When the Lesson Isn’t A Good Fit for Students

Teachers Are Full of Great Ideas

Most teachers are active online because we love scoring new ideas from other teachers, especially on how to improve our practice or student experience. We become enamored with novel teaching strategies, games, ideas, to take back to our classroom to implement. We are so sure our students will be receptive; we may even score some points with the administration! But what happens when those ideas or any new classroom hack, as life-giving as they are, prove not to be a fit for our students? What do we do? 

I was asking myself this very question the other day. I love using songs in the classroom, and have read many blogs about how to use song lyrics. In class, we talk about the artist (which is a great way to hit those Super 7 verbs. Click here for my freebie lesson on Gente de Zona and the Super 7 verbs), sing the lyrics (I choose selected parts of the song), and bust a few dance moves. This is the repertoire I have used for years, and has made my class exciting! Kids enjoy moving, and those who pretend not to enjoy it, well, deep down inside, we know they anticipate the moment! 

However, when teaching the song La Gozadera by Gente de Zona and Mark Anthony, related to this lesson I blogged about earlier this week, my students had a very difficult time. It was totally different from what I had experience before, and my excitement was waning.

Road Blocks

Once we started singing and dancing, students traded the focus and seriousness I had gleaned in previous years, with all out shenanigans. Kids were coarsely bumping into each other on purpose, throwing little spit balls, and having side conversations while we’re singing and dancing!  I had to stop the song several times, remind everyone of the norms (at this point they know).

Needless to say, I was feeling deflated and defeated (and wished I had textbooks so I could stop and say- turn to page 40 and read!). The very next class (with the same students), I changed the lesson; we moved on to something else. I could not contend with the noise, and the disrespect. I always saw this as a treat for them.

Turning the Ship Around

Naturally, I felt some grief about depriving them of the same opportunities given to their predecessors, until it hit me the other day: Sometimes students are just not ready for certain lessons. You can have all your ducks in a row, but if they are not ready, well, we just have to wait it out. This realization wiped my frustration away, and made me think of other ways in which I was forcing the curriculum on them. It crystalized again, I hadn’t really considered their readiness because I never had to. Most classes loved any type of movement, singing etc. This class was different. With this in mind, I started thinking about how this particular class had different needs, and proceeded to change up my routine, and how I delivered lessons.

Due to the high energy nature of the class, I saved the games, and really “fun stuff” for the last 10-15 minutes of class (Gimkit, Quizlet Live, etc). This instructional move improved my overall physical and mental health with regards to teaching on those days. My headaches subsided (I am sensitive to noise, and would usually take headache medication halfway through the class). I ended up planning more structured activities for this particular segment at least for the first 20-30 minutes. I eliminated the 3 minute break (other classes have no problem with the break), and I added a lesson review and a game at the end of class. 

In terms of co-creating stories with my class- something that I very much enjoy (it takes up about 10-15 minutes); I could not co-write with this class. I had to have the story already written (which meant I had to change this class from being the lead class), and do more of an information-gap-filler activity. I did the co-creation in the other Spanish level class, and recycled it for this class. It worked. Pretty soon, I was no longer being a drill sergeant, losing my voice and calling parents. It took me a while not to feel a certain way about having two similar classes and different approaches, but it has worked out so well, and that high-energy class is doing swell! It’s all about what the students needs; when we start there, we can’t go wrong!

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