Three years ago, when I was still a new teacher in Thailand, the school where I taught was invited to participate in a speech competition. Its main objective was to develop the English speaking skills of students in our area. My school had a population of less than 200 from Anuban to Grade 6.
At first, I was quite hesitant to participate because I knew there would be more than 30 schools participating and most of them are giant schools. I imagined it was like a David and Goliath fight. Anyway, through the incessant prodding of my English coordinator, I did join in 3 events despite the fact that my students' chance of winning was very slim. But to increase the chance of winning, I concentrated on one activity -"Talk about a Picture".
For a student who could barely speak English and knew very little of it, boy, it was indeed a very arduous task. Even I couldn't talk spontaneously about a picture I see for the first time considering that I have to talk about it for 5 minutes in front of poker- faced judges. But gosh, my student did it. Well, you might ask, "How did this miracle happen?"
The fact that the invitation was given late, we only had less than a month to practice. In the beginning, I didn't plunge into practicing right away. I approached it slowly but surely. So, I thought of a scheme on how to make her talk about a given picture no matter what topic it would be. So I thought of a setting. Every story has a setting right? So, I trained her in talking about places like school, library, market, temple, street, and the like. After that, for I believe that a picture is not a picture without a character or characters on it I instructed her to supply characters in the picture using the specific names of members of the family, classmates, or friends, depending on the picture to make the description more personal. To top it all, she had to make her descriptions vividly using describing words. In addition to this, she supplied action words too suggesting what the characters did to give life to the picture being described.
Everyday, little by little, she would describe carefully selected pictures where she could identify the setting, characters, descriptions, and actions. When she was keen in doing this, I used big books from our library by covering the Thai texts and letting her tell the story in her own words based on her own understanding. With it, she was feeling great for it appeared to her she was doing well. In other words, she was able to gain confidence. To enhance her skill further I used selected cartoon illustrations and she likewise enjoyed describing them.
When the contest came, my student took home the bacon.
In teaching, we, teachers, must think of an ingenious way to make our students learn using varied types of materials and different kinds of strategies for every student has his/her own learning style. "For every folk, a different stroke." At times we would say it is a Herculean job to make the adamant, the timid, and the uninterested Thai student learn, but once you have gotten their weakness and use it to their advantage, the battle is already half won. Take the case of one boy in an international school in Chiangmai where I taught last summer. This boy was new in school but would always be isolated during flag ceremony as punishment for being naughty, scolded by the teacher in front of everybody during lunch, and ridiculed by his teachers almost anytime. But in my class he was wonderful.
On the first day when he had no chair to sit on, I offered my chair. Next time when he had no pencil to use , I gave him a pen. When he couldn't see the movie we viewed, I moved his seat closer. When he did something right, I would praise him. So, loving kindness also helped.
Success of students in learning is also attributed to a very creative and a very resourceful teacher. This teacher I describe is unconventional for he/she goes out of his/her way to give the students the run for their money if he/she teaches in a private school. If he/she teaches in a public school, he /she is a really a "teacher" because he/she is not only after the paycheck but after the students' welfare.
Constant practice of the lessons as well as teaching to examination standards is important in achieving lesson objectives. Drilling the lesson using the spiral method is also beneficial for it lessens the degree of forgetfulness. So, before new lessons are introduced, mastery of the previous lesson should be attained first.