06 Jul Being an Effective Educator through Teacher Training

This month, we are delighted to feature a blog from one of our experts in teaching kids and teens, Samantha Dix-Hill.

It s a very rare day when a child wakes up, stretches, yawns and says, ‘Hmmm…today I think I’ll learn another language.’ Yet there are many days when a parent sits bolt upright in bed and wonders what other skill they can add to their child’s repertoire of after school activities or how can they ensure their children continue to learn during the holidays. Enter the language teacher.

Sometimes this means we have classrooms full of skeptical boys and girls sitting in front of us, the teacher. We are quick to claim that adults are more motivated than children and that they can stay focused for longer. Are you kidding me? Have you never seen a child in front of a computer game? Adults can fake focused. Children don’t know how to, and quite frankly don’t care to.

A very long time ago when I was young and naïve I regarded teachers as all knowing, mighty and powerful. It would never have occurred to me to be anything but a subdued vessel for knowledge. Today things today are slightly different and by using some spectacularly innovative parenting skills we’ve managed to produce a frighteningly empowered generation of children.

It is exactly because of this thirst for knowledge, burning curiosity and confidence to ask why that teaching children can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

So, how do we teach the child learner?

First and foremost, establish control. If you lose control, it’s game over. Establish rules on day one. This should be a democratic process with the students helping you to decide what the rules, rewards and consequences will be. Negotiate these with your students and then put them up on the board. If you have Beginners where there may be language barriers, get creative and find ways to set those boundaries.

Here are a few basic rules for maintaining order in your classroom:

1. Decide what kind of teacher you want to be; firm but fair, enemy or a friend?
2. Pair wisely.
3. Learn the school’s policies and rules.
4. Make your own list of rules in your first lesson, and make them visible.
5. Involve your students in making the rules. Avoid NO words and negatives e.g. no running change to walk quietly and responsibly.
6. Have consequences for breaking the rules.
7. Learn your students’ names as soon as possible.
8. Decide who sits where.
9. Always plan varied lessons
10. Plan good transitions
11. Give good clear instructions and check them.
12. Consider concentration trends.
13. Know how you’re going to get everyone’s attention without raising your voice.
14. Exploit opportunities for positive feedback.
15. Be respectful. Avoid sarcasm.
16. Lay claim to the room.
17. Be punctual.
18. Do NOT lose your temper.
19. Involve the parents.
20. Have fun

If you take into account different learning styles you will be able to develop a rich variety of activities that will keep most of your young learners engaged, most of the time. Make your material meaningful to them and make sure you keep up to date with current age-related trends.

Here are a few ideas for activities for learners with different learning styles:

Teaching Auditory Learners: (Learners who learn best by speaking and listening)

1. Picture Dictation: Ss listen to a dictation and draw what they hear e.g. Ss listen to the teacher describing household items and then draw them in the appropriate rooms of the house.
2. Lollipop Drilling: Ss each get a flashcard and they hold up their card when they hear that word or phrase in a song, poem, or story.
3. Rhyming Words: Ss are given a text of a song with some words replaced by a rhyming word. Ss must listen to the song and make corrections.
4. Rhythm Drum: Ss must drum along while fitting the words to the beat. Use jazz chants.
5. Tell a Story: Each S has a word from a box and so does the teacher. The teacher starts a story that includes his/her word. A S is chosen who must continue the same story but must also incorporate his/her word

Teaching Visual Learners

1. Peer Teaching: Ss underline/highlight words that they don’t know in a text and then they compare and help each other with the unknown words.
2. Flash Card Guessing: Flash cards are gradually revealed, or pieces of a picture are drawn, or a ‘keyhole’ effect can be used to allow for some mystery.
3. Flash Card Flip: Flip a flash card quickly and Ss try to guess the image.
4. Colored Word cards: Word cards are different colors according to the part of speech it belongs to i.e. noun, verb, etc.
5. Mouthing Off: Teacher ‘mouths’ the word silently and Ss guess the word.

Teaching Kinesthetic Learners (Learners who like to or need to move)

1. Finger Gestures: The teacher uses his or her finger to emphasize syllables and/or word stress and gets the student to do the same.
2. Organizing: Ss are given word cards and asked to organize them into categories on the board. This can be done using lexical sets or according to parts of speech (i.e. nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.).
3. Role Play: A few Ss are given a word (angry, sad, cold, etc.). The class is taught a short dialogue and then the Ss who received a word can act out the dialogue in character, for example the “cold” person shivers while speaking. Then the class guesses how they are feeling.
4. Balloon Game: Ss must say a word from a lexical set when they hit the balloon. The team is out if the balloon hits the ground, or if a S doesn’t say a word when they hit the balloon, or they repeat a word previously used. The team who keeps their balloon in the air the longest wins.
5. Spelling Race: Ss are divided into teams. The teacher gives a clue to a word. One S from each team runs up and writes the first letter of that word. Then they pass the marker to the next S in their team who then runs up to the board and writes the next letter, and so on until the word is spelled out on the board.

If you’re teaching adolescents the same principles apply, just modify them to suit the age group. Care about your students, respect them, know their names, and know what their special interests or talents are. Make them work hard, but have some fun too. Be interesting.

What appeals to adolescents?

1. Introduce topics with visual materials: photos, maps, graphs etc.
2. Use visuals rather than print.
3. Use many devices to give information; blackboard, whiteboard, overheads, student-made posters or charts and collages.
4. Provide vocabulary lists and talk about the words.
5. Use a well-illustrated story to introduce a theme.
6. Help students keep a diary of their learning experiences.
7. When giving instructions write them on the board and write homework on the same place on the board every day.
8. Use gestures to get your meaning across.
9. Engage your students; get them to talk about themselves.
10. Give praise and never single out students and embarrass them.

The great thing about teaching children is that they will be brutally honest with you. Adults may lead you to believe that you’re doing a good job. Children will let you know when you’re not. And the times when they let you know that you’re doing a good job will be so worth the effort.

Teaching children is a challenge and a privilege. You’re an educator and if you care enough, you will have the ability to influence a young life in a profound way. Think back on the teachers you had throughout your life. Whose classes did you love and whose did you hate? What kind of teacher do you want to be?

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