Ok, when I first got to Korea, resources like this network and other things got me excited about the possiblities in the classroom. I work for Korea's EPIK program at two public middle schools. Many of my ideas have run smack into the reality of a classroom full of 40 students of different levels. with a 50 minute class (one that rarely starts on time as Korean teachers are adament about not arriving to the class on time, and get edgy when you make them look bad by arriving early... like my teachers did) that leaves about a minute per student.
I intitially was reluctant to ask this question, because it sounds like such a fundamental thing. But... How do you guys deal with it. I need solutions that:
1. Account for the fact that the only computer in the room is the one at the front.
2. There is myself and one co-teacher
3. Encourages (forces!) every student to participate, especially the ones that are behind and therefore reluctant.
4. Primarily revolves around listening and speaking skills.
5. Is fun!
There are probably solutions already on this site, but I am just not seeing how it all fits togather. An example of something that I have come up with is the "I am thinking of a famous person game." Divide the students into 6 groups (something I do for every class) and have the teams take turns thinking of the famous person. I have assigned designations to each of the students based on thier English ability. After I mixed them up into groups, i am going to give them designations within the groups (tiger, monkey, and other Asian astrological signs). The weaker the designation, the morepoints that team earns when that student asks a question (they get points for every question they ask).
What do you think, do you guys have anymore ideas? Do you have an footage of classes of yours or others that show this environment?
Are lessons at your school 50 minutes instead of the usual 45 for middle schools? 50 minutes is the customary length for high school.
At any rate I've taught Korean classes of 42 that were a breeze to teach and classes of 12 that were a chore. So much depends upon class dynamic and attitude. For any grade at my school I could select a class of 40 students who would make you feel like super-teacher regardless of your approach, or I could select a class of 20 that would make you feel like a waste of space, a clown, or a drill sergeant depending on what approach you wanted to take. Start throwing co-teachers into it and you're even more at the mercy of your institution (I teach most of my high school classes solo and it actually makes management easier in most respects).
The problem with larger classes is that there's a tendency to do too much work on listening and not enough speaking. Two ways I try to get around this are (1) by adding a conversation excercise to the phonics lessons I do - using the words as a base to make formulaic sentences, and (2) re-writing dialogues we use in class. It's no solution to large class sizes but at least it gets most of the students talking a bit.
Good points about the variability of large classes and that we should be cautious about it being to "passive" and listening oriented. Though I caution, take baby steps and work slowly towards moving each classroom in the direction of student centeredness and more language production.
Crucial with a large classroom is of course, classroom management. Make sure you have signals and clear rules/consequences. Time out areas work well and students in Asian society respond positively to be "sent from the group". I also like to use a red card , yellow card and even a green card system. Easy and students respond/understand. Also, routine is very important for both classroom management and learning (see below).
Further, you need to manage the environment as well as possible. Meaning, if you can, have the students in groups and give each group a name. Every class, the group name is the same. Also for competition, keep a permanent scoreboard on the board - magnets work great for scoring but there are other ways...
I responded yesterday to a teacher asking for advice. Here is what I wrote, I think its worthy to share with other teachers. Anonymous of course. I'd also love to hear from others, what are your tricks of the trade?
Also, of course this is the perfect flow of a lesson, I described below. Most lessons don't ever reach this ideal and it all depends on your class. You are the authority and know them best......
The question asked of me was - how to design a lesson intended to give routine, so the students know what will come next in / during the lesson.
It sounds like you are on the right track. Especially regarding planning with your co-teacher and communicating. It is always MOST important and should be a way you both negotiate to come up with the best material/activity/curriculum for the students.
It is great that you can follow the topics/themes of your Korean colleagues and do so in a flexible, fun, communicative fashion. That is bang on and will be ideal for planning and even testing, if you go that far. Further, don't get off your goal of having a student centered classroom! But it all depends on the dynamics of the class (because they are so large), how they act/react. Also, it is something you have to teach them, work up towards. Not good to just BANG!, let them start mucking about. You have to create the right environment so I think you are best to start from a more traditional, teacher centered focus but aim towards a more student driven, discovery oriented classroom (which isn't as easy as always first thought!).
