Learn as I Go Teaching Tips

Yes, I’m still alive!

These past few weeks have been jam-packed – mostly due to the fact that my online classes have started! In case you missed it, I’ve enrolled at a Spanish online University and, in three year’s time (hopefully!), will have the qualifications to be a “legit” teacher here for Elementary school kiddos.

Hopefully one day this will apply to me!

But bfffff – getting back into “the swing” of studying and doing homework has proved challenging for me (especially since I’m reading and writing totally in Spanish, Eeek!) Luckily though, I live close to a mini library conducive to studying (you can find me there from 11-2 Monday- Saturday) and I have a live-in editor/ Spanish language tutor. Thanks Diego! I promise I’ll make it up to you somehow!

I've got the smartest tutor this side of the Atlantic! šŸ˜‰

Anyways, I’m super excited to be studying and learning about subjects that have to do with the job I currently have now. I’m realizing how lucky I am to have to opportunity to not only study teaching and education, but also gain real-life classroom experience at the same time. In the future when I’m fully licensed here, I’ll be grateful for the years of “practice” I had teaching at the academy.

With this post I want to describe a little about what I do with the kiddos and also report on some of the “teaching tricks” I’ve gained through trail and error along the way. Here goes nothing!

Top Tricks for Little Kiddos

The majority of my English classes at the academy are with little tykes. I have one class with kiddos 4 & 5 years old, one with 5 & 6 year olds, one with 6 -8 year olds, and finally a class with two 2 year olds! That’s a lot of snotty noses! šŸ˜‰

These are by far my most challenging and, at the same time, rewarding classes. These kiddos have just begun school and are still getting “the hang of” the whole “how to behave in a classroom” thing. I consider these classes to be a success (they are either one hour or an hour and a half long) if we can make it through one of the book’s mini lessons while staying somewhat entertained and on task.

With the smallest kids, the most valuable thing I’ve learned is to be prepared! Know exactly what you’re going to do with them and come prepared with back-up activities just in case there is some downtime.

Also, I try to “mimic” all the behavior that I expect from them – this seems to work well. For example, when I ask them a question like: “Who can tell me a word that beings with the letter A?”, I raise my hand while asking the question to prompt them to raise their hand instead of shouting out the answer. I also try to always say please, thank you, and you’re welcome… it’s never too early to start learning good manners! šŸ˜‰

I'm sure this is what is happening 90% of the time in class with the Little Ones....

Finally, I try to reward good behavior and also punish bad behavior. This is tricky because I’ve found it’s easy to get caught up inĀ discipliningĀ and forget to tell the students you like something they are doing. The most effective “punishment” I’veĀ discoveredĀ as of now is beginningĀ the class by writing the work GAME on the board. I have explained to them that every time they misbehave (speak too much Spanish, get too loud, get up out of their desk without permission…etc.) I erase a letter from the word GAME. If, in the last 15 minutes, they still have letters left, we can play a game but if not we continue with class. They seem to respond more to me erasing letters from the board than me saying “Be quiet!” for the 10th time that day….

At the end of each class, the best behaved kiddo that day receives a star next to his/her name on the bulletin board. Whoever has the most stars at the end of the month gets a prize. The stars start over each month. Ha, but I realized that I’m a softy and try to make sure each one of them gets a least one or two stars through out the month regardless of their good/bad behavior. Hopefully they haven’t caught on to this!

Middle School Aged Kiddos

I have one class with kiddos ages 10-13. I really like this class because, by this age, all the kiddos can read, write, and understand better what I say. This means there are lot more possibilities for classroom activities. To keeps these guysĀ motivated, Ā I do a thing where each time they do their homework or answer the most questions correctly during the classs warm-up activity – they get to enter their name on a slip of paper in a jar I keep in the room. I told them that the day before Christmas vacation, I will draw a name from the jar and that person will get a prize. I recently also starting writing the work GAME on the board with them too because they’ve become kind of chatty after getting to know each other better in class.

The "Flaming Raffle" popped up on my Google Image search, ha! - definitely going to save up to buy this for the class

Also, for these kids as well as with the little ones, any worksheets or writtenĀ activitiesĀ we do in class I always collect before they leave to go home. At the end of the year, I’m going to put all the extra activities together to form a little book for each student so that they have a year’s worth of material all neat and organized together (I think the parents will appreciate this the most).

Older and Adult Students

Finally, I have a class with Junior and Senior year aged High Schoolers, a private class with a 15 year old girl, and two private classes with adults. These guys have mostly mastered the fundamental English grammar so in class we do exercises based on more advanced topics.Ā I also try toĀ incorporateĀ “practical” and “interesting” information and tid-bits along the way. Ā This means I show them things like common phrases English speakers use (like saying: Made it! when you arrive at your destination – think about it – that doesn’t have a literal translation) and idioms (like: don’t cry over spilled milk, and hold your horses!) Talking about things like this usually sparks good conversation – and I especially like it when they teach me a similar phrase in Spanish. I always say that the act of preparing for these classes combined with listening to my students during class means that I end up learning more than the students do!

Hope you made it through this rather wordy post šŸ™‚ To all the teachers out there: do you have any ideas or tips for me concerning each age group? What I’m currently struggling with now is what to do when the kids work at different speeds. If half the class finishes the activity in 2 minutes and the others needs 10 plus minutes as well as my help – how do I keep the speedy ones on track while I’m aiding the slower kiddos? The last thing: any ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas projects or activities for a teacher on a tight budget?

Thanks for your input!


10 thoughts on “Learn as I Go Teaching Tips

  1. You certainly have your hands full right now don’t you! Sounds like this experience will be a great education for you though.

    Are you going to have a mock Thanksgiving celebration with them? (do they have a similar holiday in Spain?)

    • They don’t have any clue about Thanksgiving! hehe maybe I’ll teach them what it means to be “thankful” for something… ha it would be fun to have a pretend Thanksgiving feast in class! šŸ™‚

  2. Like Wendy, I’m also wondering if Spain has extra hours in their day!
    I know that you also cook dinners and manage a beautiful young pup. (or two…)
    I’ll check around on my day off about Thanksgiving / Christmas projects.
    Hang in there!

  3. Rachel, these are great ideas…I’ll be putting the GAME game to use at home on the weekends šŸ™‚ At Sofia’s school, in kindergarten, there was a cut out handprint on the wall. When the kids would start getting ‘unfocused’ they were told to go ‘touch the hand’. Supposedly it made them snap out of their behavior. After 3 hand touches there was a cute little ‘think about it’ chair. It sounds good in principle, I think I ended up with handprint cutouts in every room of my house :\

  4. I like the “Game” idea, I should try something like that with Olivia, timeouts don’t really seem to work with her. Decorating ornaments is always a fun Christmas time activity. Not sure if they have Dollar Generals over there ha, but thats always a good places to get ideas for cheap. This may be hard, but we always enoyed watching the Charlie Brown holiday movies at my house!

    • thanks for the ideas Steffer! Ha here they don’t have official dollar stores, but they have these mini stores that are always run by Chinese families that sell stuff for cheap! (I think their merchandise comes straight off a boat from China šŸ˜‰ ) But yes, ornaments would be fun!

    • That would be fun! The only problem is is that the room is so tiny that something like that would just disrupt the rest of the class… I’m thinking I’m going to keep a bunch of word searches on hand to pass out at times when the fast students finish earlier šŸ™‚

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