Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What aspects of teaching are going better than you anticipated?

Some aspects of teaching can be nature for first time teachers. Perhaps you are good at moderating a discussion, preparing quizzes, or finding materials. What do you think has been easy for you? What materials can you share with others to assist them in doing this better? Please describe or submit copies to Dr. R and she will post them.

54 comments:

Heidi Gradall said...

I´ve never taught English before, aside from tutoring once for a semester. I knew going into my teaching situation that I was going to have limited supplies, and it turned out to be what I thought, but with a little less. I thought I´d have a chalkboard, but I have a portable, tiny, whiteboard instead, so I was glad I brought markers. My students have notebooks, and pens, but that´s it. I don´t have a curiculum, or any guidance. The situation that I was told I´d have was way off, instead of two large classes, I have 4 small classes, which I think is much better for me.

I was afraid of my limited supplies to be a ver limiting factor, and while it does have its limits, I´m astonished at how much I can teach with a small white board and eager students. I thought that not having a curiculum would be the end of the world, but with a small class, I can teach to their needs much better than a curiculum and this way there´s no deadlines so we can work as long as we need to on a specific subject.

For each topic, one needs to practice the material to learn it, and I thought it would be much harder to think of examples for each subject. And while it is dificult to think of appropriate examples, with vocabulary they know, I think I´m doing a good job at it. I´m not much of a thinker on my feet in high pressure situations, but becuase the classes are so small, and I know the people now, I don´t feel pressured and I´m able to think on my feel much better than I anticipated. Also, becuase I´m teaching at a fairly beginer level, my examples can be simple, the simpler the better, which makes my job easier. Someday we´ll get to the more complicated sentences, but we´re not there yet.

I thankfully have motivated students, who are only there because they want to learn, (most of them, some are there to ¨meet¨the teacher). I find it much easier to teach students to want to learn than those who come to goof off. I was worried about crowd control, because I thought I´d have a large class, but because I have small classes, I feel like I have control of class and can direct conversations back to the material.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

It sounds like although things are different than you had anticipated, that you are doing well nonetheless.

One of the critical teacher skills is to be able to adapt to whatever comes one's way!
Dr. R

Dennis said...

I think the part of teaching that is going better than I anticipated would have to be the eagerness of the younger students that we are working with at the local schools.

codes said...

---Cody in Costa Rica---
In spite of being a new teacher, there have been several things that have come to me naturally. I find myself solving classroom issues without even thinking about what to do. It’s pretty crazy! One example would deal with classroom management. We had the seven students watch a video and complete a cloze activity that followed the video dialogue. During the video, a few boy students, who were sitting on the couch, were being very disruptive. The others in the class could hardly hear the video. I gave the boys a warning and it obviously didn’t help because they continued talking and laughing. As a result, I stopped the video and made these boys trade the couch for the wooden chairs where the girls had been sitting. Although the boys were pretty upset about losing their couch privileges, they behaved much better and we were finally able to complete the activity. The action I took was so spontaneous! Afterwards, I felt almost as stunned as the boy students!

Another situation where I acted on impulse without thinking dealt with culturally-based practice questions. We were working on vocabulary words and the students were supposed to insert the seven vocabulary words into their correct sentence. They were doing pretty well at first, but as I read the sentences I began to see tremendous American cultural-based sentences. The most obvious one dealt with the vocabulary word, “extraordinary”. The sentence that was supposed to be used for this word was, “Tiger Woods is an (extraordinary) golfer.” I knew right away that the students were going to struggle with this sentence. Generally speaking, here in Costa Rica, the only sport people watch is soccer. With that being said, I didn’t think 5th grade students were going to have any idea what to say. Therefore, I changed the sentence to read, “Alonso Solís is an _____ soccer player.” Since Solís is very popular here, the students all shouted, “extraordinary”! It’s so crazy! I find myself noticing things like this all the time without even trying to look for it.

Not only have I been able to identify American culture ingrained within the lessons, but I have also felt that it’s been easy to relate the material to the students. Last week, we had a class where we were talking about heroes. The reading dealt with several heroes from both American and European history. Anyway, the students were trying to understand the concept of heroism and what it means to be a hero. Before the reading activity, I thought it would be a good idea to ask the students to think of their own hero and explain what qualities this person has that makes them a hero. They gave examples including people from their Costa Rican history class, relatives, pets, ect. I think this really helped get them ready to be thinking about what it means to be a hero while they completed the reading activity.

A couple other things I feel like I have been doing well are identifying global errors and getting the students to talk to each other in English. Although the students can become a little rambunctious and begin to speak in Spanish, I think I’ve been pretty successful in keeping the class in the target language. To further improve this, I think I might explain the concept of poker and then begin handing out cards for those who use English and take cards away if they use Spanish. This should work because the class seems to be pretty competitive. As for the global errors, I’ve noticed a few translation errors and for some reason, the students are using commas in place of periods in informal writing. I’m going to have to get to the bottom of that one, because to me, their paragraphs look like one long run-on sentence. I think this is going to be a hard habit to break. Overall, things are going well and I’m learning something new everyday.

