever we happen to be doing that day, the last five minutes is of class is for presentation. If it's an easy speaking pattern, or something that might be entertaining for the other students, I'll make the present to the class, but if it's something pretty ordinary (ie, this week's, "Although I'm tired, I must study. I must study although I'm tired."), then they just have to speak to me. There are usually two options: 1. Look at the paper and speak more (five sentences/two dialogues/whatever) or 2. Memorize it and speak less (three sentences/one dialogue/whatever).

In order to be able to do that, they have to finish whatever it is we're doing and practice speaking it with their partners or groups, like they are supposed to be doing. And they have been. At record rates. They're asking questions when they don't understand something, and calling me over to help them say what they want to say. Before, it was mostly just the bare minimum to get it done, and if they didn't understand, it was easier to just sit there and wait for me than to try to speak enough English to ask me a question. These days, I can barely get through one question before I'm being called over to answer another.

It's nice. And they all throw their hands up to speak in those last five minutes and are seriously proud of themselves after they do it.

In short, stamps for discipline.... meh. I prefer not having to rely on that. But stamps for motivation in the classroom? Best thing I've tried so far. There have been several students who have been convinced they can't do it. They'll wander up somewhere near the podium to wait their turn, falter, and turn around to go sit back down. But if I call them back up and give them a little extra push, they always come through and just beam and beam about that damn stamp afterward. Their whole group gives them props afterward, for being the one to go up and get them that much closer to their ten stamp goal. And I honestly don't even think it's about the candy, so much as the achievement of something they had no reason to put themselves out there and try before.

I'm happy with them, and I'm very happy with this system. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes the fear out of speaking English for a lot of boys this semester, once they give it a shot and see that it's not so bad.


Turner said...

Isn't it kind of demeaning, for kids that old? I used it successfully on 6-year-olds but after 10 they just seemed to not care at all about negative points.

Patrice said...

Hey, I'm a psych student and I thought you might be interested to know that in Clinical Psychology, they teach that positive reinforcement works better than punishment at creating lasting behavioral modification. So I think you're pretty much on the right track with not paying to much attention to the negative points.
Awesome blog.