The neat thing about TPRS is that I can see my students really responding more to the material because it's all about teaching comprehensible input in a meaningful (albeit silly) context.
Nevertheless, students will still have "off days." It's frustrating for me because I need my students to help pump me up. What I have noticed generally is that days in which I am not incredibly pumped up are the worst days for the students too. I really must show a desire to be there and to start class on time. Today I was running a little behind. As a result, I started class a few minutes later than usual and I could sense the lack of energy in the students because I didn't greet them with energy when they came into the room. They can sense the energy I have and that determines how they'll respond to the class. As a result, I failed that class this morning. For the second hour, I made a mental note to start as close to the beginning as possible. It was more successful. For the most part, the majority of the students were trying and I had to coach a couple of them into paying attention. But hey, that's what the participation grade reflects. I'll encourage them to participate and pay attention, but ultimately, it is still up to them to run with that.
I did explain that I need them look at me and to answer questions with the rest of the class (in a choral response) so that I know that they understand. If they don't answer, I will assume that they do not understand and I will keep repeating the same things over and over again.
This seemed to encourage the ones who weren't answering to chime in because I needed them to as well. When one or two students don't, they send a message to the others that it's ok to not pay attention. I need to make sure I am constantly offering them positive reinforcement to pay attention when possible to remind them that they have to give their 100%.
I think that what I need to do in the future is to start giving the students a quiz each day and as the last question they should rate their own participation out of 5 points based on how they did. I think this self-evaluation will help them to want to do better since they can see what their effort is worth.