Boredom in class
What to do when your students are bored - for teachers; How to survive a boring class - for students; Personal experience - Veronika Emelyanova.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR STUDENTS ARE BORED
Have you ever been in a situation when the lesson you have planned did not provoke as much enthusiasm form your students? More so, their eyes keep drifting away and they keep stifling yawns? Your students are BORED! A nightmare, we know. But fear not - we have faced the lion and came out alive. Read on to find out what you can do if you ever find yourself in a situation like this.
Analyse their type
No two people are alike, sure, but there are 12 zodiac signs and almost everyone has at some point in their life exclaimed “This is so me!” after reading about themselves. At Amazy, we have worked with a lot of different students and came to a conclusion, that they all had different learning styles. What’s more, if it matched their teacher’s teaching style (ignore the tautology) the lessons ended up exceptionally productive and successful. We singled out three types:
Gentle. These people like everything pretty and fun, they are often visual learners and hate grinding. They’d rather chat and laugh, they need a nurturing environment, where that can be safe. Then they open up and flourish.
Strong. This type is a hard-working one. They love a fresh challenge, high-paced lessons and often take on leadership roles. Strongs will gladly help a fellow students with a tough assignment and will most likely benefit from the atmosphere of competition.
Structured. The final type is about thoughtful people who need to get to the bottom of things. They love systemising everything, doing a careful analysis, will ask questions and dig deeper. They will benefit from individual work and can even study rules themselves.
Your students may be a combination of two or even all three types, but in all likelihood, one will dominate. If you know what types of activities, pace and atmosphere will appeal to their learning style, you will have a higher chance of keeping them interested and engaged in class.
Analyse their interests and needs
In the very first lesson a teacher should always find out about their student’s background, expectations and interests. This information will help you tailor your course to your student’s needs and help you choose the right topics. If your student has no interest in movies whatsoever, a lesson on famous directors or actors will definitely be a flop. So, take notes and use them!
Be flexible and plan accordingly
Even if you have successfully identified your student’s type and learning style, noted their needs and interests, sometimes they may come to class in a fowl mood, or they may have had a sleepless night. And you can do nothing about it whatsoever. So, we advise you to read the room and be prepared to change the plan if need arises. It always pays off to have a speaking activity ( a discussion, debate or a role-play) planned just in case, have a game or two up your sleeve or maybe something less interactive and calm depending on what they feel like doing.
Doing the same thing for 40-60 minutes will bore even the most stoic student. If you planned your lesson around an article, do not expect your student to be excited if they spend the whole lesson reading it out loud (which is an unnecessary practice in itself) and talking about new words. Plan a variety of activities that will activate different skills - speaking, reading, listening, writing. Add a game or two, an occasional filler, and the lesson will end up being dynamic, engaging and fun.
Some students say they like it when the teacher explains everything to them, and some may even learn best this way. The majority, however, are simply used to the teachers giving them all the answers on a silver platter and don’t know better. Grammar doesn’t have to be explained in a straight-forward way, it can be a discovery which your students make themselves. This approach is called Guided discovery (aka Inductive approach), where the teacher guides the students to the right answers involving their prior knowledge and analytical skills.
Change the routine
If your every lesson looks the same, even if you do everything by the book, the students may still eventually get bored. Try to break the routine and try something new - experiment with approaches or media. If you have been using only a coursebook before, bring in authentic realia. If you have been using a PPP approach, try a lexical approach, or a flipped classroom or even DOGME. Don’t be afraid to step away from the syllabus and discuss a trending topic! If you don’t know where to get interesting ideas, read this issue.
Don’t be afraid to look silly or funny, your reputation will not crumble to dust if you make a joke or two. Even if humour does not come naturally to you, you can still use it as a powerful teaching tool. This article will explain how.
And finally, here are some unusual lesson plans, that might be just right for you and your students:
Memes: the changing face of society. B1 - discuss your students’ favourite memes and how they reflect the world around us.
Time travelling machine. B2 - what is time? Is time travelling even possible? Where would you go if you had one (or should we say “when”)?
Scam emails. B2 - you will have to ask your students to write a scam email of their own at the end of this one!
Elon Musk buys Twitter! B1 - this lesson will appeal to all - it’s about current affairs, technology, the rich and famous… you name it!
Is “The Mandalorian” a new western? B2 - Not only for the fans of Star Wars and a recent new TV show in the universe, but also for the fans of Westerns!
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial. B2 - learn some legal English and try to get down to who is in the wrong after all.
Bruno Mars “The Lazy Song”. A2 - for those lazy days when you just don’t feel like doing anything. You’ll all have to sing in karaoke at the end of the lesson, hehe.
Inventing Anna / Tinder Swindler. B1 - another popular Netflix series based lesson. There is a lot to discuss here, that’s for sure.
What do you do when your students get bored in class? Do you have any secret tricks?
14 Tips To Survive A Boring Class
Not all classes are created equally. Throughout your academic experience, you may find yourself in a class that you find to be unengaging. The challenge will be to still get a good grade and complete the course. But how do you survive a boring class? What works for some won’t work for others.
To help you get through, we’ve compiled some of the best tips and proven practices that help students get through boring classes.
1. Sleep Well
Your sleep is inherently tied to your ability to focus. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep so that your brain has what it needs to function and focus.