S. Loew said...

Hello, it's July 8th and my first week as summer camp counselor has finished! We have seventy-two kids, ages 9-13 and they are at various proficiency levels. We're with them 24/7, and we wake them up in the morning, eat meals with them, sing songs with them, do activities and lessons with them, discipline them, play games with them, and send them to bed; all the while, we help them improve their English. I'm not an intimidating person, so as a teacher, I'm afraid I struggle with discipline. Now, I lost control of a large group yesterday, but then I disciplined some boys in a smaller group and it went smoothly for all of us. As Cody said, I've surprised myself. During the activity time, we began with an activity that involved moving around and naming body parts. Afterwards, I planned for the kids to do writing activities. Movement first, then sitting and focusing. Unfortunately, the kids were so tired from their day, they lay down and wouldn't get up. So we "slept" for 1 minute and then did the writing activity. That one minute of rest made all the difference.

S. Loew said...

I can see where you are coming from, Cody. Every time we put on a skit, certain boys huddle in the corner and don't pay attention. We usually put a counselor back there, but as a group, we think discipline is something that beginning teachers should talk more about. Every evening, we have a counselor's meeting and lately, we've been discussing ways of avoiding situations before they happen. Do you have any other suggestions? I think you handled the situation well. When I state boundaries, sometimes the kids tell me I'm mean, but sometimes you just have to be "mean"! The important thing is to establish a routine and when you make rules, stick to them because kids are big on fairness.

S. Loew said...

Hi, it's July 14th but I can't find any more recent posts. I'll just write a bit about what has been happening.In groups of ten, kids gave presentations they had been working on for the past week. Our gropu theme was "Maps and Geography." Four of my kids acted as "travelers." They were visiting different countries and they had to ask questions like, "Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you do? What other places should I visit in your country?" The other six kids were important figures. There was an Olympic Gymnast and a Kangaroo from Australia, a dancer from India, a Beatles fan from England, a Gambler from Las Vegas and Barack Obama from the USA. These kids were responsible for making a colorful poster about their country and answering questions. We assigned a question to each traveler to insure that he/she spoke.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

codi and sarah, you both are looking at the typical situation of feeling your way with discipline. There are good times and more difficult ones. The one thing is consistency.

Here are some tips: Make sure you assign members to groups. Break up cliches. Don't let friends or enemies participate in the same group. Assign group roles. Glare at trouble makers. Constantly scan the room to be sure there are no "periferal" lingerers. A bored or lost student is a potential trouble maker. Follow your instincts about rest, like Sarah did. Be flexible when you can and an authority in all directions and tasks.

S. Loew said...

On July 20th, we had "America" day. I think Studio Time 1 went exceptionally well. For the warm-up, we did the "secret handshake" game, in which kids practiced vocabulary dealing with body parts and actions. My co-counselor and I did a visual example to add clarity. The big game was A vs B vs C, modified to Red vs White vs Blue. During the afternoon activity time, we played Giant Twister, which is, in fact, four simultaneous games and instead of colors, the spaces were objects. One game was "nature"-themed, so the spaces were "flower, bird, tree, rainbow," etc. The other categories were Food, the USA, and Transportation. We began with counselors calling out spaces, but afte 30 minutes, I decided to nominate one of the kids as caller and I joined the game. I remembered what you had written, Dr. Reynolds, about watching for kids who lurk alone on the outside. During studio time 2, we defined our end of the week goal: put on a skit titled "Little Big Land Academy," modeled after Star Academy. Four kids will be judges, one kid will be the announcer, and six kids will be contestants. We must create dialogue and props.

S. Loew said...

This is my last week in France, so here's my second to last post. My final post will be some time in early August; a sort of conclusion.

I think that clarifying personal attitudes has been a particularly difficult challenge for the counselors. We must constantly analyze our attitudes toward each other and toward the kids. We also have varying opinions on how best to teach English and how best to discipline kids. A majority of the French staff believes in enforcing strict rules and yelling at kids who get out of line. I agree that there needs to be definitive consequences but I do not support yelling at kids. The American counselors tend to be more easy-going and buddy-buddy with the kids. I agree that we need to maintain a playful attitude at summer camp but I will not become a "buddy," because kids do not respect a "buddy" who tries to discipline them. They get confused. We all have our preferences. There are those who think English should be taught primarily through songs and games. There are others who prefer skits and conversations. The only time we have a serious problem is when two counselors can't work together. One prevailing issue is that of sharing responsibilities. Counselors with strong personalities tend to lead more activities, while the more reserved personalities assist and look for areas to help in. A major complaint of the director is that counselors don't share enough responsibility and diverse personalitities need to assume leadership roles. That way, no one gets burned out from too much work and no one feels left out or non-essential. Sometimes, I find myself in this latter group.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

Hi Sarah,
You're right! Attitudes and perspectives vary a great deal and everyone must be thoughtful and conscious about their attitudes and agendas. If people are, then we can negotiate, learn and grow. If not, it leads to conflict and tension. :-)

amanda.hokanson said...

What went better than anticipated for me was my interaction with the students themselves. I had no idea how formal we were supposed to be with one another, or how I would remain an authority figure when we had no power. However, the younger students beamed and competed to answer when they understood what I wanted. I also had requests from homerooms to play several games I had introduced over and over and had students refering to themselves as my zombie children after we had played a tag game based on the concepts of Yellow Fever and quarantining. Hooray for them learning and not realizing it! I had only one rough class with the older students (as it is traditional to talk amongst yourselves even when other students or the teacher is presenting material) where I had to raise my voice- but three students apologized afterward and from then on everything went smoothly. I found out near the end of camp that my two youngest boys had fled camp during lunchtime their first day after homeroom, two rotations and singing. However, their mother sent them back and by the end of camp- they were crawling all over me with huge goofy smiles pasted on their faces! I also loved when I hit my stride in rotations and the lesson suddenly had meaning and the students and I clicked. They were interested, I was presenting everything clearly- and violà! Good times! At the end of camp, when two Lithuanian students gave speeches, both cited lessons they had learned in my homeroom. It was really moving to see that they had retained it. I'm now friends with two of the tougher students on Facebook! Woot!

