I have been working in an after-school centre since the beginning of June 2017.
Having received a recommendation from a previous teacher, the owner of the centre contacted me for an interview towards the end of May. I was really pleased to have the opportunity as I am focussed on gaining as much "in class" experience as possible in order to keep on improving my English teaching skills.
Following the interview and a perusal of my resume, I was offered employment with two classes, one held on Wednesday from 5:15pm-6:30pm and the other with a similar time frame on Fridays.
Prep and activities
I always go in early in order to prepare for the lesson and to spend some time with the students before class. This is very important as many young English learners are very shy and its valuable to spend time talking and playing with them before class so that they feel more comfortable with you when class starts.
A couple of games I play with them that are popular are "Make A Word" and "Simple Scrabble." To play "Make A Word" I use a set of letters printed and cut out on separate pieces of cardboard. Each student or group receives a set of letters and I instruct them to form a simple phrase or sentence. The first to complete the task is the winner.
"Simple Scrabble" is quite similar. Just cut out pieces of cardboard with a letter on each and a score for that letter printed on the bottom corner of the word. I just use a similar scale as used in real scrabble. Vowels and popular consonants are worth 1 point, while more difficult letters are worth more points. For example, B is worth 3 points, J is worth 8 points and Q is worth 10 points. You need to have a decent pool of letters, say a minimum of 64. Each student picks 8 letters and they take turns at trying to make a word and score points. As its pre-class and I am trying to build a friendly and co-operative spirit all the letters can be placed face up so that the students can control their level of difficulty and help each other during the game.
I also try to find out what things the students are interested in. Fortunately, I can speak some Thai and can work out what the younger children are trying to explain to me most of the time.
Stickers are a highly effective reward for students during class. If I can find out that a child likes the Transformers or is a fan of Frozen then I will bring stickers with those themes in order to provide meaningful rewards during class time. It is also useful to link learning vocabulary to student interests during class as a means to maintain motivation.
Improving as a teacher
Once the class starts it is strictly English only by orders of the owner so this is a great opportunity for me to practice honing my skills to teach English in this mode. I have been able to develop my miming skills by studying the provided curriculum materials and by watching the techniques of the support staff.
Working in the after school has helped me to develop the ability to match my speaking skills to the ability of my learners to comprehend my instructions more accurately. I enjoy the smaller class sizes as well. I have more time to work on phonics and to assist students to perfect their English through drilling and encouraging them to ask questions to each other.
As my after-school uses computer and video technology I have also been able to develop my skills when teaching students with technology. I am able to see which activities are of more interest to them and have used this knowledge to improve my own teaching methods when I return to the classroom environment at school. Having students break the words down into syllables and preparing lessons where students practice pronouncing and differentiating between different groups of phonics are techniques that I am now better at providing in class.
After working at the school for two months I was offered an additional class to teach very young learners for two and a half hours on Sunday mornings. I was very pleased with this as I am already teaching K1 and K2 students in my regular at school lessons.
Patience and Energy! Patience and Energy!
These were the two key attributes to bring into a small room of up to nine young pupils who can laugh then cry, speak beautifully then go mute, or tear down the curtains and damage equipment like flashcards in an instant. It really is a bit of a teaching rollercoaster when dealing with such young children but the moments when the lessons go well make the effort worthwhile.
Holding the attention of the students is not an easy assignment but there are a few techniques that I have employed during the last six weeks that have seen the students gain confidence and to keep me in the job.
Imitating animals like monkeys and horses always works well. I have a couple of "naughty" boys in the class but I can win their attention if I mimic a monkey or pretend to be a horse and let them ride around the room for thirty seconds. The girls always respond well If you make some positive comments about their dress and all kids love an action nursery rhyme. If the students start to fray I can bring them back into order with a rendition of "Incy-Wincy Spider" or by falling to the floor after singing "I'm a Little Teapot."
A quick list of familiar and easy to perform instructions like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" or "This is the Way We Wash Our Face Early in the Morning," generally wins the attention of the students and gets them back into the swing of following the teacher's instructions again.
Staying extremely upbeat and giving heartfelt praise to each student when they perform a task allows me to maintain an upper hand with my energy levels. High energy levels tend to have a gravitational effect and are highly effective at keeping the students trying as the lesson continues.
I have learned not to have "too much energy" as the young learners need time to have short breaks throughout the course of the lesson, so its definitely necessary to slow down at times and convey a calmer atmosphere when students have to listen and repeat words or answer questions.
Teaching at an after-school has been a worth-while experience. Sometimes the days can be quite long especially when you teach all day at a regular school. This is a challenge but if you are willing to build your endurance and self-discipline then you will gain the rewards of more experience and some extra cash to boot.