You are on the right track as far as activities go. I don't think it will be boring for the students to have the same routine! This is routine, not what is actually "happening" and you can make that interesting and dynamic (the content). Your co-teacher has a solid teaching idea, students need and despite our blinders, want routine. Good learning is always focused on discipline which is routine in disguise.
I really would stay away from "pencil" work - in your case. By that I mean handouts, crosswords, wordfinds UNLESS it is student created and bonds them in some fashion to learning more and being proud. (mini books are great for this but you can also do an empty wordfind where the students create a wordfind). I say this because your time there is precious, spend it in conversation / listening skill oriented activities.
I find what works best is to have the following routine. This is only as a guide but it will give you some ideas / framework for your planning.
1. Good...... / warm up conversation with students. Chit chat
(very important pedagogically - to both relate and motivate students and also offer them time to just "discover" language and meaning.
2. Review. Go through the last lesson. Repeat with students and see what they've learned. Replay a game if necessary.
3. Radio show / interview. I do this with elementary and middle school grades. Each class, one new student is interviewed. This way, each class they learn the important questions/answers. I use the Big Town cards and you can also have higher level students pretend to be a fictional character. This gives repeated structure and really works.
4. Modeling conversation/language focus of the lesson with the co-teacher. This is best is blended with the above. (so important because the students see the coteacher and you, speaking real language, the language they will try to master in the lesson)
5. Presentation. Present the target language in a structured and more formal fashion. Let them see and make sense of it. If there is any need of translation - this would be the time but less or none is best. This can be a ppt., a chart, the book/CD, TPR (total physical response) etc.....
5. Whole class Teacher Centered. Quick warm up game using the theme/focus. This should be a whole class game of some sort. Find one that your students will enjoy. Use counters for stimulation (many in the powerpoints folder or use fake money). It can be as simple as a "hide the picture" - guess what I'm doing game or more complex .
6. Whole class Student centered. Same activity but the focus is on a student who controls the game / asks questions. Get the focus on students somehow in this part of the lesson.
7. Partners / small groups. Last stage. Allow the students to consolidate the language used above in small groups/pairs. This can be through flashcard games, handout, Find someone who...., matching activity, survey etc.....Here they are producing the target language by themselves and also focus on having stronger students helping the others....
8. Song. End on a good note. Best if it is a song that has some of the target language or fits with the theme. But not always necessary.
9. Very short reminder of what they learned, repeat, socratic questioning or other methods...
10. Exit. Best group lines up at the door first. Ritualize this as well as entrance procedures and signaling the start of the lessons and change of focus/attention.
WOW! Seems like a lot but it isn't. Students really need a lot of differing activities to really keep focused and learning. But you don't always have to do all the above, this is just when things would be perfect. Also depends on the goal of the lesson, sometimes activities will take longer and so ALWAYS just keep thinking - are they learning? If so, go with it.....
Crucial with a large classroom is of course, classroom management. Make sure you have signals and clear rules/consequences. 1.Time out areas work well and students in Asian society respond positively to be "sent from the group". I also like to use a red card , yellow card and even a green card system. Easy and students respond/understand. Also, routine is very important for both classroom management and learning (see below).