S. Loew said...

I just want to hand a big high-five to Amanda. Kids like to push the boundaries, don't they? Amanda talked about hitting her stride and connecting with kids. She also mentioned some initial uncertainty as to how formal the counselor/kid relationship should be. I found myself constantly stating this question to my fellow counselors and the director. Because the camp atmosphere was so casual, we found ourselves opening up to kids over time. It sounds like you made some special friends, Amanda. The first session was tough for me, but at the conclusion of the second session, I was a little sorry to see some of them go. I started to pay attention to how hard some of the kids worked to communicate in English and I wanted them to succeed so badly! It's funny how a single word of approval or a single smile from you can make that kid's day. It feels great when they run up and hug you!!

SarahKjrsten said...

Amanda, that's so cool how the kids really grew to love you and respect you in the classroom!

I've noticed that my students (the first graders especially) are really trying to speak in English to me. Yesterday a first grader asked me: "Can you open my tupperware?"

I was thrilled. What was even more exciting was she took a structure we'd been working on: “can/can't” and used with with a verb we've never used it with before.

She knew “open/closed” because I daily instruct them to open/close their books and so she took these two separately taught concepts and properly combined them to form a new sentence. It was awesome beyond words to see her take things I'd been teaching and use them in a brand new sentence that she'd never heard before.

To say that I lavished praise and high fives on her would be an understatement.

Flossie said...

Well I guess the actual planning and execution of the lesson plans is going better than I expected. I sort of expected to do just fine so it´s a little hard to exceed my expectations. Like Cody (HI!!!) I have surprised myself with how naturally classroom management comes to me. Coming up with solutions on the spot is gratifying, especailly in comparison to those moments where I come up with nothing but a blank spot (which sometimes happens if i haven´t prepared my examples before hand). I still find it difficult to seperate me as a person from me as a teacher. I am inclined to treat everyone as I would outside of a class and that doesn`t always work, especially when I´m inpatient of annoyed.

Making my lessons meaningful is also going well. Like Cody, I find it easy to relate to my students and this culture and am thus able to find out their likes and dislikes and to form my discussion questions around those interests. I am trying to start watching the news and popular culture more so that I can bring up different pop stars or current events in the classroom. I find it easy to be myself in front of the class and so discussion tends to flow very naturally. I enjoy this since I do feel that the point of learning another language is to be able to communicate in it about who we are and what our lives are like.

All in all, teaching is going better than i expected. I like my school, I like my students, and while I would like to be paid more :), I don´t find this to be overly challenging, which is a relief.

Dicussion goes well typically as does maintaining control over my classroom.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

You all seem to be doing so well. I'm very impressed. Also, I like how you are relating to each other.

Nessa said...

I've discovered that I really like creating worksheets, formatting articles, and writing out task sheets/assessments for students. It’s always a challenge for me to make good assessment tools, but I like it. I find that I am using what I learned in my assessment course at UWEC; I'm happy it was part of my coursework! I do feel bad that these sheets I create require paper/photocopies and so I try to use my space efficiently. I'm very lucky that my school is equipped with a copier that teachers can use and that there is no limit on copies (but we have to charge the class at the end of the year according to how many copies that class needed).

Charlotte said...

I was nervous to begin my placement, but it has gone better than expected. I am tutoring online, which is a new experience, but I feel that my student and I are dedicated to our mission and, thus, willing to make the necessary acommodations. I am also lucky, because, as an education major, I have had a lot of practice teaching English which has helped out a lot. I have to give props to the people who have said they've gone in with little or no experience. You are so brave!

My student and I bonded right off the bat, which has helped. It's also nice that she has a clear objective in practicing English with me, so discipline is not an issue. In my general ed experiences, classroom management has been the hardest part, so it's been beneficial not to have to worry about it so much.

Another part that is going surprisingly well is how my student is reacting to my lessons. I was sort of unsure how to present a full-blown lesson via computer screen, but she seems to be learning a lot and I have enjoyed playing around with new mediums and materials.

欣盈 said...

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NicolaSigel0508 said...

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Angie Gusto said...

I am teaching several free summer courses in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and despite the chaos and lack of organization I sometimes experience, I am happy as could be and learning a lot! Basically I rotate between three different communities in Cuernavaca where the poverty rate is generally high and opportunities are sometimes scarce. Therefore, a free English class is something the people appreciate, and they have been nothing less than wonderful. I work with “assistantship” organizations and “helpers” who are elected for each area of the city. They helped me get settled and offer me assistance whenever they can. I am meeting a ton of new people who really support what I do here.

The more I talk about my free English program I am organizing here, the more I realize how lucky I am to have this experience. I get to take some of my privileges from back home and put them to good use by working for free teaching a language that empowers Mexican citizens. My time here is starting to fill part of my need to volunteer in organizations like the Peace Corps, but in a less dramatic way. My life here is not extremely difficult, but it is definitely less comfortable. I like that. It reminds me that I have a lot, and that I should share whatever I can with those who do not.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

@Angie: You are doing a good thing providing free classes. It takes a lot to organize, because students are fly-by-night with attendance. I'm sure it's been good for you to grow this way. You'll have tons of strategies for when your American kids are absent once and a while! :-)

Fredd said...

