ONCE you’ve been in a job for a few years, you undeniably get into a routine, slip into habits (good and bad) and sometimes begin to stagnate. I used to sing in a choir called Amabile, and I have always remembered out Director telling us “You’re only as good as your last concert.” I’ve taken this with me into my teaching career as you are only as good as your last class. No two classes are the same, no matter how many times you’ve taught it. I’m on my fourth year of the same text books and I can tell you now that I’ve never, not once, taught the same lesson twice! Stagnation, as a teacher, is my number 1 fear.
ALL this being said it does, of course, happen but a new school year is a new opportunity, a clean slate. The limbo-land that falls between winter vacation and the beginning of the new school year in March is fast approaching, and is as good a time as an to look back on the past year, think about what worked and what didn’t and think about what needs to be changed and adapted for the year to come. Which brings us to this mini series of ESL posts. ESL:REBOOT.
- The sticker reward sheets from this post were great this year.
- The PPT game templates I made have been used on multiple occasions this year. It’s been so good to have a template ready to go instead of having to delete and then add new pictures and text. Sleeping Elephants and Pass the Ball have been the most used – 4 Corners isn’t at all safe in our classroom, or I would have used it more! The Telepathy game is always a great hit too – and lot’s of writing practice.
- Following on from the last point, I haven’t used PPT games as much this year, which is something I am personally very pleased about. I love a good PPT game as much as the next teacher, but I don’t want to over-use them. I’m pleased with the activity/PPT balance this year!
- Replacing “Fun Time” or “Story Time” in the 6th grade text book with a more interesting, age appropriate activity. The difficulty here is that the content of the English textbooks don’t always match up with the age, ability or intelligence of the students. 6th graders are a bright bunch. They study hard and are learning at a high level. English classes sometime baby them. I get their frustration – they’re thinking at a higher level, but don’t have the ability, time or space to get it out. Hence why I supplement with my own worksheets. I do my best to make sure they can be completed by the least able students whilst giving plenty of scope for those of a higher level. 6th grade have shone this year and I couldn’t be more proud! As such I’m going to continue making worksheets suitable for the incoming 6th grade – the same one’s as last year aren’t necessarily going to work!
- Flexibility. Having taught the same textbooks for several years, I can jump between the parts of each lesson fairly easily. It’s a comfortable place to be when a Korean surprise happens and you find your timetable shifting all over the place.
- The Newspaper project got off to a great start, but tailed off after a couple of months as they lessons weren’t always easily adaptable. It’s definitely something I would return too every now and again, but not for a whole year project – more for individual lessons.
- One particular class was incredibly quiet, and another was full of the worst combination of students imaginable – and these classes came one after another. I need to find new ways of encouraging students to verbally answer questions (this particular class was quiet with everyone, not just me) and also recognize that sometimes, when it comes to behaviour, there are days when there’s only so much you can do (again, this particular class was a riot with everyone). Every year group and every class throws up new challenges. This year has kept me on my toes, never knowing what version of either of these classes was going to turn up – they have both also been the classes that produced some of the years best work!
- I was once told, in a previous job, that I cared too much. That’s not something that I can turn off – nor do I want to! Caring, even if it is “too much” is what makes me continually improve and make each year better than the last. What I need to keep in mind is that it’s OK if it doesn’t always go according to plan, and some things are out of my control and not a personal attack on me! In the immortal words of Elsa, sometimes I just have to let it go…
- I’m potentially going to tweak the reward system slightly. They’re still going to get a sticker sheet, but upon completing a single sheet (this year they’ve gone through several) they can exchange the completed sheet for This Geeky Teacher bank notes! Come the end of the year, students can spend the money they’ve saved at a flea market; little things like stationery. Fun, and a chance to practice target language from a couple of the lessons! It’s also a great way of using the paper money I made a few weeks back. I’m going to use the Won’s and print them onto textured paper. There is a wee pocket in the back of their English books, so they can keep the notes in there and not run the risk of losing them.
- Planning Lessons: I’m going to be more conscious of writing out all my plans this year! Just because the organizational neat-freak in me wants too!
- I’m going to make more use of Date and Weather printables for the whiteboard. I’ve been working on my own for a while, and it’s too late to begin using them this year, but there will be a blog post coming in January. Toast will be back!
- I’m going to make some classroom rule printables, A4 size. As there may be more moving from classroom to classroom next year, having a moveable set of rules would be very useful. It would be a subtle way to discipline classes – Put the rules up on the board if they are not following them, and give or remove stickers based upon how well a class behaves.
- I’m thinking about making class sticker sheets. If moving between classrooms, asking the homeroom teacher for a small bit of wall space where I can put a sticker sheet. A sticker will be added at the end of every class they do well in/behave well during. Again, another subtle way to control the class. Next years 6th grade is going to full of challenges, so I’m keen to make sure they understand they are accountable for their behaviour early on!
- I would like to use more songs next year – I think this will be really good for 6th grade and be a good way of easing them into lessons. They know it’s ready to settle when a song comes on. I’ll discuss with my CT’s and establish a playlist (if they’re amenable) before the beginning of the school year.
- I’m toying with the idea of a spelling book – so the students KNOW what words they need to learn.
- I’d like to bring back the more comprehensive vocabulary sheet I used to use several CT’s back. This goes back to the books not matching intelligence idea. All the textbook vocabulary is there, and then then more are added depending on the lesson. If this goes ahead (and potentially even if not) I’ll put up a new vocabulary list for every lesson.
WHEN I started writing this, I didn’t think it would be so wordy – yet here we are! I’m really look forward to next year! I’ll update you all later on with the outcomes of various conversations with CT!
WHAT things are you looking to change for the new school year? What changes have you made that worked, and what didn’t? Comment below.