The Dominant one strikes again!

               Classroom Déjà vu
I have been wondering the past few days about my online teaching style. I am actually starting to think that I am a softie online teacher, or am I just going with the flow?! For the past few weeks, I have been teaching a student who is the type of learner I fret…., the dominant one!

Blast from the past
About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about my Dominant Eap student. This is what I wrote:
We all have or have had one of them in our class. The student with all the answers, the one who happily shouts out the answer to the question sometimes before you even ask it! Now, in an EAP class, a class full of adults, who in my case are usually post grads students, dealing with the dominant student can be a tough cookie.
EFL tricks that may work in a classroom setting.
So, how do you deal with the dominant student?

  • Nomination: The easiest way is to actually nominate students when asking questions. Avoid addressing the whole class with classroom questions, and just use names.
  • Paperclips: The idea is you give each student some paper clips and tell them that they have to use the paper clips during an activity. Each time the student speaks, he hands in a paper clip. That way your dominating student will only speak a few times and the rest of the ss will also have to contribute to the conversation/task.If you do not like paper clips, then you can use pieces of paper, postit notes, or whatever you wish.
  • Paper boards: This is quite fun! In order to know everyone is on task, give your students a sheet of paper (a paperboard). ask a question and tell them to write the answer on their paperboard. When everyone has finished, ask them all to show you their board. That way everyone answers your question. The limitation here is that you cannot use this paper board when you are practicing a long turn and it is not very practical during speaking tasks.
  • Group/work/pair work: Group or pair work minimises the problem because your students are in pairs or groups so there are less chances of the dominant student to dominate the whole class.
  • Role reverse: Actually, you could always ask your dominant student to be the teacher for a few minutes and ask questions instead of answer them!
A ‘thorny’ issue
Back to the present

All these ideas worked. My dominant student was less dominant and my classes ran smoothly.
BUT……….
What happens when you are having a one to one session with a very dynamic/dominant student and this is online? To make matters worse, what happens when the dynamic teacher is paired with a dynamic learner? Well, then ,fellow teacher, welcome to my world!
When teaching online, not everything you do in your nomral class works, so scracth everything I said in the previous section. I cannot give paper clips, I cannot give paperboards, this is a one to one session so, well, there are no groups or pairs. My student is an adult. He is always interrupting me and speaking over me! This learner does not like instructions, and enjoys to jump into things and do the tasks… his way. What can I do? I can’t exaclty mute this learner (although to be totally honest, this has crossed my mind : P).
In this online classroom this is my solution
The talk: Of course, I have had a discussion about how different online learning is and how turn-taking is very important etc, etc.
Other solutions:
Problem: Learner speaking over me—–> I let the learner say his piece, and then I repeat what I said. I sometimes even write some of the things I said in the chat box, just to make sure my learner is aware of what I am talking about. I also laugh it off, because talking over each other is frustrating, so  being a bit light hearted, good willed can help.
Problem: Jumping into tasks —-> Instead of letting the learner read the instructions of the tasks (like I normally do with all my other online learners). I do the reading and then I ask the instruction checking questions.
AND some more ideas
Lesson notes When I teach online, I make lesson notes of corrections, grammar points, vocabulary and important lesson-related topics. I always make sure that everything I want to correct or give suggestions on is in these lesson notes. I highlight the points I may not have been able to highlight during the lesson.
Politeness and hedging: I am assertive, polite and use a lot of hedging with this learner. I very often say, “You may like to…, I am just suggesting……. You could also….”

Out of all the challenges I have faced whilst teaching online, I think this has been the biggest one. In the online classroom your posture, your non-verbal communication cannot be effective and  the Elt tricks do not work. You need to be even more creative and very patient. One to one sessions are also more delicate cause if you lose the student, the class is lost as well. If you have any suggestions, please DO share in the comments section below.

Till next time……


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