Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Good Teaching Week

I love those weeks when the lessons just go off. One of those magical weeks when the kids are enthusiastic and eagerly speaking English, can't wait to be given the chance in fact. Sounds unbelievable doesn't it?

One thing I love about teaching my Junior High class is that they're easy to trick. In our subject, the kids are graded each lesson, but we also have a "bonus points" system, often for volunteering answers in class. This week (our teaching week began on Thursday and will finish the coming Wednesday), one of the things I'm teaching them is different hobbies and the basic sentence "My hobbies are ...... and ......" After going through the new vocabulary and grammar points, I have all the kids stand up. I tell them that we're going to have a "bonus points chance."

They love a "bonus points chance", sometimes I've asked them if they like a chance or a game, and they've always opted for the bonus points. Gotta love these kids! For the bonus point they need to produce the new sentence with two of their hobbies. Hands are instantly raised, kids are jumping up and down just waiting to be picked. Sometimes I tell them that I'll pick the person with the best smile. There is a sudden flash of pearly whites which always makes me laugh.

What no-one has seemed to notice, or maybe care, is that in the end, I let each kid answer. Each and every one of them gets a point. Admittedly, it isn't always the way in the bonus points chance sessions, gotta keep them on their toes.

At the end of this current lesson plan there are a few minutes left at the end of class. Rather than letting them all go early, I have the whole class stand up, but don't tell them what we're doing. I ask how to spell a word from that day's vocabulary. We have lots of little spelling bees, so that's not out of the ordinary. They first kid picked will spell the word. Usually, at this point they get to sit down. Instead, I wave good bye to them and say "Very good, see you next week." The realisation that they get to leave earlier than everyone is magic. Suddenly, everyone wants to spell a word.

The high school lesson plan was written by my co-worker, Sam. It's a really fun game. We call it "Teach Me Japanese".

They are put into teams and given a list of Japanese words. Many are unique to the culture so don't have a direct translation. The teams will work out how to explain the word in English, then one member will come and explain it to me. I've told them that if their description is basic, but good enough for me to understand, they get one point. If it's really good with lots of detail, or funny or with good gestures, they get two points. The next time another member from the team must explain a word. I don't care about their grammar, they can use what ever means possible to get the meaning across.

It's great they're lined up, can't wait to speak English to the teacher. They forget to worry about making mistakes, about being shy, they just want to get that point.

For the second part of the games, the teams are given one word each and fifteen minutes to prepare a description they they will then have to perform in front of class. They are told they'll get one point for each piece of information they come up with and extra points for anything funny or for gestures. Again, the shyness melts away, which anyone who teaches Japanese high school kids will know, is a breakthrough.

I've had kids miming ninja actions and learnt that ninja did not in fact wear black, but rather very dark blue. I've had then pretending to have a picnic under the cherry blossoms and tell me that at "hanami" people don't really go to see the flowers, they go to get drunk. Other groups have had cool boys hike up their pants so they sit up as high as possible to pretend to be "Otaku" and draw fabulous animation characters on the board. One group have explained the radio exercise programs and led the class through a session of the movements. One girl did the funniest imitation of a kabuki actor, a boy pretended to be a very traditional Japanese woman and showed the class the proper bow. They've done all of this while speaking English in front of the class.

I laugh, the kids laugh. It's a great time. It's one of those weeks that is great to be a teacher.


Maureen said...

Those are the week's that make teaching seem like the best thing in the world. I know all weeks aren't like that tho...

Serena said...

What a great post.. I felt like I was there...

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Thanks girls! Yep, I do wish every week was like this one.

Juddie said...

Hi Melanie,
I remember the challenge of bringing shy Japanese students out of their shells - it's so much fun when everything falls into place and the kids enjoy learning :-)

Lovely post!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Thanks Juddie. Luckily, this week is a good one too ;)

tamakikat said...

Sounds like I should get you to teach me how to teach JHS students. Coming from an Elementary background I and my 3rd years often find our classes hard work.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I have to confess, I think I'm quite blessed at the school I'm at. It's a strict high level academic private school, so the kids are more eager to learn than others their age. I do like to think though that some of it is my skills as a teacher ;)