After several days of the summer language camp, I am getting along well with most aspects of teaching. During the camp the students rotate through the various homerooms for lessons. My homeroom consists of the older teens (16-17). I was not looking forward to dealing with the youngest homeroom (9-11). I got the youngest homeroom first and found that they were a delight.

I also found that the lack of some materials does not bother me much. I am used to improvising or making due with less than desirable conditions.

A few things came up that I did not expect. Before we left, we were told that the school building we would be using was one of the best in the city. The school itself needs a lot of care. We had to clean classrooms - mopping floors once or twice didn't improve things much. One of the classrooms (on the second floor) has serious cracks in the concrete.
I moved a table of the worst part so no one would trip.

The focus of the camp is speaking. I tried to get all of my homeroom involved in some conversation. A couple of the girls seem to be very reluctant to speak with me (shy?). I have used some pair conversations to get them more invoved. When I have had them write some things they all willingly participate. Hopefully they all will get more involved conversationally in the coming two weeks.

I also ran into one cultural item I did not expect. During activity periods I do the basketball. Some of the boys will not play if girls are playing.

李豪湖仁陳堅豪 said...

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楊儀卉 said...

Share and share alike.............................................................

Angie Gusto said...

I agree with you, Fredd, that it's really not so bad teaching with limited materials. I thought it was going to be nearly impossible, but now if I have a white board and chairs I'm impressed! And if we have tables, even better! It's like "roughin' it" teaching, and it forces us to be very creative. :)

麗王王珠 said...

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Talia said...

After teaching in summer camps for over a month now, I feel like I have gained a few qualities that make teaching go by smoothly, expecially for students who dont want to be there. I think that the key to having students participate in an activity and want to learn (in summer camps) is to find the right motivation factor. You have to make them want to learn. Depending on the activity, you can do this in a variety of ways. For one of the activities we do, the students have one minute to say as many English phrases as they can. We have two days to do this, so for the first day I help them think of simple and complex English phrases and have them understand what they mean. Then I let them know that any English is okay, and if they cant think of anything to say, just look around the room and describe what you see. Since this is mostly just a drill where you memorize and study English phrases, it can be kind of boring. So, depending on the students personality I try to spice it up a bit. Lots of times, if I make it into a contest, they really get into it. I do practice rounds and write down there scores. Then, I try to have them beat there old score, or beat there friends score to motivate them. Sometimes this doesnt work though, so I make a game out of it. I roll up a piece of paper, and make a ball. Then we pass the ball around to random people in the circle, and you have to say an English phrase. You cannot repeat other peoples phrases though. Between these two approaches, either a game, or a contest, it seems to motivate the majority of students to participate in an activity and want to do well.

Talia said...

Concerning Codes comment in June. That is awesome how natural it was for you to respond to problems in your classroom. I especially liked how you responded to cultural errors. I think that most teachers dont realize how often students dont understand a lesson, not because of the English level or discussion topic, but because cultural assertations are imbedded into the topic that students dont understand. Though it may be more work, I think it would be a very good idea to make sure these cultural errors are not in your lessons, and if they are, be completely prepared to explain them to the class. This may require research into the native countries history or popular culture to find an equivelant for the students that they would understand. If this is not possible, and you are having a very difficult time thinking of a good way to explain it, you may want to take it out of your lesson all together.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

I'm glad to see that you all are communicating and growing! It seems all is well. Funny how you don't need many things, or as many things as we previously thought, huh?
Dr. R

于庭吳 said...

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王怡迪 said...

人生匆匆-把握當下,支持鼓勵~事事如意~..................................................

Mikayla Schroeder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mikayla Schroeder said...

@ Cody in Costa Rica,

Hi Cody,
I am also completing my practicum in Costa Rica. To make things more manageable with a class of 30 sudens age 5 to 14 I broke them into three classes to meet at three different times. Although the younger ones are still rowdy as ever. The first day I had all 30 students for one hour together and we formulated class rules together. I am constantly using them as a reminder. However I've still had to make modifications through class, such as when forming a circle for warm up I stand in between the talkers and if others are acting out, I move them. They respond very well to this. Like you said (when you moved the boys off the couch to the chairs), they may not be happy to change spots, but they know they are being punished for acting out, and therefore they know what to do if they don't want to be moved.

Mikayla Schroeder said...

@ Angie,

Good for you for organizing your classes and giving back to your community!

I am doing something similar in an impoverished rual community in Costa Rica. I am living with a host family. They don't have a lot, only what they need to get by day by day.

They don't have a car so my dad gets up at 4am everyday to take a bus to work an hour away and returns to the house at 5:30 at night. My mom gets up at 4am to start to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, wash dirty clothes, repair old ones, sew new ones and clean the house from all the dust that has been blown in from the dirt roads.

Everyday tasks are much more complicated here and take a lot more time, but no one complains.

Its humbling to be staying with them not only because they have less then I do, but because they are happier than a lot of people I know in the United States that live a lot more comfortably.

Cait said...

An aspect that I don't know if it is necessarily going better than I expected but that I was very pleased with is I had two great moments this week. First, I have a very challenging student that when he/she comes, will not participate at all voluntarily nor called on, will not do the activities we do in class, and will do many distracting things such as pull out the cell phone/music/lighter (which I end up confiscating for the class period). Often the responses will only be in Spanish and I ask to repeat in English with the response of only putting his/her head on the table and to not lose the class I need to move on. Even though this all sounds frustrating- it was so wonderful today when he/she arrived an hour late but then didn’t use any distracters in class- participated in class and even offered additional comments. It made me excited as a teacher that he made this change. I really don’t think I had any effect on the change but nonetheless it was unexpected and a wonderful addition to the class.

