“Teacher, teacher, finish!”

This will be a familiar refrain to anyone who’s ever worked at a summer school*, and is coming back to haunt me now that I’m working (semi-)permanently at a private language school in the UK. I’m currently teaching an Elementary level group 20 hours a week, with various of the students having been in the same class for the last 2+ months and getting very impatient about going up a level.

The first thing I always do with this phrase is teach the students that the correct word is in fact “FinishED”, and if they ask we talk about the fact that it’s short for “I have finished.” At least that hurts my ears less 😉

The next thing to do is work out how to deal with this situation. My ultimate aim is to train the students out of saying “Finished” at the end of every task, particularly at the end of a speaking task (how can you ever be ‘finished’ with a speaking task?) These are not students who are particularly shy or quiet in their L1s, and they’re not so short of English that they struggle to find things to say. I’ve been trying to work on question forms a lot over the last couple of weeks, and one of the nine students has got the hang of asking extra questions to continue a conversation, partly because she is the student most desperate to go up a level and she’s trying to prove she’s ready (more on that in a later post), but also because we discussed how she converses in Arabic, including whether she says “Finished” at the end of every conversation in her native language.

For more finite tasks, there is generally a much clearer ‘finish point’, but I find the idea that the students feel the need to tell me they’ve finished when it’s pretty obvious I can see that a little depressing. Don’t know if that’s just me though? When doing the IHCYL about how to teach young learners, there was much discussion about what to do with fast finishers, but most of the time these (adult) students finish within a few seconds of each other so the idea of extra activities (maybe) doesn’t apply. Should I just ignore the ‘finished’s or is there a way to harness this enthusiasm? I often extend the task a little, but find these extensions can sometimes end up doubling or even tripling the length of an activity.

Apologies for the stream of consciousness nature of this post – it’s late and I really needed to get it out of my system! All solutions/thoughts gratefully accepted…

By @ayearinthelifeof from #eltpics on Flickr

*I don’t know if it was/is just my classes, but I never noticed students doing this in Brno, when I was teaching them for a whole year. Either that, or I complained at them and have now forgotten about it 😉

11 thoughts on ““Teacher, teacher, finish!”

  1. One of the IH videos for teacher training has Maureen McGarvey convincing students to communicate. I nicked her idea of the three As. Ask(a question) Answer(the q) and Add(more info). It seems to have stopped my students from finishing too quickly.


    1. Thanks for that idea Sue – I really like it. One of the teachers at school also told me about an idea for speaking:
      -Give each student a length of wool/string.
      -While they’re talking they wrap it around their finger.
      -They’re not allowed to finish talking until all of the wool is gone.
      I really like this idea for conversations. I’m also doing a lot of work on asking follow-up questions and responding appropriately this week. Now I just have to wait and see!


  2. Those students wouldn’t happen to be Turkish, would they? 🙂

    This is something I’ve had to deal with my whole career here, especially with kids who take it to the extra level of desperately shouting ‘TEACHER! TEACHER! TEACHER!’ until you respond. Then they just say ‘finish’…

    First of all, I try to deal with the phrase they use. Quite often I hear ‘I am finish’ so I point out the correct way to say it. With writing exercises or group work, I try to train my kids to check their work together when they are done or help those who are yet to finish. I remşnd them that I am aiways circulating, checking and helping during the activity and well as checking the completed version.

    It takes some time to ‘train’ them though!


    1. Strangely, a lot of the ones at summer school were Turkish. Now, they’re mostly students from Saudi Arabia – I don’t know how similar education is in the two countries. Definitely still in the training stage at the moment, but getting there slowly!


  3. If you have the resources available, have each student have a book to read when they finish ahead of their classmates. If not, you may want to have a few “extra” handouts for the students to work upon when they finish. These handouts may be on the same subject or a different subject.

    Another open ended exercise is to have the student identify words they can make from a limited number of letters such as “Valentine’s Day” or “It’s raining cats and dogs”. Some of my students in Korea made a list of over 60 words from that last phrase.


  4. I feel your pain! Sadly, I get ‘finish!’ a lot more from my adults (in Moscow) than I do my teenagers and children. Somewhere along the way, the younger students have realised that a conversation is never really ‘finished’ and, upon completing the activity (e.g. answering all the questions for discussion), continue to talk to each other in English rather than L1. I don’t mind them straying off-topic a little if the ‘straying’ is in English rather than Russian.

    Part of the problem (from my own experience) is also that sometimes adults are much keener (or more desperate) to prove their competency than the younger learners, and thus truly believe that finishing first will help them get to the head of the class. I’ve been over different study skills several times with my (adult) Ss but with little success – they don’t seem to take my suggestions on board!

    I think you actually have a useful suggestion yourself with regard to reminding students that we never end a conversation with ‘finish!’ in L1. I intend to go over this with my adults the next time one of them claims to have finished.


    1. Thanks for your comment Carrie. I had to laugh today – one of the students was absent on Monday when I had a conversation with the students about saying ‘finish’ all the time. The other students told him off when he said it to me 🙂 and then tried to explain why (mostly because it makes me annoyed!), although they haven’t quite got to the stage where they find other ways to continue the task, so I’m helping them out with that. At least part of the message seems to be getting through 🙂


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