In this third part, I’d like to add to my list some more good habits you as a new teacher might not think of, but should become part of your preparation and teaching.
- Think in advance HOW to do an exercise: You might want the students to listen to a track, but some of them find the transcript in the book and read it while listening (which turns this exercise into a reading activity). Or you want students to answer several questions and you start reading them out loud, but students are only staring at you over their closed books. Plan also when to give the instruction to open/close the book, to open/close their notebook, to write or just listen and when to start/finish an exercise.
- Don’t let chats go for too long: One of the poorest explanation of teacher candidates after a demo-lesson without any progress in the syllabus or book has been that ‘students wanted to talk, so I did conversation with them’. Apart from the fact that conversation isn’t equal to ‘chit-chat’ (see my post on this topic), there must be a reason why courses follow a syllabus. You need to get things done. But even in a course where the teacher has the possibility to design the whole program, there must be a start point and a destination where students need to get by the end of the course. Moreover, chit-chats usually involve only one part of the students, the more extroverted ones, are done in open class, so not all students are active, often mean too much talking time from the part of the teacher and train only two skills (listening and speaking) and maybe some vocabulary. Even grammar clarifications seem to be ineffective due to the lack of targeted practice. So don’t think that you had a good lesson, if it was mainly chatting about everything and nothing. Focus on your teaching aims and target language.
- Be genuinely interested in your students: Another thing that is for most active teachers obvious, but still nothing we could take for granted. Some (new) teachers misunderstand students’ interest in them and think to be the center of the lesson. Needless to say that the teacher conducts a lesson, might sometimes feel like a showman (without this you cannot keep tired adults awake from 8 to 9.30 pm), but not the star. Your students are. In addition, they need to learn how to use the language, so make them talk about themselves, listen to their opinion, to their life stories. Your interest must be genuine, though, students might not understand your language perfectly, but they understand your intonation and other non-verbal signals.
- Lead into new topics, set context: You know that you have to teach, for instance, Present Perfect today and that you want to do 4 exercises from the student’s book and the workbook. Still, you can’t start your lesson saying: “Today we are going to discuss Present Perfect, here is the form…”. You need to lead into the topic, create a story (set context), that takes students to the form, which can then be elicited from them using one sample sentence possibly made up by the students. Even if you change into a new topic, do it smoothly, asking questions that direct students towards the next lesson phase.
- Finish up your lesson with elegance: Don’t expect your students to understand, now they have to stand up and go home. When you have finished the lesson (or when the time is up), assign homework (write the relevant page and exercise numbers onto the whiteboard), remind them of coming tests or up-coming assignments, thank them for their cooperation and say Goodbye. You can continue chatting to them while you are collecting your materials and walk them out of room, all this gives style to the end of the lesson and also guarantees that you can have your 5-minute break before the next lesson.
Don’t worry if you cannot keep in mind all these points in your first lessons, have an action point for every coming lesson and work on these points one after one. Step by step and day by day…
This list is open and if you can come up with any new ideas, do not hesitate the leave a comment.