Can you imagine doing a recycling demonstration with 60+ students and having 90% giving you their undivided attention? Well I am happy to say that it is very possible!
On Friday, I did a paper making demonstration with 2 classes of year 2 students. They came to an empty classroom where I had the materials set up. They learned to vocab words (recycle, frame, screen, paper, glue, pulp, blender, blend, dry, etc.) and then watched as I turned old newspaper (they had brought in) into new recycled paper.
First thing, I taught them the 5 rules as I always do. I taught them how to respond when I say, “Class.” They know they need to say, “Yes” however I say, “Class.” While I was teaching, sometimes I would see a few students start chatting or look away. I would quickly say, “Class,” in a silly way and they would respond with “yes.” I now have 100% attention. Then I ask a question to the kids who were off task (surprisingly, they could usually answer correctly which means they weren’t completely distracted), and then move on and continue with the demo.
By the end of the class period, all students could identify the vocabulary words, put them in a sentence and put the paper making process into sequential order. With 60+ kids in the class I thought this lesson would be a disaster, but it goes to show that when kids are taught your expectations first thing and when you consistently enforce them, behavior problems decrease exponentially.
The scoreboard helps the kids to monitor themselves. It’s very simple, and practical. You have a smiley face and a frowny face divided by a line.
When they are following the rules, you give them marks by the smiley face and they can cheer. When they are not, you give them marks by the frowny face and they must groan. Simple and effective.
One of the most potent struggles teachers have, all over the world, is that of classroom management. There is so much information floating around about rules and routines, what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard for those who are used to rote teaching and discipline to decipher what might work for them. Especially for those for whom English is not their first language, it can be difficult to decide what is going to work.
The website, wholebrainteaching.com introduces a set of rules and routines that are so simple and easy to follow they are basically fail proof. For myself, since I barely go into the same class more than a couple times, the 5 rules have been like magic in forming a classroom management system that I can use in classes that I may go into once and never again. For the teachers who use it regularly, I review the rules for approximately one minute and then move on with the lesson.
I have a printed set of the rules on cardstock that have lasted me the whole year. I always have them with me. I teach the rules to new classes by first stating the rule, having the kids state the rule while doing the TPR action, giving good examples of following the rule, bad examples and then good examples again. Then the kids say the rule again and do the action. It goes something like this:
Rule #1: follow directions quickly (have students follow directions and emphasize, “Quickly! Quickly!”). I say things like, “Teacher says take out your pencil. Do it quickly!”
Rule #2: Raise your hand for permission to speak. I do the typical, “Teacher!! Teacher!!!!” and ask the kids if that is (show my thumbs up) good or (thumbs down) not good. They usually catch on quickly. Then I give a good example.
Rule # 3: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. I give examples of getting out of the seat and running around the class as bad examples. They usually find it pretty funny. Then I show good examples and model language for asking permission.
Rule #4: Make smart choices. This is one of my favorite rules to give bad examples for. It’s the most abstract of the rules, so it is important to give concrete examples. I sit in a chair and tip it backwards and ask (thumbs up) smart or (thumbs down) not smart. Then I pretend to pick my nose and ask the same thing. I pretend to get in a fight with one of the kids and ask again. Then I show good examples (reading quietly, writing quietly, raising my hand, etc.) Kids catch on quickly.
Rule #5: Keep your dear teacher happy. I put on a cheesy smile and ask, “Is your teacher happy?” They say, “Yes!” then I do various sad and angry faces and ask the same thing. “No!” They say. Then I explain the scoreboard (will explain more in the next post) and tell them as long as the teacher is happy then they will get happy faces on the scoreboard. If teacher is not happy, they will get sad faces.
This all seems like a lot, but the first time teaching it will only take about 10 minutes in an ESL classroom. The many miming actions and the simple language makes it very easy to teach, and easy for them to follow.
