What Do I Do If My ESL Student Takes My Seat?

Imagine entering your car, only to find a stranger sitting in the driver’s seat. They don’t have keys, because it isn’t their car. They turn to you and smile, waiting for you to start the car and drive. This is exactly how it feels when a teacher enters a classroom to find a student sitting in the wrong seat.

Not only is it off-putting, but also creates a hostile environment that hinders learning. When students sit in the wrong seat, either by accident or on purpose, they are disrupting their own learning. By placing the teacher in an unfamiliar position, possibly further away from the whiteboard or across the room from a CD player, the classroom’s calm gives way to chaos. This situation must be rectified as soon as it is spotted.

As a teacher, if you enter the classroom and notice things are amiss, hang back in the doorway for a moment and see if the student realizes their error. If the student doesn’t move, then you should enter the classroom and lightly bump into them, making light conversation in hopes that they realize that they are sitting in the wrong seat. This will prompt most students to move to the correct seat, but if it doesn’t, do not give up and sit down in the incorrect seat unless you want the student to believe that there is no problem.

Many rooms have tables with chairs arranged on opposite sides. If the student doesn’t move, place your seat as close to the student as possible, and suggest that they move to the “empty side” of the table. To entice the student, you can place their homework or textbook in the area where you wish them to sit. For younger students, small candies or stuffed animals work best.

Adult students are oftentimes more difficult to move, as they cannot be physically lifted and moved as easily as children. However, if students are of a high enough level of comprehension, you can ask them politely to change seats. In many cases they will rightfully apologize and relocate themselves.

Although the situation can be very frustrating, it is vital that you do not let your emotions get the best of you. Crying, lashing out, or throwing objects are all acts that will cause the learning environment to become soured. Write any and all emotions that you are feeling on a piece of paper, and share the paper with the student. Introduce any unknown vocabulary via facial expressions, or write the definitions on the paper, next to the words.

How Do I Explain the Difference Between “Ride” and “Drive”?

Teaching the difference between “ride” and “drive” is initially simple; “drive” has many different uses outside of operating a vehicle. However, practicing all of these additional uses can create confusion in the classroom, as there is no similarity between them.

For example;
Mr. Yamada drives a car.
Mr. Yamada drives a screw into a piece of wood.
Mr. Yamada drives his subordinates to achieve success..
Mr. Yamada drives a golf ball over 400 yards.
Mr. Yamada drives a baseball through a window.

carWith no similarity between all of these examples, exclusively using “ride” in reference to cars becomes a lot more appealing, but as all native speakers know, the driver of the car cannot also be a rider in the car. To avoid all of the difficulty associated with learning each meaning, and the associated vehicle for each, simply have the student use “use”.

For example;
Mr. Yamada uses a car.
Mr. Yamada uses a bicycle.
Mr. Yamada uses a train.
Mr. Yamada uses a horse.

By avoiding “ride” and “drive” altogether, a more concise word can be used, making English conversation easier for the listener as well as the speaker.

How Do I Convince My Student That “Sand” and “Sandwich” Are Not the Same Thing?

Due mainly to katakana being used to represent foreign loan-words, foreign words take on many extra syllables when represented in Japanese. Something like “personal computer”, which has 6 syllables, would become “pasonaru conpyuutaa”, which contains 7 syllables. 6 is a lot more comfortable than 7, but most Japanese enjoy , thus it would become the 3-syllable “pasocon”.

Oftentimes, “sandwich” (サンドイッチ) is abbreviated as “sand” (サンド), which has led to most students believing the two words to represent one item. Imagine an English speaker’s surprise upon hearing that their counterpart eats sand. The surprise would be great.

To break the student of the bad habit of expressing enjoyment concerning the consumption of sand, it is good to keep a small pouch of clean sand in the pocket of your suit, allowing for rapid access when the need arises. Fine, white sand works best for this demonstration. Sand may be steamed, microwaved, or baked at 200 degrees for 5 minutes to remove any bacteria.

sand

Sand

As the student begins to mention eating “sand”, reach into your suit to retrieve the pouch, and sprinkle a little on the table. Inquire as to whether the student wishes to eat the sand on the table. The answer will be “no”, to which you would respond “correct. I don’t want to eat sand. Repeat”, and have the student repeat the sentence. Coach the student to say “I want to eat a sandWICH”, placing emphasis on the “wich”.

Under no circumstances should the student be allowed to eat the table sand. It is not meant for consumption.

How Do I Teach Polite Requests?

Occasionally you will encounter a student so rude that they could be mistaken for a Frenchman. France is famous all over world for it’s inventive cuisine and unsurpassed rudeness, but some of that rudeness derives from misappropriate English language use. Japanese are genetically not rude people, and therefore it is important to give the students the appropriate language to express themselves in the politest ways possible. This is often done with the use of polite requests, since if a request isn’t polite, it’s an order.

Have the student transcribe the following 4 questions in random order;

  • Give me your wallet.
  • Please give me your wallet.
  • Could I have your wallet?
  • May I have your wallet?

Have the student number the sentences from most polite to least polite.
If you notice any problems in the order, create an apprehensive look and back away from the sentences as though they are a very ugly baby. The student will notice your apprehension, and their shame will help them to remember the mistake.
Once the sentences have been verified to be in the correct order, read them out loud and have the student mimic while passing a wallet back and forth. If both the student and the teacher are uncomfortable with using real wallets, they may be substituted with a piece of paper that has the word “wallet” written on it.
Once the student has had enough practice saying the sentences, have them transcribe the following 4 nationalities in random order;

  • French
  • American
  • English
  • Japanese

Have the student number the nationalties from most polite to least polite.
Once again, if there are problems with the order, show your apprehension. The student’s shame from earlier in the class will be compounded, further helping them to remember the correct answers.
Match the nationalties with appropriate politeness, and practice saying the sentences.
Practice this exercise until all of the sentences have been said twice.

How Do I Stop Students From Saying “I Am Reaching Orgasm To The Store”?

In English, reaching orgasm is expressed by many phrases – “Bingo”, “Yahtzee”, “Team Rocket is blasting off again”, etc. However, none are more common than “I am coming”. In Japanese, it is expressed by saying “I go”(行く). There are many mistakes made in Japanese, as they confuse sentences such as “I am going to the store” and “I am reaching orgasm to the store”, and these oftentimes find their way into English lessons.

When the student makes a mistake, confirm meaning by having them demonstrate with their hands. 99% of the time, they mean to express “going” and not “reaching orgasm”.

To practice the difference between the two English meanings, you may practice a roleplay where the student travels throughout a city and reports their activities to you via “phone”. This roleplay should only focus on the literal English meaning of “go”. This will help the student avoid saying anything particularly embarrassing when using English outside of the classroom.