Problem Solving – Problems

We were originally scheduled to have a talk from one of our teachers on Classroom Management this week, but they’ve cancelled at the last minute which left me in a bit of a bind. I don’t have time to do up another talk, but I don’t want to miss out a date on our CPD calendar. Instead, I’ve come up with a list of potential problems and have posed questions after them – I’ve sent this on to teachers and on Thursday we’ll sit down for 30-40 minutes and talk about them.
I’m hopeful that this will be a good way to discuss classroom management and that it will spark some interesting conversations and ideas around the staffroom.
Seeing as I’ve gone to the trouble of writing out the problems I figured I might as well invite anyone who wants to join in – leave a response to any of the problems in the comments and I’ll make sure to read your contribution at our meeting on Thursday.
1. A student who didn’t pass the progression test expresses annoyance that the class isn’t challenging enough for them. They know all the answers to the exercises already.
What can the teacher do in this situation?
2. The teacher in instructions tells students to find out about their partner’s favourite film. In feedback, they correct lots of errors but don’t ask anyone what the film was.
How do the class feel about the work they do?
3. The teacher wants to check if students understand a grammar point – e.g. present perfect. T asks ‘If I know the time, do I use the present perfect?’  Ss: ‘no’. T: ‘When do I use the present perfect?’ Ss: ‘When you don’t know the time’.
Does the teacher know if the students can use the present perfect?
4. An interaction in an A1 class goes something like this:
T: So, what did anyone do at the weekend?
S1: I go to cinema.
T: You went to the cinema, went to the cinema, good, what did you see?
S1: Batman.
T: Batman, very good, I like Batman. anyone else?
S2: I go to the park.
T: You went to the park.. went to the park.
S2: Yes, I went to the park.
T: Very nice – the weather was good wasn’t it. Ok. Let’s see what we’re going to do today.. …


What effect do the teacher’s responses have on the class here?


5. The teacher wants to explain the 2nd conditional. To do it, they spend about 20 minutes at the board going through the rules and some examples. The students listen carefully, make some notes and then do some exercises. They get all the correct answers and afterwards most of them are able to make their own sentences using 2nd conditional in free(r) practice. A few days later, the teacher notices that students are making mistakes with this structure.


What went wrong?


6. To start the class the teacher does a brilliant mingle activity where some students are pirates and others are aliens and they all must work together to find out who is the human and where they hid the gold. It’s amazing – it really gets students up and about and talking. The main lesson is about compound nouns, T does a presentation about them and students do lots of exercises. After all that work, in the last 20 minutes, the class do ‘youtube karaoke’ – it’s great fun, they all go home laughing and smiling.


How do the students in this class feel about their coursework?


7. An interaction at B1 goes something like this:


S1: Is terrible in my country, the politico, they no have good moral, they robber. My father, once he had good job, but now is all… ..
T (interrupting): Yes, ok, now. not ‘politico’ – what do we say?
S2: politician
T: yes, that’s it, politician (writes on board). And we don’t say ‘they no have good moral’ we say…?
S3: They don’t have good moral?
T: Almost, ‘they don’t have…?’
S4: They don’t have any moral?
T: better, but any…. followed by singular or plural?
S2: morals?
T: That’s it… (writes phrase on board). Now, ‘they robber’ .. What should we say?
S3: They are robbers?
T: Yes, that’s ok, but for politicians we have an adjective to describe them, starts with ‘c’
S4: Corruption.
T: That’s it, but that’s the noun, the adjective is..?
S2: Corrupt?
T: Excellent. (writes on board) – Now, who wants to respond to that?


What changes would you make to this sequence? How does student 1 feel about their teacher here? Would you respond?

5 thoughts on “Problem Solving – Problems

  1. Hi Liam,

    I think I sort of know how I would respond to all these except number 6. No clue there, maybe because I never do karaoke or play zombie games. Not sure, really.


    • Hi Kamila,

      Thanks for reading and commenting – don’t be shy, you can tell us what answers you’d have for them – I’d like to hear them, I’m going to do this with a group of teachers in my school on Thursday so hopefully I’ll have some more answers then.

      For number 6, I think the point here is that the teacher has great creative activities, but they aren’t connected to the core work that needs to be done. I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is the need for lesson flow and connectedness -> if you do lots of ‘fun’ things either side of the ‘real work’ then what’s memorable about the lesson will be the fun and games and not what you wanted the students to learn.
      Maybe I could rephrase the question to be that -> What will students remember about that day’s lesson?


      • Thanks, Liam. Now that you’ve explained it, I can see it too. The rephrasing makes it clearer.
        Are these real situations from observations? Here’s what I think, but I’m a teacher, not a teacher trainer:-)
        As for 1, I’d tell the student they need to pass the test before getting more challenge.
        2, disappointed, probably. The task was to find out about a film, so T should check the task, i.e. ask students to report on film, correct mistakes later.
        3, no, other tenses apply to these Qs, too. More CCQs needed, I think.
        4, sounds like small talk at the start of a lesson. Ss might feel the teacher is not really interested in learning about their weekends. I think T could use the conversation as a diagnostic tool for later work.
        5, In my experience, it takes a loooong time to fluently use any conditional structure, and I hear it used correctly at C1 levels only. There probably wasn’t enough practice, and certainly not enough oral practice (1 stc only), so surely students can’t be expected yet to correctly orally produce the structure.
        7, I’d let the discussion roll, only supply words that Ss need. Afterwards, run a short session supplying more related vocabulary, and then run the discussion again. S1 didn’t get a chance to say much, in spite of being the first to volunteer his or her opinion.


      • They’re kind of real situations – some of the problems are things that teachers have told me about, others are things I have observed, and some are just made up to illustrate a point. Number 6 is mostly made up, but the principle of ‘connectedness’ is something that I consider to be missing in a lot of the lessons I’ve observed.

        I’ll do another post later in the week with some examples of what the teachers in my school say and with the point I was trying to illustrate as well.. Thanks for contributing, I’ll make sure your opinions get aired in our meeting on Thursday!


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