Foreign Language and Group Work Where Discussion is NecessaryBy
Question: I am a foreign language teacher so there has to be talking and action in my classroom. The students misinterpret this activity as meaning you can talk about whatever you like. I have worked on it and worked on it and told them they may talk only in the target language but many are just first year students. What should I do here?
Answer: The whole idea here is that there is a consequence for anything that is not contributing positively to the classroom environment that you, as a professional, want. Most activities that seem like they are a loophole are not at all if you check the rules; in this case, students not talking about the assignment are off task, and receive detention. My experience (and I tell students this) is that I can merely look at their body language and listen to the tone of the conversation without knowing exactly what they are saying to know if they are on the assignment or not, so I don’t have to be near them or listen to false protests of ‘We were talking about the work’. ‘Get on Task or come after school today’.
Also, I recommend quiet academic book work for the first week or two to get students accustomed to a focused atmosphere, then slowly breaking them into the group work a bit at a time, and immediately stopping it and going back to quiet work if they are off-task, so that they know group work is a privilege and not for gossip or social networking.