Get my student talking

Can anyone throw me some ideas on how to get a very shy student to talk? I need some inspiration. It’s a small class - two intermediate phd students in their twenties. In the first 30 minute meeting I’ve had so far with the two students one said a lot and the other just grinned now and then. This second girl is notorious for not talking - she has the same issue in her native language, I gather. I’ve been told its going to be a challenge. I’ve also been told that she’ll say a lot in the right company. In my old days at Kojen we’d have the students running around the class room and doing various silly things to get them over their shyness. I have a class-room to teach them in so I could incorporate some of that type of thing. Any ideas along that line or others would be welcome. I’m thinking activities that can be generally applied/adapted to various teaching targets/materials.

Thanks.

Give them an F and tell them if they spoke more they’d get higher grades.

I think you should first find out why she’s not talking. Shy? Afraid that her English is too poor? Intimated by other classmates or even by you? Hate coming to class but does it anyway because it’s something she has to do (parents forced her, job requirement, etc…). Find out why and try to connect with her on that level to alleviate her concerns.

Sometimes they’re just Ice Queens for the sake of it, in which case you should think of them like stuck up hotties at the bar: they just like people fawning for their attention and approval. So what I do is to stop the special treatment and sometimes even make them feel a little left out. They usually come around after awhile.

I once had a lunch-hour casual class for university office workers. Sometimes a couple of profs would drop in, but usually it was just two 20-something girls. One of those girls hardly ever spoke. After a time, I struck a deal with her: gave her a minimum number of statements she had make each class. (And it was a minimal number.)

Learning what they were interested in helped. Daily chit chat helped. But really, not much.

Still, the quiet one was interesting, and eventually started to open up. Then big quake struck, the school was damaged, funds pulled from anything optional to cover reconstruction and the class canceled. By that time, we’d established enough of a dialogue that we continued class on our own as a language exchange.

Well, +10 years later and there are times when I wonder what was I ever thinking? She just won’t STOP talking: “Jaboney, can you take out the recycling? Don’t forget to pay the bills. Uh-uh: baby poo’ed and it’s Baba’s turn.”

Have a care with the quiet ones. :wink:

Na, she’s not an ice queen. Had an embarrassed grin on her face most of the time. It’s possible not giving her attention might spur her to conversation. It also might mean she doesn’t come to class which might, in time, lead to no class for me…

[quote]I once had a lunch-hour casual class for university office workers. Sometimes a couple of profs would drop in, but usually it was just two 20-something girls. One of those girls hardly ever spoke. After a time, I struck a deal with her: gave her a minimum number of statements she had make each class. (And it was a minimal number.)

Learning what they were interested in helped. Daily chit chat helped. But really, not much.

Still, the quiet one was interesting, and eventually started to open up. Then big quake struck, the school was damaged, funds pulled from anything optional to cover reconstruction and the class canceled. By that time, we’d established enough of a dialogue that we continued class on our own as a language exchange.

Well, +10 years later and there are times when I wonder what was I ever thinking? She just won’t STOP talking: “Jaboney, can you take out the recycling? Don’t forget to pay the bills. Uh-uh: baby poo’ed and it’s Baba’s turn.”

Have a care with the quiet ones. [/quote]
What! one minute I’m asking for a brain kick-start for how to deal with my won’t-talk student and, next minute I’m being told I’ve found my partner for life. Ha ha. Thanks mate. Perhaps I should let her know we were meant for each other and see how lively she gets.

I do think your suggestion that I make a deal with her regarding a minimum number of statements is good. And provide her with some means to make those statements.

To be honest I was more thinking of actual interesting/fun/stimulating activities to use with two students and that I could wrap whatever teaching aims I had around. The sticky on teaching games seems to have disappeared.

Seems like she’s just shy about speaking English. You can try to make her feel more comfortable about her English by flaunting your Chinese :slight_smile:

(not a good idea if your Chinese is good lol!)

Yeh, well, suffice to say, ‘flaunting’ is not the word I’d pair up with my Chinese. :slight_smile:

Have you ever played the game ‘Number One to Number Two’ ??

It’s a game I used to play in Primary School with my friends.

A: Number One to Number Two
B: Number Two to Number Three
A: Number Three to Number Four

…and so on, as fast as you can, until somebody messes up (which happens quite often, because the natural instinct is to count ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ not ‘1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5’ ). You should join in and play too, my students routinely beat me :wink: (they do speak slower than me though).

It’s an easy and quick game, and it gets people’s lips moving around English sounds, too; I usually use it to loosen up at the beginning of private classes.

You can maybe spend around 5 minutes doing that?

Another thing that might be good (since they’re obviously VERY advanced students, right?) is maybe grab some picture cards of animals, everyday objects etc., shuffle them and pull 5 or so out at random. Put one on the table and tell them to start telling you a story about this card. You have two students, so maybe make them say one sentence at a time, and all together 4 sentences. Then pull out the next card - they then have to continue the story, including this new object, again one line at a time. The stories usually end up being really silly, they’re fun to think of and because they’re silly (esp. if they follow on from the first game) they bring people out of their shell a bit. You can spend about 10 minutes doing that, then say ‘OK, you guys are in English mode now’ and then start the actual lesson.

When I have adult students who are shy in conversation, I will have them prepare little oral presentations based on something they are interested in. If she is working on her degree, she must have some ideas that she needs to present to her teachers. Ask her to prepare short presentations and you and the other student can ask her some simple questions. If she is the “expert”, then she might open up a bit. To be fair, ask you other student to do this too. Try to act interested in the things they are studying and then try to mix in some fun topics too. A little bit of fun homework is good for private conversation classes.

Cheers guys. Thanks for all the suggestions. I had a class this morning with them and it went well. Tried out the counting game and it made them both laugh when they lost it. Then moved into the class proper and they were away. The shy one is actually not really as shy as I’d been led to believe. Or maybe it was that counting game. Ha. In any case she did a fair bit of talking and when she got stuck we helped her out. I’ll try out some of those other suggestions in time.

I’m glad the game worked ^____^