A belated Happy New Year to all of you!
Now, seeing as I’m not teaching at the moment, I have no tales from the classroom to entertain *cough* you all with, but I still want my blog to remain active and informative to you all, so I thought that I’d post some more practical advice on here for now, in the hope that it will help some of you!
Today, I’ve decided to share some advice on how to survive your first day in the classroom. So without further ado, my tips for getting through this teaching milestone (in no particular order) are as follows:
In the hours before:
1) Have a plan
Make sure that you have a clear lesson plan. You simply CANNOT walk into a classroom without having at least some idea of how your lesson is going to play out. If you think that you can just make things up as you go along then think again my friend (and possibly reconsider teaching as a career-I’m serious).
Now, you don’t have to have a crazy, elaborate, Lourve-worthy plan laid out on laminated cardboard. But it is good to have at least some stages mapped out on a piece of paper. That way, if you feel yourself getting lost you can just glance at your plan and get back on track! (Depending on your school, you may have to submit lesson plans in advance anyway).
2) Prepare materials
One advantage of having a plan is that you can see exactly what materials (pictures, handouts, etc) you are going to need in your lesson. So make sure that you start getting them ready as soon as possible. Oh, and it’s not a bad idea to have one or two more photocopies than you need, just in case you get any last-minute additions to your attendance list (very common in language schools).
3) Check your equipment
Are you planning on using a computer/CD player/projector/TV/any other electronic device in your lesson? Then for the love of God, check beforehand to make sure that it’s working! And come up with an alternative if it’s not.
4) Prepare your teaching arsenal
Make sure you have plenty of markers/chalk, pens, pencils and spare paper. I’d also recommend a copy of your students’ book and a bottle of water or some type of beverage to combat the dreaded dry mouth (especially in a hot climate!)
Take some time to chill out and compose yourself before the class. You should have everything prepared by now so there’s no reason for you to be rushing around at the last-minute.
During the class itself
Nobody wants to learn from a grouch! Chances are, your students are just as nervous as you are, so a smile can go a long way towards relaxing them.
2) Introduce yourself, but don’t regale everyone with your life story
People have different opinions on how to begin a first lesson. Some people think that it’s important to tell your students all about yourself, but personally, I think it’s better just to get straight down to business. For one thing, depending on the level of your students, they might not even understand what you are saying (making for a very awkward atmosphere) and for another, if you are teaching children, you’ll just bore them to death.
I usually just start with ‘Hi, I’m Louise’. Then straight into an activity. That’s it!
3) Break the ice
Now, there’s a good chance that your students may not know each other. So it’s important to start with a fun activity to break the ice and create a nice atmosphere. These activities are called ‘warmers’. They should be short, simple and (hopefully) fun activities that get your students engaged and ready to speak in another language for a while. There are hundreds of activities out there that can be used as warmers, but these are some of my favourites:
- Find someone who: This is a great activity to use as it gets students up and moving. All you do is give everybody a sheet with a set of questions on it to ask their classmates, for example, ‘find somebody who loves chocolate’, or ‘find someone who can play the guitar’. Set a time limit and have students walk around and ask each other questions, then report back as a group. An awesome way to get a group conversation going.
- All the alphabet: Write the alphabet on the board. Divide students into teams. Set a time limit and have them race to write down a word for every letter of the alphabet. Whichever team gets the most wins!
- I went to the shop and I bought…: I’m sure there’s a proper name for this but that’s just what I call it. Similar to the activity above, somebody goes first and says ‘I went to the shop and I bought’ and then a word beginning with ‘A’ e.g. ‘I went to the shop and I bought an apple’. Then the next student must continue with ‘B’ e.g. ‘I went to the shop and I bought an apple and a ball’ then you keep going around until you get to ‘Z’. Naturally this helps with listening and memory. The words can be anything too-not just things you can buy in a shop, so it can be a lot of fun!
- Taboo: Type out some words, cut them up and put them into a hat. Students must take turns to pick a word, then describe it to the class (or team, if you want to make it competitive!) who must guess what the word is!
Again, there are loads of activities that you can use but these are my go-to ones. You can use them anytime aswell to revise vocab or grammar, and adapt them to suit the level of your class.
4) Zip it
Being a teacher, and therefore probably a person who quite likes having an audience, it’s only natural to sometimes lapse into a lecture. But this is really unhelpful for your students! Remember-you can speak English fluently. You don’t need to practise. Your students on the other hand need all the practice that they can possibly get-especially if you are not teaching in an English-speaking country.
So stop talking and find ways for your students to talk as much as they can. For example, after you introduce your topic for the day, have students discuss what they know about it for a minute or two instead of you telling them what it is. Or, let’s say a student asks you what a word means-ask if anybody else in the class can explain it.
5) Vary your activities and interaction patterns
Don’t feel like you must have your students doing something incredibly energetic all the time. For one thing, you’ll exhaust yourself (and probably them too, to be honest). Instead, have a variety of activities to keep your lesson flowing along nicely. So after something active, do something quieter like reading or writing, then something active again and so on. This will keep your students on their toes.
Also, don’t have your students work with the same people all the time. It’s not good for them. Mix them around from time to time to keep things ‘fresh’ and prevent cliques.
6) Say thank you!
Once your class is over (which will be before you know it!) make sure to thank your students and tell them what a good job they did. You’d be surprised how encouraging this can be.
1) Take a breather
Now that wasn’t so hard was it? Chances are you’ll be buzzing after your first lesson so go outside for some fresh air or have a snack in celebration.
2) Do a quick review
Have a think back over your class and write down anything that you feel would be important in planning your future lessons. What activities did they like? What activities fell flat? Who are the big personalities? Who is quiet? Was the work too easy/difficult? Do they work quickly or slowly? Should you review anything in your next class?
3) Get ready for your next class!
Begin the whole process again!
So there you have it, my tips for getting through your first lesson. I really hope this is helpful for some of you (it’s certainly long enough-I think I have a problem!). If any of you think that there are some things that I left out, please feel free to pop them in the comment section below.
Until my next post, thanks for reading!