August 5, 2011

The last two weeks’ InterCom issues included ideas for the beginning of the school year. Here is another that sets clear expectations for student behavior.

I spent two weeks on activities designed around making the students comfortable with what they were going to be doing, and setting expectations.

The first class I explained the rules. I did this by stating one rule and doing an interactive exercise that used the rule. For example, doing things as quickly as possible: I reviewed the English (I'm teaching English) for "Stand up", "Sit down", "Find a partner" and "Go back to your seat" using TPR. Then we exercised it. The fastest people were given special participation points.

I'm also using a lot of circling in my classes. I chose material that I knew they were familiar with ("What is your name", "Where do you live", etc). I made a game where each column of chairs in the class is a team. Then I went row by row and asked a question. The first person in the row to yell the answer won a point for their team. Then go to the next row. The other students in their team can try to send a message with the answer... But again, the point is, I want to practice getting the students to answer questions quickly and loudly.

I also divided the class up into different "times". There is speaking time, listening time, and answering time. During speaking time, the students can speak freely (I give bonus participation points to any student I hear speaking English during this time). In listening time, they are not allowed to speak at all. In answering time, they are allowed to answer and ask questions.

Speaking time happens when I give the students a reading assignment, or worksheet to do. They are allowed to help each other complete the task. Listening time happens very infrequently and is only for critical explanations. It is always followed by question time. In question time, the students may raise their hands and ask a question. Bonus points are given for English. Question time also happens when I am circling. Before each time I yell out "It's time".

To practice this, I give them small examples of the different times and then ask them "What time is it?", "What can you do now?", etc. Basically, we are doing easy English games during this time that correspond to the various times.

The next class, I have a class on asking for permission. While it's in the curriculum, it's also part of the rules. We go through a lot of examples of asking for permission. We practice the rules from the previous day.

Then I have a class on asking questions. I give a lot of examples of different kinds of questions. Then I create scenarios for the students where they will want to ask various kinds of questions. For question time I ask the students all sorts of personal questions. Then I get them to ask me all sorts of personal questions.

Finally I have a class on giving advice. Just like every other day, we are practicing the rules and I have activities to exercise them. For this day, the focus is on giving advice. It can be used for answering questions during talking time when another student wants to know how they should do something. At the end I group the students into small teams and give each team a series of problems in my life (real problems -- like "The bus is too slow", "I don't have enough money", etc). The students must give me advice. They absolutely love this.

Even though I am exercising English in these classes (and part of it is actually in the curriculum), I'm really just practicing how I want the class to run. I've got tons of activities, games, and examples and exercises to practice each of the things that are important. Afterwards, the students should feel comfortable with the way the class runs and feel confident that they can initiate and respond to normal classroom situations in English.

Charlton, M. Re: [FLTEACH] New Teacher: Needs Help! FLTEACH listserv (FLTEACH@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU, 26 Jul 2011).

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