The Devil’s in the Details – Small Musts.

devilI just spent a day evaluating Korean teachers in their classrooms, as part of the TEE (Teaching English in English) program. I’m going to keep away from that topic – it’s still too raw, so to speak. However, I did take lots of notes and some things kept repeating themselves. Mostly small things that teachers weren’t doing. So I thought I’d itemize things , small things that I feel all teachers should do but most don’t …

**** Disclaimer: This post is meant for reflective purposes only. In no way is it intended to be as negative as it appears or reflect on any one teaching situation. You can break all these rules and still be a great teacher. Teaching is an art. However, they are meant as points of reference to help our own practice. (I’m as guilty of many as anyone!)

1. No agenda or target language on the board. Students need to know what will happen and why.

2. No chit-chat or small talk / banter between the teacher(s) and students to begin the class. This is paramount and the time for students to see language used purposefully and for creating the proper learning “climate”.

3. Too much repeat after me! This really is without worth unless done chorally as a chant (in two parts like dialogues). Students aren’t myna birds or tape recorders. If you do want to focus on pronunciation of words – do so in a specific context and for specific reasons. Always break into at least two parts. Listening is how we learn to speak also…

4. Not using the whole class. Most teachers don’t even venture around the foul zone of the classroom. By staying under the basket – they are denying a lot of students 3 pointers! The class was made that big so you will use it.

5. Calling groups by numbers not names. Unless not your regular class – every group should have a name. People don’t respond well to being called a number – I don’t care what the culture.

6. Not pausing. Second language learners need time to process language which makes a heavy demand on their neural network/resources. Pause. Let them think – this will help them to be able to reply. Especially pause after questions and important information/points.

7. Not making sure all students are listening when the teacher or another student is speaking. Just wait until everyone is focused or slow but sure, you won’t have a class but a group of cliques doing their own things.

8. Not modeling nor using students to model and be the focus. Step back. Allow students to show / explain. They can do it and it is your job to let them try. Give them a chance and they’ll surprise you.

9. Interjections. Ummm, ahhh, so, like, you know. Effective communication decreases these. They are like chewing gum in the mouth of meaning.

10. No exit strategy. Students just scattering when the bell goes. AH! Dismiss students in groups. One group/row at a time and when they are ready. Feet on the ground. Hands on the desk and things cleaned up.

10+1. Giving exercises in class but not taking it up or giving students correction (either peer/self/teacher). Exercises just become time fillers and tree killers.

10+2. No laser pointer to help modify the curriculum. Get one, it costs just a few dollars. Use to point out items on the board/walls as you use the whole class.

10+3. Standing over students when talking to them (not the class). Sorry but bend down and speak to them on their level. Or invite the student to stand up. Language is wrapped in power and it is the teacher’s job to unbutton that robe as much as is possible.

10.4 Get the students doing the work. Give them responsibilities/jobs. Even just handing out the papers. Don’t cut things up before class. Get them to do it in class – this is how they can get familiar with the material!

10.5 No signaling device. No way to get students to stop and pause. Use a bell. Or your hand or anything but get them trained to respond correctly.

10.6 Not making it real. Our classroom’s are artificial so as much as is possible, try to get it real. Wear a wig, bring in photos, use props, play sound effects, dress up etc…..

10.7 Not asking students what they learned. End each class with a review of the target language/expressions/vocabulary. Also, end each class by asking them if they are happy. Just by reminding them they can be happy – they will be a little more.

10.8 Not cleaning the board after use. Even if you don’t share the classroom, it should be clean once leaving. Get a student to do it. You don’t know who might in an emergency have to use the classroom.

10.9 Not allowing students to “pass”. Students are human beings. They have emotions. They sometimes just don’t want to answer. They should always be allowed the safety of being able to say “pass”.

Here are a few more blog posts with tips to create awareness of your classroom.

Microskills Learning with your students Warning signs the teacher isn’t a teacher

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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