Enforcing the rules:
It is extremely important to enforce the rules. When a student is not following one of the rules, remind them of it by asking, “What is rule # ___”? At first ask them to give you a good example of the rule. In the future you will just have to ask the question and they will get it. In time, the classmates will “spot check” their friends. The key is to enforce them every time.
Unit planning is a struggle. It has been one of our focuses, and each teacher has had to plan 2 units for a teacher’s guide that I will publish at the end of august. We are using this unit planning guide which I made from taking ideas from here and there. IB unit plans inspired a lot of it.
I uploaded it to scribed. Enjoy 🙂
Each small group had a list of books to choose from and could pick their top 3 choices. Here are the books they chose:
Year 1: Welcome to the Aquarium, by Julie Diamond
Year 2: Developing More Curious Minds, by John Barell
Year 3: See Me After Class, by Roxanne Elden
(you can find all of these books on http://betterworldbooks.com which also has free international shipping!)
Here is what the book review form looks like (they discuss the chapters at the beginning of each small group meeting)
Book Report Chapter _______________
1) Chapter Summary:
2) Interesting points:
3) key vocabulary words + definitions:
4) Opinions and extensions
I did this demo lesson in a few classes during March. All of them were very successful, and students were actively using the target language. As a follow up, some teachers did Language Arts projects with their students. Here are some of the results:
Materials: Rainbow fish book (big book, ppt, online story).Warm Up: 5 min, songs and TPR
Intro: Show students the picture of Rainbow Fish. Ask them what colors they see. Ask them if they know what a fish is. What body parts does it have? Does it look like other animals?
Show the scales of rainbow fish. Explain what a scale is, and that the scales of rainbow fish are very special because they are beautiful.
Explain these things about the story:
- who: rainbow fish
- what: his beautiful scales
- where: underwater
- lower level- 1 word or a word list
- middle- simple sentence
- upper- 2-3 sentences
Language Arts: Make a rainbow fish by cutting out scales. Use foil, glitter, or other materials to make them “shiny” then glue onto a cutout fish. Hang from the ceiling by string.
Last week, I felt really good about what we accomplished. All demos were met with, “Ah, yes, these are things I will use in the future.” I did a shadowing of one of the other mentors on my team and that went really great as well. Sometimes I feel a bit jealous, because I don’t have any of these small, quaint, rural schools. Most of my schools are massive, overcrowded, and highly underfunded. It makes a big difference in the attitude of everyone involved, including the kids.
I also think that I will share all my relevant lesson plans and resources via this blog. Could be helpful to anyone else working in this arena. You can see most of my uploads via Scribd:
Sometimes, I’ll just post the lesson plan here. Or, maybe I’ll do both.
So, coming into this week I had a really refreshing weekend excursion to the Cameron Highlands (see Nomad Nichole) and was rearing to go for today’s demo lesson. I had gotten a text last night with the topic for the lesson: Month’s of the year. I thought to myself, “Ok, this is going to be easy.” And it was. The lesson went really well, and the kids had so much fun sharing their birthdays and cutting and pasting the months in order.
After the lesson I asked the teacher what she thought. “Oh that’s very nice, but I could never do that because I have to follow the syllabus.” Well, what does it say you have to do on the syllabus. “Months of the year.” Isn’t that what I just did? “Yes, but I can’t do activities. Maybe after the test I’ll do activities.” When I demonstrated how everything I did was reinforcing the vocabulary she said, “Well, I’m Bahasa Malay trained, not English trained.” At that point, I just said, “Ok, well I am more than happy to help with anything you need. Worksheets, lesson plans, ideas, just drop me a line.” I handed her a bunch of extra worksheets and left it at that.
It’s so disheartening when all you hear are excuses. *Sigh* So, I hope the rest of the week goes better. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming holidays!
I’ve spent the past two days at my SK (national) school working with 3 different teachers. One of them is not directly under me but asked for my help, and of course I agreed to do a demo for her. Her class was a year 4 lower level class. I’ll give the lesson plan at the end of this blog post. We had an hour and a half to complete the lesson, and actually we got through only the first half of the lesson. Their regular teacher will continue on with the rest of it during the next class, and she also asked to borrow my book to use with her other year 4 class.
