I have the most problems with the oldest pupils. They learn German for 9 years know and half of them can't put 5 basic sentences together (my name is, I am....years old, I come from....). The student's book is really boring. It is only about literature and German writers. I bring my own materials sometimes but they are so not interested! The only time they really listened was when I called their names out and asked them to tell me some basic phrases in German. They didn't know how to say "Where do you come from"? That was the only time they were calmer. I have to stick to the program and teach them modal verbs, indirect speech etc. but I really don't know how to do it
Are you familiar with TPR (Total Physical Response) in teaching foreign language? That means that you give orders such as: "Stand up" "Sit down" "Raise your left hand" = you will know immediately who understands and who does not. It helps if you model first, especially if their command of the language is not good.
I used a tennis ball and would throw out a question for them to answer and then gently toss the ball to a student to answer. (What day is it today? Who is to your right/left? What time is it?) Any questions you feel they should know.
Depending upon the seating arrangement, you could have half the class against the other half, or blonds against brunettes, etc. Don't be afraid to be creative.
The first classes I ever had had had at least 6 substitutes. They had had no homework, had done nothing for 6 months. The second day of class we talked about "did they want to waste an entire year, repeat the class next year, or be up with the rest of the classes in June?) They ALL agreed that they did NOT want to waste a year. So we h ad homework every weekend, every holiday and in June they were ahead of the other classes!
Once they know that you only want the best for them, they are with you. Of course, they need to write a good sentence before they try a paragraph. One week we would write a "journal" with questions like: "Who has a harder life - a boy or a girl?" They would write for about 5 minutes and at the end of the week, I would collect the journals. You certainly do not have to read every one - just spot check. They kept a "hit list" with the type of errors they made so they would not make them again. By the end of the year some of the advanced students were writing a page and a half, double spaced.
After writing, we would have a discussion and I used "fake paper money" as rewards, one for a correct answer and 2 if they asked a question. Be cautious for they will learn how to duplicate that money! So change the color, the worth of the bill, etc. often!
I never corrected their errors, just put a circle "near" the error (because I speed read) and they got extra points for correcting their own errors.
The next week we did activities. For example, they were reading "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" so each student got a 3 x 5 card and instructions (in the target language) on how to make an Origami frog. I had a chalk line on the floor and they had a "jumping contest."
Often we worked in pairs, or groups of 3-4, depending upon the size of the class and I had 42 students in a room with 35 desks! We invited the principal who tripped over the student who had his legs in the doorway. The next day they opened another class!
You will find help online as well. Just tell me what you need. For example, "teaching a foreign language" = try some of the following links for information, ideas, etc.:
Just keep this in mind: "You know far more than they do, even with native speakers of the target language" and "once they know what they are doing, they will learn to like, if not LOVE, what you are teaching them!
Sra (aka Mme)