The second thing I wanted to mention was that we had a grammar lesson this week that the students really struggled with the first day. It turned into too much TTT and a lot of blank looks. We changed the class to not end class on that note and I decided the next day we would attack in a new way. The next day, I basically had the students explain the rule to me and had them participating by writing on the board and giving me the examples. We then did a closed ended worksheet to practice. The first three we did together until I gathered they had a good grasp on it. This was the first moment when the students could do the worksheet and explain to me why.

However, then I had a more exciting moment happen. One student had arrived about 45 minutes late so he/she missed the class explanation. So clearly there was much confusion on the worksheet. So as the other students continued on the worksheet, I worked one-on-one with the student re-explaining and asking for comprehension. Then I had him/her explain the next two to me. The best moment was seeing the “ooooh” moment and his/her eyes eased up and had a feeling of understanding. To assure myself the confidence was backed up with the knowledge I had the student explain the next two to me- and the student correctly did the problems with a good explanation of why.

So in this sense, this week went much better than I had anticipated with better understanding and participation from most.

Kate Murray said...

I've been surprised by two things since I started. The first day, I felt totally out of my element working with one of the kids I tutor, an 18 year old boy. I had to look up the grammar topics because I had no idea what they meant and therefore how to explain them. Since then though, I've been surprised by how much I actually do know and I haven't had to look up as much background information the past week or so which has been nice to give me more time to plan for activities.

I was also surprised at how many different vocabulary exercises I've been able to come up with. The 13 year old girl I tutor really struggles with vocabulary. Our first day we tried flash cards, but after 35 minutes she was still getting most of them wrong. The next day I tried having her draw pictures of the words as well as writing the word in both English and Spanish. When we got to household items, I decided to read the words out loud to her and she would have to show me where it was in the house. I'm still not sure which method is the best for her to remember how to say the words or recall them again, but I was happy with myself because I am still trying to prove to myself that I know what I'm doing, or maybe more so that I'm learning how to be better at what I'm doing.

Cait said...

@ Katie-

I totally agree with you about your first day experience of not knowing how to explain something. This happens with me all the time when students ask me questions that are unexpected or out of the blue, and therefore I don't have a sufficient answer planned. Often times I know the right answer because we are native speakers but coming up with a legit reason or rule to explain to them is another story. However I often find myself able to first give an example of the situation and then create a rule as I go. So it is as if I am teaching myself as I teach them.

However there are also other days that I am find myself able to answer questions that I had not prepared for- or that I do know rules to- and similar to what you said of knowing more than I thought. This is a confidence booster- since we are teaching English!

Lastly, you should share some of your vocabulary games! In the book we are supposed to use it is FILLED with all sorts of random vocabulary and is really difficult to come up with games or activities at times rather than just looking at the book, I'd love some ideas!

Astri Gerdes said...

I found that negotiating meaning is one of my strengths. By this I mean unplanned questions and new words that students want to negotiate. Doing it online is even easier in some ways, because the Internet is available for endless illustration and explanation. Today I had to explain the phrase, “Juggling legal cases” and I was able to pull up a video of a juggler to get it started. This would have been incredibly difficult to just explain verbally, although eventually we could have arrived at an understanding. I do prefer to be able to sketch on the board to support my verbal and kinesthetic explanations.
I also like to use a series of questions to lead to a better understanding and to put the word or phrase in question into context for the learner. For example, when I explained juggling, I could have asked if my student had been to a circus. (As she is French, she may have.) If not, I could have tossed something in my hands from one hand to another, and added another, then just described the act. Then I would say that one item represents a friendship, another item represents homework, another item family, and so on, until the student has made the visual connection to the symbolic idea, and put it in the context of their own life. Then I would ask them to describe physical juggling, then to tell me some things that they ‘juggle’.
I find in fact that this is one of my favorite aspects of teaching, which is usually unplanned.

nate mortenson said...

I've really enjoyed building repor with the students. I didn't really think about this as it's something that we don't really need to talk about in methods classes, but I really enjoyed getting to know the students and using that to my advantage in order to design lessons to their interestes, or keep interesting converstaion going in the classroom. It also helped me with keeping young students in line, like if I could show dissapointment to a student who was not behaving in class, he/she would change their behavior so as not to put our relationship on the line.

Karlene said...

This is the first time that I have taught English outside of the United States, and I am surprised at how most everything is going well. A few things that have stuck with me are teacher-student rapport, creating materials, and the ability to describe words in different ways so that students can comprehend.

The first thing that I have been surprised by is my presence in the classroom. I didn’t think that I would have such a good rapport with students because I tend to be quiet and lacking in self confidence with large groups of people. The younger students that I teach have been quite respectful - when I am only seldom have they interrupted or spoken with other classmates. Unfortunately, many cell phones have been used during class time, and even though I tell them to turn them off or put them away, they believe that they are sneaky enough to send a text when I’m not looking directly at them. Aside from this, students have regularly participated in class with their peers. The dynamic between classmates has gone very well. Many of them had been in class together before I was their teacher. However, when there are new students added to the class they are very well received, so I don’t have to do much in that respect because the students already work hard to create a friendly learning environment. Another thing that has gone well with respect to teacher-student rapport came from giving students the needs assessment on the first day of class. One of my students came up to me after class that day and said it really showed how much I care for them as students, because they had never been assessed in that way by their previous teachers.

