Teaching Tips

Be Patient !

Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise,because of impatience we cannot return.

W. H. Auden

Allow sufficient time for students to make a smooth transition from one activity to the next, especially if directives are given in English.

Young children in particular need more time than adults to make a mental transition between processes, and mental transition is a prerequisite to successful physical transition. In the long run, you'll probably save time by taking an additional fifteen to thirty seconds to move students from one activity to the next instead of rushing students to a new project, only to spend several minutes trying to get everyone's attention and cooperation. Routine can be key to smooth transitions. I keep a small cassette player nearby and begin fading up classical music during the last ten seconds or so of an activity. [Music with words can be distracting....] When music reaches a comfortable hearing level, students know to stop whatever they are doing and wait for new instructions. After I have the attention of all students, I fade the music down and give the next set of instructions. Usually, this leads to the immediate cooperation of all students. (Another teacher slowly dims lights, waits for students' attention, gives instructions, increases lighting, and continues.)
Give students adequate time to answer specific questions.
Get into the habit of silently counting at least to ten before giving up on one student and asking the next. Remember, beginning students especially will have to mentally translate the question into their native language, formulate a response, then mentally translate the response back into English. This takes TIME! And even beginning students need to feel like they can communicate with some success. After all, if they can't process thoughts and communicate in class where they are supposed to be free to learn, where will they be able to practice English communication skills and develop the confidence necessary to function successfully in an English-speaking country?
Allow most students enough time to become comfortable with one aspect of language before introducing another.
Some schools seem to play a numbers game. They boast that students learn 500 or even 1,000 words a month. But rote memory serves no purpose if students cannot utilize the new vocabulary in a real-life situation. All too often, students will memorize words like history facts, then promptly forget them after the test. Try reserving one class per week for review. If more than 15-20% of students cannot remember information taught three to four weeks before, then you should probably slow down and allow more time for practicing each new language skill. On the other hand, if more than 15-20% of students begin to demonstrate boredom with a particular language skill, then you can probably increase the pace at which you are teaching.
Utilize the method of cycling.
Preview new material through songs, stories, crafts, games, videos, or casual conversation. The preview grants students some familiarity with the new vocabulary or syntax so that they may connect it with previously learned material when you actually teach it. (Some students will acquire the new language through the preview alone, and these students can later help you explain the new material to students who are struggling.) Teach material, using verbal, visual, and sensory approaches. For example you might teach the color blue by showing students various shades of blue, asking students to name objects that are blue, then calling on students to touch a piece of clothing that is blue or to color with a blue crayon. Finally, review the material on a regular basis. Provide an extensive review immediately after the lesson is taught, using open conversation, action games, songs, chants, and more. Provide a brief review at the beginning of the next class period. Review at least once per week for the next month, then once per month thereafter. (Regular review gives the "stragglers" additional opportunities to learn and keeps other students from losing the skill acquired.)
Allow patience to serve as one of your most effective tools in combatting undesirable behavior.
One of the teacher's greatest advantages should be maturity, the ability to behave in a more responsible manner than the children in his or her care. All too often, however, inexperienced or untrained teachers react "in fashion" to students' inappropriate behavior. The class makes too much noise, so the teacher yells. A preschooler throws a tantrum, and the teacher jumps into the fray. An elementary student makes a rude comment to the teacher or a fellow-student, so the teacher verbally attacks the student. But responses such as these are counter-productive, reducing the teacher to the same level as the student and stripping him or her of all control. By responding in patience, however, the teacher establishes his or her authority in non-threatening manner. Some suggestions include the following:
Respond to minor disruptions with silence.
Simply stop talking and silently wait for students to grow quiet. If questioned, tell students, "Class is not a contest. I will not compete with you." If it is possible to extend class for five minutes or so, the teacher may add any time he or she has stopped because of a disruption to the end of class. This is especially effective, causing students to become "jealous" of class time as well. After the teacher uses this method two or three times, most students will fall silent immediately if the teacher stops talking. A variation (if students must leave by a set time) is to routinely dismiss class one to two minutes early, but to revoke this privilege on any day when the class must stop more than once.
Respond to increased classroom noise by speaking softly.
Speak just loudly enough to be heard by the student furthest from you if the class were completely silent. Students will begin to quieten down as they try to hear what you are saying. You may tell students, "If you cannot hear me speak, then you are too noisy." I have on occasion quietly said, "If you want an M & M, raise your left hand." This rewards the students who are paying attention, while creating a small but appropriate penalty for those who aren't listening (generally the noise makers).
Respond to tantrums by doing nothing.