The lesson went really well. The kids responded well to the story of the Zax. It’s a very simple and funny story, and they were able to use sentences to solve the problem of the Zax. Most of the kids decided that one Zax would go under the legs of the other Zax. One group said that one Zax can step over the other Zax.
Here are some pictures of the brainstorming:
Malaysia, My Country Lesson Plan
- Learn directions of the compass
- Listen and respond to a story
- Use simple and compound sentences to solve the problem of the Zax in teams
- Read and analyse factual texts (tourism brochures)
- Use simple and compound sentences + the suffixes –er and –est to describe famous places in Malaysia
Learning styles addressed: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, tactile, linguistic, and interpersonal
Materials: Malaysia tourism brochures, large pieces of white paper, markers or coloured pencils, glue, story book, “The Zax”
Pre-lesson Prep: The week prior to the lesson ask the students to prepare to share a family tradition with the class. They can bring something to show the class (traditional clothes, music, art, etc.), sing a song, describe a holiday. Each student must share one thing.
Show a map of the globe. Describe the north and south poles. Show a compass and explain the points of the compass. Ask the class to label the walls of the room according to their compass points. (N, S, E, W, NW, NE, SW, SE)
Play a game using the target vocab (Wall Match)
Read the story, “The Zax.” Ask comprehension questions. Ask the students to sequence the story.
Put students into 3 teams. Tell them each team is going to try to solve the problem of the Zax. The Zax cannot move to the east or to the west. How can they pass each other? Give the teams points for
1. Using at least one simple sentence
2. Using at least one compound sentence
3. Solving the problem of the Zax.
Talk about the different cultures in Malaysia. Show pictures of things that represent each culture. Ask the children if they know what the items are. Describe the different religions, and ask what it means to respect each other’s traditions and beliefs. Then let the students share what they have prepared about their families traditions.
Places and People of Malaysia
Put the students into groups. Give each group a Malaysia tourism brochure. Ask the kids to make a poster using the brochures, scissors, glue, markers, etc. to explain about a place in Malaysia. Ask them to give details about the state, what is it like there, what can you do there, etc. The group will present their poster to the class.
Welcome to my new blog about my new job. First let me introduce what it is that I actually DO.
I work for an expansive government project that spans the entire country of Malaysia. So thank you, people of Malaysia, for paying my salary with your tax dollars! What the government is attempting to do, is to improve the population’s English starting with the kids in years 1-3. To do this, they are investing in a training project for the English teachers of these years (level 1). I am one of the trainers who has been brought in to work with the teacher’s in this level, improving methodology, pronunciation, and introducing new strategies of teaching literacy through phonics.
How did I end up in this job? I’ve been working in education (ESL and many other areas) since 2006 when I studied for a year in China. I’ve worked or volunteered for education initiatives in 6 countries (Mexico, West Bank, China, Taiwan, Lebanon, and now Malaysia). So, I applied for this job, and although I am a bit young (the cutoff was meant to be 27 and when hired I was 25), I got accepted for the position.
I am working in Taiping, a sleepy retirement town in the northwest of the country. Besides the lack of a social scene, Taiping is amazingly beautiful. Sometimes, I do double takes at the scenery because I can’t believe my eyes. Rolling hills covered in green forests with playful rainclouds shuffling around the hilltops. Taiping has a mixed community (but I think primarily Chinese) of Chinese, Tamil and Malay ethnic groups. My cluster of school’s reflects this. I have 3 Chinese schools, 1 SK (main language is Malay) school, and 1 Tamil school.
Every day I go to one of my schools and work with the teachers. Some of them are more challenging than others, and no two days are alike. So in this blog, without giving away the identities of my schools or teachers, I will try to talk about what it’s like to work in Malaysian public schools, the challenges of teacher training, the awesome achievements, and every day frustrations. I hope this blog will help me process, and help my audience to see what education is like in another country. Welcome to Malaysia!