Before coming here I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to prepare lessons in time for class since I felt that I struggled so much when creating the thematic unit for our methods class. However, over the first month of teaching I really excelled at creating lessons in a good amount of time, as well as creating lesson materials of my own. The first week of class took me at least two or three hours to prepare one lesson because I was worried about having an excess of activities, as well as a wide variety of activities. Although there is an infinite amount of materials available for ESL/EFL teachers, they never seem to fit exactly what we need to teach on that specific day, so I have found it to be a great strength to be able to quickly and easily create materials.

Although I am wonderful at spelling words, defining them is another animal. I was worried that students would ask me the definition to a word that I had never heard before, or a word that I would find to be impossible to describe to them. That really is the true beauty of language that I have discovered and have had the opportunity to advance in: although there are set definitions for specific words, we can always manipulate language to create room for understanding among more individuals. The best moments that I have experienced thus far are when I explain a word or concept to students and some of them understand well enough to explain and get through to their classmates in words that I didn’t use (that are in English)! Surprisingly, the few times that this happened was in my basic class. Basic level students are so eager to learn and they really care about their classmates’ understanding and progress as well.

Karlene said...

@ Astri-

That is a really good skill to have! The internet would definitely make it easier to explain low-frequency odd words that come up in class. I agree that it is an unplanned teaching aspect. When you teach your French student is she able to see you via skype? It sure shows how helpful the internet can be when teaching English as a foreign language or second language. I would like to know how “juggling legal cases” came up in your class! That would be something very difficult to explain by drawing or acting alone.

@ Nate-

Rapport may not be one of the first things that we think about as we plan for an EFL class. Of course we hope that our students will get along with each other and us as well, but it is something that has to be worked on and may not turn out the way we plan in the beginning. I had one specific student in a class of mine in July that wasn’t the easiest to get along with. The rest of the class and I got along great, but she was skeptical and on occasion would be disrespectful, possibly for the fact that I am so young of a teacher. It is great to use your knowledge of your students to plan lessons, but it can be overwhelming at times, especially if students have very diverse likes and dislikes, which is often the case.

MC said...

I'm tutoring online because my the program I was going to go on got canceled due to the fury of mother nature. One positive aspect I did not anticipate was the energy of one-on-one lessons. My tutees are eager to learn and don't feel cheated on their lessons. They like that I am interested in teaching what they are learning instead of me picking out a topic every lesson.
I am surprised how different online one-on-one teaching is in comparison to face-to-face one-on-one tutoring is. I'm having a blast wit my online tutees. I thought I would have a tougher time. On of the beauties of online teaching is the Eco-friendly aspect. I don't need to print out as many papers, I can just send the link. It works out better for me and my tutee.
Now, would I teach online again? Unless I had to. It's an amazing experience and I feel more prepared if I have to do it again, but I would prefer a classroom, in all honesty.
I think what made my online one-on-ones fun was the Teaching One-on-one book. I used it as my tutoring bible for my lessons. It gave great advise that was easily transfered to an online setting.

Maggie said...

I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t intimidated by my first students. Even with all of my TEFL training, I was still uncertain as to what kind of teacher I would be, which difficulties I would have, or which types of skills would come naturally to me. These were all questions that were impossible for me to answer before having taught a class. …intimidating uncertainties…!

It has been pleasantly surprising finding the answers to these questions. Assumptions that I had about my teaching style or future difficulties turned out to be wrong. Some of my reactions to certain situations really surprised me. And unforeseen teaching skills, strengths and talents surfaced.

I think one of the aspects of my teaching experience that is going better than anticipated is my ability to quickly create examples. Initially, “off the cuff” examples came a little slower. I also got more easily flustered if someone asked for an example of a random grammatical form. I think it was because I didn’t prepare myself to deviate much from my lesson plan and the grammar at hand. And also because I worried about providing the “perfect” example, so it would take a few seconds to create an example with vocabulary and context that I was confident they could handle. But, after a short while, I was able to quickly and confidently create examples and contexts if asked an unforeseen or off-the-topic question. I also seem to be very good at creating contextual examples pertaining to their culture and not just my own. I had a few weeks of down time, or waiting time, before the academy had students for me. This actually gave me some valuable time to learn about their city, their local culture, and the current political situation (currently a lot of unrest). But by the time I received students, I already had a solid grasp on what was going on in the area and why. This gave me a great frame of reference when creating contextual and grammatical examples.

I am also really pleased with my energy in the classroom. Naturally, I am a very social, lively person…but not in academic environments. Usually, in class or academic environments, I am quite quiet and reserved. Therefore, I wondered how much energy I would feel comfortable expressing in front of the class: if I would be engaging, speak too softly, or seem too un-authoritative to control a young class. But, it seems that I have plenty of “pep” to my step and commanding energy to establish a clear role. I am also naturally comfortable being my humorous self as well. By this I mean, I am easily and naturally “putting myself out there” in front of the class in order to make a clear example or situation. If I have to act it out, I do. If the example required me to be humorously silly, I have no problem with it. I suppose I am very relieved that the role as a teacher changes my disposition in academic environments. …one of my classes consists of one student: a sweet old man who loves to laugh. I know swift transitions are important to good teaching, but I swear, sometimes we are laughing too hard to be “smooth” about it. (Something I will have to work on I guess… :)

Maggie said...

