Richard Constable

16 teaching rules I live by

Some of these techniques you might find useful.

This is not a fictional story.

On the quiet, my dear old grandfather once told me that there is only one golden rule, and that is that there are no golden rules. 

Bearing that discernment in mind, I have tentatively written my method of teaching a class of approx 32-54 students in a Thai private or government school.

That is, now that I am approaching my seventeenth year of teaching here in the Metropolitan Districts of Big Bad Bangers, and having taught all grades, in what at present amounts to 53 schools and language centers. Yes, perhaps that is too many. Though, I did once teach at the same day school for over 3 years and I had a part-time position at a language center for over 7 years. (I wouldn't want you to think that I was fickle.)

Presently, I am teaching 13-17-year-olds at a very nice Catholic girl's school near my home, while in the evenings and at weekends I am to be found at a private language center at the local Seacon Square. Nevertheless, some of these techniques I practice you might find useful.

1; Without exception, I have a lesson plan that I believe will serve my purpose, albeit I am prepared to change direction for those 'Roald Dahl like situations of the unexpected.' And for the more mundane, for instance, I thought the matthayom students would be fully aware of the past simple, still they only had a vague understanding of the present tense.

2; Hit the ground running! I quickly write the objectives of the lesson in the nearest corner of the board. After that, I immediately go to stand directly in front of the class and begin the lesson. I never stand on ceremony, as I feel it's a waste of time and creates a poor impression.

3; Whenever possible, I divide the class into teams, for instance A & B, or A, B & C, and possibly at most four teams A, B, C, & D.

4; Having made it quite clear that they must raise their hands in order to have the opportunity to answer a question, and are only able to answer with the gesture of an open hand in their direction from yours truly. Hereinafter, I award points for answers given by students to his or her relevant teams.

5; When students talk out of turn and are disrupting the flow of the lesson, I look directly at them and start a loud slow count from one up five. This generally works as the students have been programmed by their Thai teachers from an early age that a full count of five is swiftly followed by something highly unpleasant. Hardly ever, having counted a full five count has it been required for me to walk slowly and menacingly towards a student whilst retaining eye contact. (Although, this is 100% guaranteed as I have done this to huge 17-18-year-old male students who could have picked me up and broken me over their heads. Ultimately, Thai students have a built in respect for their teachers.)

6; I deduct points if a student or students continue to shout out possible answers, or if some members of a team or teams in the class continue to disrupt the lesson by talking. I always smile when I deduct points and convey to them that, 'I really don't want to have to do this, but having given you fair warning.'

7; If deduction of points is not enough to deter her/him or them from further disruptions, I make the whole class stand up and not just the offenders. Calmly, I continue teaching and do not let them sit down until and if they are ready to sit down and behave appropriately. Sometimes, in a particularly unruly class I encourage them to behave by allowing individually well-behaved students to sit down first. Other students soon see this as a competition, and start to do the necessary to be allowed to sit. That is, give answers, copy from the board, do  exercises in their students' books, etc.

8; I elicit new vocabulary by giving the first letter of the word plus a 'coffee time clue' to enable students to answer. At the same time, I emphasize word stress and syllables by drawing large and small bubbles above them.

9; I generally evoke every word by giving the students all the first letters of each word in the sentence that I want on the board.  If they cannot get the word, then I give them either a second letter, or a clue. If they still cannot get it, I give a third letter or a clue. I never give them the actual word, because then they are thinking and speaking in English.

10; With the sentence structures on the board, I always show the links we native speakers use when speaking English naturally. Those links that run from consonants to vowels I connect with a line.

11; I praise every student's answer and every genuine attempt at an answer, however lame or ridiculous. Frequently, I tell them 'Good!' and 'Thank you!' accordingly 'Good but no.' or 'Good but not this one.'

12; With sentences, questions, answers, and general dialogue written up on the board. Loosely, I draw lines that are either falling or rising in order to show intonation of speech.

13; When my board work is complete I drill the class chorally on the relevant vocabulary and/or sentences. Whilst facing the class, I use my right hand like a language conductor illustrating word stress, syllables and intonation of speech. Moreover, when they are ready to fly I let them go it alone from the beginning to the end.

14; Where applicable I have the students copy my kindled classroom instructions from the board into their notebooks. Writing the instructions down helps to reinforce them in their accommodating young minds.  

15; I write 1st and draw a basic rosette around it on a page of the notebook or student's book after the student has just finished. For the next student to finish I write 2nd and draw another rosette and so on. If you do this for a couple of lessons you'll be surprised by how quickly they finish their writing tasks; 90 odd per cent wanting to get an early place. However, there are usually stragglers, therefore I get them to show themselves up by asking them to put their hands up if they haven't finished yet!

16; Finally and without fail, I thank the students at the end of the class, whilst smiling meekly and waving them all goodbye as if I were going to miss them until the next lesson. This will helps to bond with the students and believe it or not even the worst Thai students come to miss their English teacher.  


5. When students talk out of turn and are disrupting the flow of the lesson, I look directly at them and start a loud slow count from one up five. This generally works as the students have been programmed by their Thai teachers from an early age that a full count of five is swiftly followed by something highly unpleasant.

This is good but only works when you back it up with something. When they find out a thick ear isn't in the post they soon get immune to this rather quickly.

By Jimmy, Bangkok (28th January 2023)

Some good stuff here. Surely all the points and jazz don't work above M5? That's fantastic you have to keep the kids in line from talking out of turn. Sounds like fantasy island classroom. Seems a bit heavy on the stick less on the ?. No idea why you've taught at 53 schools. Don't know whether to applaud or cry for you having taught at six myself. Hope you've found somewhere to hang your hat and a decent salary as well. Nice you teach pronunciation. A lost art.

By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (4th August 2019)

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