Tuesday 10 April 2012

Some things I've learnt about teaching

Future story choices
All children love Roald Dahl stories.

Last year I tentatively suggested to my co-teacher reading my grade 5 students a story. We have a box set of Roald Dahl stories sitting doing nothing and I thought it would be fun for them. I chose 'The Twits' because I knew it was a good story for young children and it was one of the shorter books. Each week at the beginning of our class I read 2/3 chapters of the story with a powerpoint accompanying me with a few pictures on of words they wouldn't know or to help visualise the story. They loved it. More than I even expected, and they followed it all no problem. I was worried that the lower level students would get bored and distracted as I was rambling on for so long in English, But they were all engaged and concentrating the entire time.At the end of each reading I posed a couple of questions 'What do you think will happen?' 'Will Mr and Mrs Twit eat bird pie?'. and towards the end, a few smart-arse students had found the book and read it themselves so shouted out what was actually going to happen. At first I found this annoying, but then I realised, I had inspired them to want to find out what happens. They enjoyed the book so much they couldn't wait until the following weeks lesson, which is exactly what I did at school with 'Of Mice and men'. So I felt satisfied that I made the right decision to read to them. This semester I let them choose which book to read (I gave options of the shortest stories available) and we're reading George's Marvellous Medicine. So far it's going down a treat. Although those peaky smarty-pants are still one step ahead of me!

If you give students a choice they may surprise you.

Practising past tense verbs
We have regular training sessions out in Seoul within our districts and although they are good social events they don't tend to offer too much in the way of useful tips or advice. But the last one I went on did offer me something which I tried out in class and was pleasantly surprised.

Our classes out here are not streamed so within one class I have some students who are amazing at english and others who don't know the alphabet. It is very difficult to tackle this problem in a class of 30 or more. If you pitch your lesson too low the higher students are bored or too high and most of the students lose interest and motivation. 

So after having read 'The Twits' I decided to have a small recap and comprehension lesson. On the TES website I found some resources. I also made a worksheet for the students to complete. But, as per the advice at my training, I made 3 different types of worksheet; easy, medium and hard. During class I told the students about the three choices, and I gave responsibility to them. 'You can choose which level to take,' I was a little sceptical, and I also assumed most would take medium (because that's probably what I would do.) I was surprised when, more then I had anticipated took the hard worksheet and I had to quickly print off another batch. My pile of mediums sat there untouched. I was chuffed when a few students complained that the hard worksheet wasn't hard enough. I really didn't give my students enough credit. 

Rewards are incredible motivation, whatever form they come in.

Lottery day comes but once a month
In my 5th and 6th grade classes we have a lottery reward system. Every lesson, when a student raises their hand to answer a question, or wins a game or works very quickly, they are given a ticket. They write their name on it and we put it in their class box/bag. At the end of every month we pick two tickets from each class. The student who's picked get a lolly. Obviously the more tickets they have the greater the chance of being picked. It's a bit of a pain having to cut out hundred of tickets, but it gives me something to do in the afternoon. Only 2 tickets are picked, so essentially students are motivated by receiving a piece of paper.

This system is insanely effective. Today we were playing an UNO card game. At the end of the lesson it always takes ages to get the cards collected and brought to the front. This time, I told the students the fastest two people to get the cards together in an elastic band and at the front to me could have a ticket. I've never seen them move so fast. Brilliant.

Fantastic. Sorry grade 5 for ever doubting you.
We also have all these easy oxford readers, but I don't know how I can use them in class. Anyone have any ideas?

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