@ MC
I can imagine that teaching online would have its differences difficulties compared to teaching face to face! I agree with you, though, what a perk of having paperless technology as your "classroom"...printable materials are instant and eco-friendly!

Logan Mccarv said...

I have only been teaching for a week now and have been experiencing several ups and downs. I enjoy working with the kids but one of the biggest challenges I am facing is getting the students to speak one at a time. It is hard to keep them quite and in there seats. The students are consistently talking, moving around, and wanting to play a game. The most frustrating part is the students will not only talk when I am talking, but they talk when other students are sharing what they have written. I have made rules with the students, talked about respect and point out before every short presentation the rule that "only one person talks at a time." At times I raise my voice at them but it only works momentarily. I am thinking about separating some of the students who are "talkers" away from each other to help reduce the noise. Does anyone else have any ideas of what I could do with my class to help resolve this problem. The students are ages nine, ten, and eleven.

Logan Mccarv said...

I have only been teaching for a week now and have been experiencing several ups and downs. I enjoy working with the kids but one of the biggest challenges I am facing is getting the students to speak one at a time. It is hard to keep them quite and in there seats. The students are consistently talking, moving around, and wanting to play a game. The most frustrating part is the students will not only talk when I am talking, but they talk when other students are sharing what they have written. I have made rules with the students, talked about respect and point out before every short presentation the rule that "only one person talks at a time." At times I raise my voice at them but it only works momentarily. I am thinking about separating some of the students who are "talkers" away from each other to help reduce the noise. Does anyone else have any ideas of what I could do with my class to help resolve this problem. The students are ages nine, ten, and eleven.

Heather said...

I think the biggest thing that's gone better for me than anticipated is being able to make things up on the fly, or at least adapt things I hadn't expected to use. My first day the opening ceremony of our camp was supposed to be an hour and a half or so, and then we'd have half an hour of getting to know our homeroom class, and then lunch. Sitting at opening ceremony, I was busy revising my lesson plan, figuring we wouldn't actually have time for everything I wanted to do. Then the ceremony let out an hour early!

I ended up using all my ideas for the morning lesson, the afternoon lesson, and the first of my rotation lessons, but we filled up the entire time. Of course, that meant I got to sit there during lunch creating a new lesson plan for that afternoon, since we had already finished everything I had thought we'd do! Among other things I asked students to write me a few sentences about themselves, which, after I read them that evening, led into an extra grammar lesson which I hadn't expected at all.

That issue of extra time has come up a couple more times since - at one point I accidentally let a class out five minutes early (which we're not supposed to do) since I got mixed up about which rotation we were in. Luckily, I managed to re-corral them downstairs. At first I was just going to supervise them to make sure they didn't start disrupting anyone else, but we actually ended up playing a vocab review game (like taboo, but without words you're not allowed to use), which a surprising number of the students willingly went along with.

Just smile, act confident, and they'll never know you're just making it all up on the spot...

Heather said...

@Logan
Good luck with your students! I've been really lucky that most of my classes aren't too bad about talking, but one rotation has been horrible. At least one student got talked to by the American camp director, the local camp director, his parents, and still finally ended up getting sent home. I don't know what your situation is, but it's possible you could bring in higher authorities.

Otherwise, separating talkative students sounds like a good idea. Even the threat might help a bit, especially if the new spot is right up front with you - or far enough away from anyone that he/she/they don't really have anyone around they can talk to. It really depends on the students. Even many of the most difficult do seem, (very) deep down, to want to participate, so they quiet down if their other option is not to join in with something, or even to leave the room. Maybe if they all want to play games then the next time you have one planned you can say only the people who have been behaving quietly can join in?

If there's a specific activity, you can just stop and wait, not letting it go on until there's quiet. Sometimes that's just a temporary solution, but sometimes it really helps. During one game I played, it only worked if students raised their hands and waited for me to call before they gave the answer. This let me make sure everyone got a chance to answer, as well as come up front, since the person who gave the right answer was the next to describe a word. For the first couple rounds I just reminded students to raise their hands; then I kept one student up front and said I'd just not let the game go on until people learned to raise their hands and wait to give the answer. After about the fifth or sixth card, everyone realized I was serious and the game was able to continue.

I'm not sure how much this will help; as you can see from above, I didn't exactly have any success getting that one kid to behave himself, and even with him gone, it was a struggle to keep his friends quiet and listening even for the five minutes I needed to give directions for their group project. I wish you luck - it sometimes seems classroom management can be more difficult than the rest of teaching combined!

Unknown_Secrets said...

This is my first time to teach real English to anyone. Now although I am only tutoring my students to aid them in their English learning, I am still trying to practice lessons on them and see how effect they are. So far my tutorees have been very understanding and have been willing to work with me and help me figure things out as I go along.

One thing that is definitely going better than I had anticipated is the activeness and eagerness of the people I am tutoring. I have seen a lot of people who have tutored others who seem to be uninterested in learning anything. I've seen some who just sit there during the allotted time and couldn't care less about learning anything. My students seem to be very keen on learning. I don't know if this is because my tutoring session are free, or they truly just want to learn, or it may be because they just genuinely like me and my tutoring. (ha! I can dream. :P )

Personally, I find their genuine interest very refreshing and inviting. It makes me really look forward to all our sessions. It even makes me want to go above and beyond for them. Thus before each session I try to find worksheets or appropriate material to use to help enhance their understanding of things. However, I am finding this rather hard to do. As a am new to the whole teaching English thing I find my explanations and lessons sloppy and confusing. I am also realizing that some of the materials I am using are very poor in quality. I must make sure to find better and more useful sites/resources.

