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Any good techniques designed to encourage risk-taking? 
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:18 pm
Posts: 13
Location: U.S.A.
Post Any good techniques designed to encourage risk-taking?
I am looking for some good techniques that will help Japanese high school students be greater risk-takers. Most of the students are to afraid of losing face and will not speak up. What are some good techniques I can use?

Wed Jan 11, 2006 5:01 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
revrw - welcome to the forums! You've got some great questions.

In general, to help with Japanese students (or any other shy students) I try to always start with plenty of examples and scripted answers. Most of the time students don't think what they have to say is important or they are unsure about whether their answer is intersting, cool, appropriate, etc. (Some teenagers are just in a state of indecisiveness for a few years and asking them for an opinion generally leads to 'I don't care.' as a response.) Then, they clam up or take lots of uncomfortable coaxing. But, it's easier for them to talk about someone else they know or I often use my Big Town cards and then the answers are there on the cards. I have them assume the personalities and answer with the information on the card. Once they've got a good feel for the sentence structure and what kinds of answers are expected, they might be ready to talk about themselves or give unscripted resonses. This technique can be used in a variety of different ways. The Big Town cards are just an example.

Another way to encourage speaking up is to work in pairs or smaller groups and have everyone talking at once. This will eliminate the spot light effect of asking the entire class for one person to pluck up the courage and speak. This is more difficult to monitor for the teacher, but gets some of the quieter students involved.

There are plenty of other ways and I'd love to hear what steps other teachers are taking.

Happy teaching,

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Thu Jan 12, 2006 12:07 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 4:07 pm
Posts: 9
Location: Korea
why not create a situation where speaking and acting "goofy" is expected?

have you tried using competition as a means of getting students speaking more? competitive games can get people talking faster than you might imagine.

if you want them to practice saying a specific structure or something very controlled, don't do it in front of the class. break them into small groups of 2 or 3 and allow them to practice the language with their partner. you can walk around monitoring the groups and making mental notes of the errors you hear. point out the errors afterwards but not who made them.

try to remember the awkwardness of being a high school student in a foreign language class. now imagine that in a society where being different is highly discouraged. its no wonder HS students aren't breaking the arms raising their hands and speaking up.



Thu Jan 26, 2006 9:32 pm
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Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:17 am
Posts: 29
Location: Taiwan
Like the idea of small groups to take the spotlight off shy children. Some partner work is good and they have a worksheet where they need to ask questions and reord basic information about their partner, then read that information back the whole class once the information has been gathered.


Learning should be fun!

Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:48 am

Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:36 am
Posts: 32
Location: Miyagi, Japan
I have a few general suggestions that work for junior high students, and I suspect will be similar with HS kids.

Play music whenever you can. If you the students are doing any kind of individual/pair/group work (so anytime you're not talking) play some good music in the background that will promote a relaxed atmosphere.

Tell jokes or act silly at every opportunity. Of course, you don't want to act like a fool. One hopes the kids are laughing WITH you and not AT you...but if they can see you as a relaxed, fun risk-taker, they're more likely to respond in kind.

I think these are obvious, but also easier said than done.

Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:08 pm

Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2006 9:59 pm
Posts: 16
kep wrote:

Tell jokes or act silly at every opportunity. Of course, you don't want to act like a fool. One hopes the kids are laughing WITH you and not AT you...but if they can see you as a relaxed, fun risk-taker, they're more likely to respond in kind.

The third year students in my junior high turn into stone when the bell rings for English class. This is a very unwelcoming situation to try acting silly in front of. I agree that being silly works well, but after so many jokes bombing I‘ve stopped the jokes and being am being more serious in class.

And for whatever reason, the boys and the girls in this grade do not talk even when they are in small groups. I'm used to seeing the boys and the girls gather on opposite sides of the room when I do any gap fill exercises, but I'm quite surprised that they don't talk to each other in small groups either.

Any tips, encouragement, or anything else is welcome.

Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:29 pm

Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 3:35 pm
Posts: 119
Location: Yamaguchi, Japan
Not sure if this is so important in a second language but I know from teaching my own subjects back home that a subtle way to stop responses is to say, after a student responds, `yes` , `that`s right` and `brilliant`. The other students in the class who had a different answer think that their answer is wrong or not good enough and next time don`t bother. Of course saying `no` to someone also makes them stop answering. Art Costa suggests that saying `thank-you` for that response is a way that will encourage more risk taking. Of course there are times that you may feel that you can`t let an answer be left without pointing out that it is incorrect. This is difficult to do but you can train yourself.
It is also important to take care with the types of questions you ask. If you only ask closed questions then students have many opportunities to be wrong and so not want to answer.

Atmosphere in the class is also very important. There has to be a supportive feel for people to be risk-takers. if you are only going there occasionally then this is hard to develop and you may just have to live with it. Getting to know the students more personally also helps as they realise you are interested in them and are more likely to respond.

For me acting crazy can work, but it is usually a short term answer.

From teaching in New Zealand I can tell you that students of the same age do a similar thing and don`t want to respond in class. For these classes and particularly troublesome classes I have attempted to find out more about them. Finding them at break and joining activities (or organising some for them), taking note of hobbies and sports, successes they have had in life, problems (although I don`t get too involved, if I can help it). I also go and see them in other classes and find out how they act there.

Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:49 pm

Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
Posts: 289
Location: Niigata
I was stumped with this problem for years. I couldn't get the kids to come out of their metaphorical shells, until I was laying in bed one night, like the goober I am, and it hit me!

To get your students to participate without being worried whether they have the perfect answer, apply a little bit of math - two negatives equal positive.

Meaning, when you are playing doing activities where students can receive points, create a negative or mistake column. Then, whenever the students make a mistake, they receive a mark in this column. However, whenever they make 3 mistakes, the marks are erased and converted into 1 positive point. To keep the kids from making mistakes on purpose, a correct answer should be about 3 times greater value of the negative point.

'Sharing a little, gaining a lot'

Mon Jun 18, 2007 3:23 pm
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