2. Further, you need to manage the environment as well as possible.
1. This is great advice! with 40 plus kids, you need to make sure they understand as much of what you do/say as possible. So much of your "talk" can be lost on them, and instead of just sitting there, the students will find other ways to entertain themselves: playing, talking, etc. As for time out areas: I have 4: 1 worksheet wall with clipboards and level oriented word find sheets. An ABC touch to learn activity: the ABC letters are grouped by sound (A/J/K) and color. Each sound set has a different feeling sandpaper. Students can close their eyes and figure the letter out, or search the wall for a letter. Also on my wall I have a S-V-O activity: the students can match sentences together with subject/verb/object cards. The last one I have on my wall is a monster farm with boggleswordesl.com phonics monsters: my kids have some trouble making their own words, so I made master lists for them to work with. I use these activities as "timeouts", and punishments, but I don't call them punishments: I utilize an activity card with english and a Korean translation that says the students is meant to finish an activity around the room (no mention if behavior). Here's the basic translation:
You have received this card! Now you must finish the activity that the teacher chooses for you. The teacher will point to the activity you are supposed to finish. Finish the activity and then present your work to the teacher not instructing the class.
지금부터 받은 카드와 관련된 활동을 끝마치도록 합니다. 활동의 종류나 유형은 선생님이 지정할 것이며, 활동을 마치면, 현재 수업을 진행하고 계시지 않은 선생님께 결과물을 제출하도록 합니다.
If anyone wants further descriptions/pictures of my wall activities: just email me. Also, you'd be suprised how well a card that says, "you're being rude.' works. I have two (rude, and impolite); the students can't act ignorant when they're reading their own language. I'll post those from work on Monday.
2. Splitting your class into teams every time helps alot. I use lesson specific team names: vocabulary, question parts (team 1=Do you, team 2= like, team 3= beep beep beep?), etc and I have the students repeat a gesture when I say team 1, team 2, team 3. You can turn it into a small game, by trying to fool the teams into saying their team name, or making the gesture. Teams allow for you to get many students responding at once. Also, a team serves as a step down from whole class work, which makes the lesson more personal, and activities managable. Chants work wonders with teams, and all of my elementary classes have enjoyed the chant work: it's a great warm-up and pattern practice for them.
Great points/thoughts/ideas?! I like wall activities and especially with younger learners I will do a whole class activity where they have to find similiar people. Each get a card with info. on it. Some others are the same in class. They must keep going around the class asking others the target language - for example, "Do you like pink" (if we are doing colours). If the person says no, move on. If they say yes, they respond. ME too! and link arms and then continue trying to find pinkers.
Great way to make repetition fun. Then when I ring the bell, they must find the appropraite colour poster I put on the wall and stand under it. Then I ask , Who likes ....? and the group responds. This works well with birthdays and months. nationalities/countries and many other vocab items.
I also like the idea of using Stations. You keep a tracking sheet and students in groups of 3 or 4, go around the class and do a station (my old class had 20 stations - language activities on the wall where they practiced selected language). On the bell, they change. Keep a tracking sheet and in that day column they record the station they did and draw a happy/blank/sad face for how well they did the activity. I'll post some pics of these stations, I have quite a few in picture form.
Also about large classes. What about actual Station teaching? Meaning, many of us have coteachers and why not just divide the class in two. Each of you teach a different part of the lesson. Then the second half , they get the other teacher. A good way to limit numbers and students will get more attention. This should be thought about as an option, if you have good rapport and planning with your coteacher. You can also just both teach the same material but in your own way. Students repeat and learn through that repetition.
Just two more thoughts...
I also like the vocab specific names but I could never do that! I have trouble remembering my own name!
I attached a ppt which has a few pics of the stations I set up before for "independent" student learning. Sorry, can't find the pics but this will give you and others an idea....great way to even just do the last part of a lesson, everyone doing one station to end the day, review. But be careful! You have to show the students slowly, how to do this, how to work together and the steps of each station - with a dry run.
Here's something that is simple and it works well. Tell half the class to stand up. Tell the other half to listen. Each student gets to sit down when they answer a question. For example" What would you like to do in future?' Since all the students naturally want to sit down they will answer the questions quickly. Then turn to the other side of the room and ask them to stand up. They then will do a memory activity based on what the other half did. The first student will say" Minsu wants to be a________. Then the next student will choose another student and add to the chain.