Overall, I know that this will definitely take a lot of work and practice to smooth out all the kinks. And like I said before I thoroughly appreciate the people I am tutoring for being so patient and understanding with me.

I've also realized that the smaller the class is the better things go. I once tried to tutor 5 people together at once. It didn't go that well. Everyone had different questions and problems and I found it difficult to get to everyone appropriately. But when I tutored just 1 or 3 students I found it much easier to get everyone engaged and actively participating and practicing. And I was able to more fully answer their questions and solve any confusion they had.

I know tutoring is vastly different from real life in class teaching but I am learning so much from this experience. I've already discovered something's that work and some things that don't work for teaching English. Not only that but each of my students is at a different English level so I must find creative ways to incorporate all of their different levels.

So far the best thing I have been able to do with my students is initiate discussions amongst themselves. I have been able to keep students actively engaged in topics and practicing English usage for lengthy periods of time without them losing interest or becoming frustrated from their inability to speak fluent/perfect English. This is something that is definitely going better than I had anticipated it would. But I think this is mostly due to my students and not necessarily me as a tutor.

Carolyn said...

With this being my first time teaching English to a group of students instead of private lessons, the thing that surprised me the most was that is actually seemed more natural teaching to a class than I thought. I anticipated that I would be more nervous than I was. I really was only nervous for about five minutes when the Camp Director called my name and announced my students but once we got into the room, it seemed quite natural.

I truly have been blessed with some of the most motivated students I have seen in a long time which has been very helpful for me because they truly want to learn and I feel like it has also been easy to connect with them because many students are willing to talk and share their thoughts. This was something that I was not anticipating because from my research about the Lithuanian Education System and with many problems that EFL teachers had, it seemed like the hardest thing was getting students to participate but with my homeroom it has not been a problem.

I wonder if this has to do with the fact that I have tried to have the students talk in groups and then I have each group share and sometimes we can get a discussion that way. I try to share as much as I can with the discussion and help guide the students and encourage them. I also try to do some sort of warm-up activity that either gets them working on their own or with a small group that way they are able to be introspective as well as feeling comfortable with their classmates. Seeing the results of how much more comfortable they feel too through even the quieter students sharing, shows to me that they feel comfortable to share and make mistakes. Also, I moved the desks to a U form instead of the normal set-up of a classroom and I have wondered if that has helped because I am in the middle of the discussion and can see how each person/group is interacting with each other.

What have been things that have been easier or came easier to you in regards to teaching than you thought?

Carolyn said...

@ S. Loew,

I can understand where you are coming from in terms of discipling students. Many times, I as well, do not come off as an intimidating person and I surprised myself too in terms of disciplining students.

For example, one of the students in my class answered her phone and was looking at me and I just gave her a stare and shook my head and she went outside of the room to finish the conversation which I think was an important one and came back inside and apologized to me and it seemed like quite a legitimate apology and all I thought to myself was wow, I had no idea how much a stare and a head shake would have one someone.

I hope you also continue with learning more about disciplinary measures!

Jennifer Speier said...

While I have been working at my school for well over a month, I finally have my own class...so I decided it was a good time to start writing on the blog! I am teaching a high elementary adult level class. It is the lowest level that I have taught at the school. In the past when I've taught Elementary students I was able to use the native language, but now I am not due to school rules. This was a struggle Day 1 becuase they only knew simple present and it was pretty impossible to talk about myself without using past tense. Thankfully simple past is our first unit!

The other big challenge for me presented in this class is timing. I am used to teaching 2.5 hour classes at the school, 4 days a week...10 hrs a week...for 4 weeks. This class has a different schedule: 7-8am, Mon-Fri, 7 weeks. I don't mind the early morning time...what is struggle with is the hour. They don't let us into the building until 6:55, so I don't have EVERYTHING prepared as I want at 7 am. Then the time itself is just really short. I feel like we have just gotten started and then it is time for them to leave. It cuts into practice time majorly. I am trying to balance this by sending them as many at home (optional) practice links as possible, but some of them are busy at work and cannot do them.

The other slight inconvenience is that nothing is open to make copies at 7 am...so I have to print everything out the night before. This is tricky cause sometimes I don't do my specific daily plan until 10 or 11 at night, but I have to have everything printed by 6.

The students vary in age, but they are all really motivated and show up for class which helps. It has only been 4 days, but I can already kind of tell what the class groove is, who participates, who watches silently, who is confused, etc. They are all really excited to have a teacher from the States and they aren't too freaked out by my organization yet.

I am excited to keep working with the lower level. I know it will really help me develop my skills as a teacher and challenge me.

Jessica E said...

With my experience of working with children thus far in life, I have found it important build relationships with children that are trusting, encouraging, supportive, and also firm. One aspect of teaching that is going very well for me is building relationships with the students. Most of my students are 4-12 years old, so building relationships with them allows me to understand what they are comfortable with, not comfortable with, and what styles of teaching work the best with the students I have. This also helps me be successful when I am planning games and activities as it allows me to gauge what students will enjoy and what students will not find helpful or interesting while learning a language. Building relationships with the students also gets them eager and excited when they see me in the classroom, which aids in their attention while in the classroom and it seems make the students more engaged and interested in the material I present to them.