Tantrums are primarily a means of gaining attention, and the tantrum-thrower generally doesn't care whether attention is positive or negative. If a child wants to throw himself or herself on the ground kicking and screaming, simply ignore him or her as long as he or she is not in danger of self-inflicted injury. Quickly move other students and any assistant teachers away from the area, so that the disruptive child is the object of no one's attention. Try to engage other students in a fun activity like a quick review games, a favorite song, a story, or even play time. As soon as the tantrum thrower realizes he or she is not receiving the desired attention, he or she will stop and quietly join the other students. AFTER the tantrum-thrower returns to the group and engages in the assigned activity, offer a moment or two of positive attention. (Make sure that other students also receive the same attention so they don't perceive the attention as a "reward" for misbehavior.)If a student is in danger of self-inflicted injury (i.e. banging head against a concrete wall, hitting a hard object), quickly move the child away from object(s) on which he or she could be injured. Place the child in a safe area, and leave him or her alone until the tantrum ends. If necessary, you may direct other students to a learning activity or video, then gently but firmly hold the child's hands so that he or she cannot injure himself or another students. (Avoid holding the child on your lap or offering any other affirming action.) If physical contact, with its accompanying attention is necessary, the tantrum will probably last longer than it might otherwise, but the teacher must quietly hold his or her ground. (After all, the teacher should be able to outwait a three or four year old!)
Respond to inappropriate language or unkind remarks by politely asking the student to say five positive things about the person or thing he or she is verbally abusing.
This response forces the student to view the person or thing at which he or she is frustrated from a new perspective. It also boosts the esteem of any child who has just been insulted. Occasionally a student will simply refuse to cooperate. At these times, you may call on other class members to tell what they like about the person or student being attacked. This not only provides the other students with an excellent conversation exercise, but also makes the uncooperative student suddenly feel very alone in his or her negative sentiments. Although the student may "save face" by not altering his or her original position, he or she will think twice before making similar comments in the future.
Purpose in advance not to yell at, insult, or hit a student for any reason and plan mature responses to potential problems.
As basic as this may seem, too many teachers resort to the above tactics without thinking. Even teachers who have previously said, "I would never hit a child," sometimes react in an immature (and even abusive) manner when a situation catches them off guard, especially when the teacher is teaching in a culture that espouses shame and corporal punishment as effective means of maintaining discipline. Teachers should establish from the beginning at least two class rules: "In this class, no one speaks unkindly to anyone" and "In this class, no one hits anyone." They should then apply them to themselves before applying them to their students. The teacher should serve as model, demonstrating through his or her own behavior within the classroom appropriate interpersonal skills. (Even students who cannot understand a teacher's words can comprehend the teacher's example...)
Give at least one warning before disciplining for most infractions.
Young children tend to have short memories, and may disobey simply because they forgot the direction. Often a simple reminder like, "Chang-min, in English class we speak only English" or "Joo-ha, if you play with your eraser, I will have to take it away" bring an end to the problem. (The exception to this in my classroom is physical aggression toward another student. Hitting, kicking, biting, and so forth lead to an immediate time out. Students already actively involved in an emotionally charged situation generally will not listen until they've had time to calm down.)
Remember that learning is a process.
It simply takes time. Learning is also an individual process. Some students will take more time to learn than others. Don't get impatient (or at least don't let it show) when a particular student seems to making little or no progress. Remember that every child has different gifts, and all do not have a special aptitude for foreign languages. Making a child feel stupid or incapable of learning will certainly not improve his or her performance in your class and may significantly hamper his or her progress in other areas. Also keep in mind that you will never know just how much a student is really learning. One young boy made no visible progress for six months. The other students had all learned basic actions and objects, simple sentence structures, common questions and answers, the alphabet, and beginning reading skills, but Dae-won still responded to "What is your name?" with a blank stare. I had arranged for remedial tutoring after his first month, but this led to no visible progress. At the end of his second month, I met with his mother to encourage testing for hearing loss. At the end of the third month, I asked that he be tested for learning disabilities. Half way through the fourth month, I arranged a special meeting with the mother and explained that the boy was simply making no progress and his continued attendance was a waste of time. I suggested that she remove him from the class, allow him a couple more years to develop his native language abilities, then try again. She insisted that he wanted to be in class and left him in. Toward the end of his sixth month, he nonchalantly called out "Good-bye teacher! Have a good day!" as he left class. From that point one, he communicated as well as several other students. I still don't know what brought about the sudden change, but I was glad his mother had more insight into his development than I did!


Osaid Rasheed said...

nice :)

nella atteyeh said...

Hi everybody ,
I think that this is a well developed way to be used in class .
But do you think that our teachers accept teaching English language by this way ?
First thing that they would say is : No time for these activities .

miss do`aa said...

salam alaykom,
firstly, i want to say thank you for this important topic.
secondly, i hop to be able to do that, bacause there is NO TIME
i am a Palestinian teacher but in Saudi Arabia, and here the students controled the teacher.
may god help us..
thank you agin and agin...

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