Friday, February 15, 2013

Solutions for challenging classroom situations

Week 5

Task: 2 - Speculating

a. From a brain-functioning perspective, speculate what could be wrong in the situations below. What other strategies could be more effective?

1) A group of students seem not to understand the target content of the unit. The teacher has been very patient and willing to help the students. The teacher has repeated the explanation several times, but they still don't understand. Both the teacher and the students feel frustrated.

2) A teacher spends several hours preparing a beautiful lesson. In class, students have fun and do the activity in 5 minutes. Later, while correcting the students' tests, the teacher is disappointed at the student's poor retention of that specific content. 

3) Students did poorly on a vocabulary exercise in the test. The teacher doesn't understand it because they seemed to have understood the vocabulary in the class when the teacher taught that content.

 My thoughts

  1) First of all, It's not mentioned if the teacher said what the point of the given lesson was, but in any case, he should do it at the beginning of the class. This would help students to activate schemata by experiencing the process themselves.
In the case when students didn't understand the target content of the unit, the teacher shouldn't just repeat his explanation. He should try to explain the content connecting it with students' prior knowledge, relating it to the previous lessons, saying the same thing on a different way, trying explaining from different perspectives - primarily from students' perspective and prior experience, but also try other approaches, give more real-life examples, anyway something that students already know and understand. He should talk to students, ask them for a feedback, not just to talk. If he just repeats it the same way - that certainly makes students distressed. They feel that they are not capable to understand the content and think more about themselves than about lesson. So, each repetition may only make the thing even worse and worse. Students worry more and can understand less. They begin to feel bad and that only creates more barriers for learning and understanding. Also, I believe that in a class full of students, there might be at least one student who understood what teacher was talking about. The teacher should ask that student to help and give explanations to others, on his own way and that would be the bridge that connects the new with the old knowledge, also connects students to teacher.
 2) Doing something for 5 minutes will not make lasting effect. Teacher should induce students to:
- repeat what they've learnt in timed interval, - create something upon that new knowledge, - make some associations between new and old materials they adopted, - act and do something together, (learning by doing) - share experiences between each other.
That way students would certainly retain the vocabulary much longer.

 3) I guess that they really understood the vocabulary. However, understanding is not sufficient. If students understand something, it does not guarantee that they will be able to practically use it, especially not in a test situation - which is really an artificial situation. It seems that in real-life situations, we are likely to find our way much easier and faster, because we usually have many other things to rely on.
The class time should be used to activate that passive knowledge by actively practicing the usage of vocabulary in various contexts, by simulating different situations, very close to students' real life, so that they can incorporate it easily. 

Recommended readings

Challenge Based Learning - A Classroom Guide
Dealing With Difficult Classroom Situations
Real Teachers Real Challenges Real Solutions 25 Ways to Handle the Challenges of the Classroom Effectively


  1. I really like your ideas, Majo! You deeply analized each situation in a very good way!

  2. Thank you, Admine! :) Hope to find out soon your real name! Somehow, I suspect that I know you. ;)

  3. Very nice blog, and some insightful comments on the questions.

  4. I agree with your response to #2. Five minutes was clearly not enough for the students to learn!