2. Read Material
Things are more engaging when they make sense. It’s likely that your teacher/professor will assign reading material that’s related to the lecture for the day. If you’ve read the material, then you will be able to better understand the topic and may feel more willing to remain engaged.
3. Create Questions In Advance
When you enter class prepared, you can also write up questions to ask before the class so that you’re actively participating. It will aid in passing the time!
4. Prepare Yourself For A Mentally-Draining Class
If you already know that this class is boring or leaves you feeling drained, then try not to have another expectation. That way, you won’t feel disappointed. The best-case scenario is that the class goes well and you instead feel surprised.
5. Sit Up Front
Just like in real estate, your location matters! If you’re attending a class in-person and have the choice of where to sit, then position yourself up front. You may be inclined to pick a seat in the back, but when you sit up front, you’ll be closer to the teacher. This will make you more accountable to pay attention and dissuade you from getting lost in distractions like your phone.
6. If You Are On Your Laptop, Don’t Check Social Media
Let’s repeat this one — don’t check social media. It’s a rabbit hole that will lead you so far in that you’ll forget where you started. If you feel you can’t control yourself, then use a third-party monitoring app like KeepMeOut which allows you to lock yourself out of whatever site you want for whatever period of time you designate.
7. Enjoy A Cold Beverage During Class
Cold air helps to keep people awake. In the same vein, drinking a cold beverage can help to stimulate your senses and help you stay in the moment.
8. Sit With An Enthusiastic Classmate
Sit nearby a student who demonstrates their interest or care for the class. This way, you can hopefully feed off of their energy.
9. Take Notes During Class
Remember what we said about being engaged and participating before? By taking notes, you will not only better absorb the material, but you will be able to use your notes as a resource to study for upcoming exams.
10. Take A Quick Bathroom Break
If the class is dragging on and you need a quick refresh, step outside to use the bathroom and come back. Use the short break to remind yourself that you need to walk back to the room (or computer, if you’re taking an online class) with intention.
11. Do Your Homework!
Doing your homework will most likely be reflected as a part of your grade. So, you’ll have to do it if you want to get a good grade in the class. Furthermore, doing your homework will help you to better understand material and give yourself a bigger incentive to pay attention during class time.
12. Figure Out The Root Of Your Problem
Why do you find the class so boring? It is not challenging enough or is it too challenging? Is it not being counted towards your major? Ask yourself what about the class is making it feel boring and try to address the root cause.
13. Pinpoint A Topic In The Subject That Interests You
Put in the effort to find something about the subject that you find interesting. Once you find interest, you may experience a domino effect and start to care more about other parts of the class.
14. Adjust Your Perspective
Realize that this is temporary and it all contributes to your future self. Even if the class is boring, you will be able to gain valuable lessons about yourself and the subject while attending. Focus yourself on the positive attributes rather than the negative and more good will come your way!
What do you do when you get bored in class?
My name is Veronika, and I have been an English teacher for more than six years. There are some observations from my teaching experience I would like to share.
What do you do when you feel that your students are getting bored in class?
I believe if a student is bored, something is off. His or her attention has drifted away, the brain doesn’t register what is happening as useful or valuable. I think, sometimes a teacher can help it, which is not possible or needed in university but appropriate with a tutor.
All students have very different backgrounds, not only different language levels. The context is formed by their age, profession, hobbies, or any specific situation. Sometimes a teenager doesn’t believe in value of university he has to enter, especially when there is “a must” confronting his teenage angst. Something closer to his daily life can be more motivating than a chance of having a profitable profession. One of my students attended additional classes in mathematics, accordion, and French after school, he was tired of continuous learning. In fact, he didn’t really want to learn English at all and rebelled to the sole concept of another tutor. The idea of his future exams made him distracted and out-of-body. What really caught his attention was what he loved, to be precise, chatting with his school friends. They were his relational tribe, his figures of authority, and everything connected to their relationship and respect he could gain from them was very important for him. The topic became the key to our first lessons. Talking about it, he had energy for the discussion, and grammar was circling the topic, too.
Another student was pregnant, her daily routine changed, and we followed the new list of her interests and priorities. She found it uncomfortable to talk about what turned less essential, like travelling or hotels. She found speaking of something she couldn’t have tiring and disturbing, which she never said out loud, but you could guess it from her reactions. I think, students would never tell you such things straight away, you must understand it yourself and student’s boredom is one of the signs.
I also have experience with a refugee immigrant. More than half of the topics typical for the English coursebooks would not work out, so I adapted the course and never touched on the “Family holidays”.
Of course, not all cases are as extreme, but I think the rule of adapting the materials works for everybody, even in detail. Somebody doesn’t drive a car or is afraid of driving, somebody doesn’t cook, somebody just doesn’t like speaking and would happily sink into structured grammar, somebody cannot stand structured grammar and you might let him or her speak through the rules.
What I say doesn’t mean that the lesson must be limited by topics interesting for a student, which is impossible. I say that sometimes a student has specific context affecting his or her priority set. Grammar is pure information and to help it digest you might find something lively and captivating, something filling the empty forms of rules with energy. Boredom may be a sign that a student’s brain has marked the topic impractical and void. I don’t think there is a chance to influence your brain with rational arguments, persuading it to be focused. Probably you can touch it with emotions and a promise of future benefit, not only pleasant and useful but also close enough to achieve.
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