Is dictation a scary punishment?

Teaching teenagers and behaviour management. / How to  keep teenagers interested when learning EFL. 

Is dictation a scary punishment? 

Diary submitted by Lolita M, Erasmus+ internship in Valencia

Learning English as a Foreign Language is a difficult job requiring determination and focus, since learning Lexis and grammar can be a mentally demanding task. This is why it is important to keep teenagers interested and engaged in a lesson, which can sometimes be hard to achieve. In this essay I will discuss my personal experience in teaching teenagers, which will allow me to demonstrate the strategies used to achieve this goal. Followed by an evaluation of my methods using Preston Ni’s extract, which will show the effectiveness in my approach. 

I have been quite lucky with the teenager students that I have had the pleasure of teaching. For the majority of my time spent with them, they have shown enthusiasm and willingness to learn. However, despite their cooperation, I have encountered a number of times when they got too carried away with certain activities and their excitement has turned into misbehaviour. The problem that I have faced the most is their tendency to speak in MT. The way I have tried to prevent them from speaking in their MT is first by politely asking them to speak in English. I believe that firstly, the teenagers need to be shown manners and polite behaviour when asked to act in a certain way because it is desirable for them to mimic this type of behaviour. Sometimes, they would follow the given instruction without the need for further action. However,  more often they carried on misbehaving and continuing to talk in MT. When this occurs, I give them a warning by stating; “If you continue to not listen to my instructions, as a punishment we will do a dictation”. This warning sign often changed their behaviour for the better. On the few occasions where they continued to misbehave, however, I would follow my word and pause the activity of the class in order to do a dictation. Doing dictation is beneficial for the students because it helps them practice their listening and writing skills, which is essential for learning L2. Teenagers often do not realise the positive side to dictation and instead view it as a chore. This way, I have managed to sustain good behaviour in the class, whilst also benefiting their learning process. 

My behaviour management strategy is further approved by Preston Ni, who has stated that “it’s very important to set boundaries in order to maintain a workable and constructive relationship”. By setting a clear boundary (do not do x, or y will happen), I have clearly shown the students that they cannot “push [my] buttons” and established an authoritative state as a teacher. The authoritative state should come secondary, only after establishing a friendship with the students. There needs to be a good balance found between being someone the teenagers can relate to and have a fun time with as well as someone who can instruct them to behave properly when needed. Preston Ni draws attention to the importance of both roles in his article. Furthermore, Preston has drawn attention to the importance of deploying consequences to resistance; “the ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most powerful skills we can use to “stand down” a challenging person”. Consequences compel the students to “shift from resistance to cooperation”. This point has proven to be correct from personal experience with teenagers. 

Overall, I have demonstrated that by making teenagers do a dictation as a punishment for misbehaviour, it establishes boundaries and encourages them to behave in a better way. 

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