This year in elementary school I'm teaching three 6th grade classes of about 30 kids per class.
Compared to previous years only few kids learn English outside school.
However they want to learn a lot and so their attitude is amazingly good.
They are listening well, are very concentrated, do what I suggest, wether it is singing, gesturing, moving, presenting. Really almost perfect.
What is missing:
They are afraid to make mistakes, they are not used to think beyond the things they are told.
I had a boy (let's call him Peter) jump to England. (Flag of England)
We do this every week with all kind of actions, and then I ask the kids:
WHERE is... or WHO is in...etc
So today I asked another boy "WHERE is Peter?"
I added gestures to the same question:
I didn't make a Yes/No question on purpose, as I really wanted this boy to tell me, what is his problem. Why he does not answer.
But he didn't even say anything in Japanese just looking at me with ?marks.
So finally I said in Japanese:
"Please, communicate your problem to me. You have many options to do so, I do not force you to speak English here, but communicate."
OK, here I finally got a Japanese "Don't know"
so I said, "Look, you need to be specific. What is your problem?
Do you NOT understand my question?
Do you understand my question but NOT know how to answer?
Do you know the English you need, but NOT the flag's country?
Or: Do you know all this, but NOT who Peter is?
So, after I had made this point he got it, (he didn't know the countries' flag) and after his friend told him he could make the sentence.
I was quite picky today, but finally they got it. After this encounter I asked
How do you say "..." in English ("What's your name")
The girl said right away,
"I understand you, but I don't know how to say it in English."
Of course I did NOT scold her for not knowing such an easy thing, but helped her on the spot with some gestures.
She got comfortable, even having the courage to try though she was sure that is wasn't the perfect answer yet. Every try I praised until she finally had the answer. In the end of class she came, looked me in the eyes and said "Good bye". It was more than "thank you".
If I get one kid per week like this, I will be there when they graduate!!!