Sam Thompson

Things I'd do differently

How am I going to get the best out of my students next term?


It's the last week of school, and I find myself thinking of ways to conduct my classes better than I have during this term. It's not that I think I've done a poor job, but I know there's always room for improvement. Besides, I'd hate to get bored; a bored teacher equals bored students. Bored students don't learn.

To me, it's hilarious that I'm even thinking such things. I wasn't exactly the most well-behaved student in school. Sure, I made all the grades and was on virtually every team in the school (hey, it was a small school), but my in-class performances weren't the highlight of my teachers' days. Oops.

Although we're having agency issues at the school (as always - more on that in another entry), I anticipate I'll be returning to my school as a science teacher. The biggest problem I face is that the English level of my rising Mathayom 1 students is far from what it should be to teach the topics I must teach them. Something tells me that, if the students can't understand my telling them to write their names on their papers, they certainly aren't going to understand balancing chemical equations and the electromagnetic spectrum.

My rising Mathayom 2 students are a different story; for the most part, their comprehension level is good. That means I'll have a fairly easy time teaching biology and other subjects to them as Mathayom 3 students. But that still begs the question of what to do with my upcoming M1 and M2 students.

I think my approach will be different for the first level next term. I've been trying to teach the students what I am required to - primarily vocabulary surrounding the topics - but I think it's too far over their heads. I think that to start, I'll have them all translate the English vocabulary words I give them into Thai before starting the explanations in English. I'm thinking it'd be a great thing to do after they finish a test to keep them relatively quiet and occupied. Obviously, it'll have to be for a grade; otherwise, they won't do it. If I was a student, I wouldn't bother either. I hope this won't be necessary for the other classes, but if need be, I'll see how it plays out.

My other intention is to get the students talking a lot more. This is really my purpose in being here; sure, I'm teaching science, but what they're really wanting is English with a scientific twang. Well, maybe not twang, but you get the idea.

As a teacher, it's difficult to relinquish the control of the class to the students when you think they aren't completely understanding, but I think that forcing them to speak in English about the various topics will help it stick in their minds better than my speaking to them. I think I'll employ the methodology of some university classes I took in Germany: teach a bit, but let the majority of teaching fall to the students themselves through the use of small group projects and presentations.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of presentations, but having the students prepare topics is a nice way to force them to learn about it. This will be difficult, though; there's no stopping them from using the Thai Wikipedia to copy/paste everything into presentations (of which I have seen a lot), and it's difficult to keep the students paying attention to their peers during presentations in the bigger classes. I've had each class this semester do at least a few presentations, but I think that giving them more responsibility for teaching the material will benefit them.

As for class control, we'll have to see what my new class of M1 students are like. There will probably be only 30 or so of them, but that's plenty considering the role the school expects me to perform. I generally don't have problems with discipline (the students are great, mostly), but keeping their attention is another story.

Not that I can blame them. I was a terror when I was their age... the student who was always in the time-out desk behind the door.

My theory is this: start off fairly stern and strict, with the sly smile now and then, to set a precedent. Then, after the first few days and they've warmed up to you, relax a bit. That way, they know that you mean business when you flash that stern look, but they won't think you're a monster. I always appreciated that of my teachers in high school; set the bar, then relax unless someone crosses the line.

Teaching certainly isn't rocket science. But if you really want to get the students to gain anything from their time with you, it's best to go in with a strategy-no matter how small. I'm always open to suggestions!




Comments

As a Science teacher myself, I can tell you the only way to teach science is to do science. Open questions which challenge the students to thinks.
Such as:
What is the effect of salt on the melting point of ice?
What happens to the germination rate of seeds if we use different volumes of water?

Here's the equipment, use it and you tell me the answer.

If you lack equipment there is a wonderful website called
www.explorelearning.com which has online simulations and worksheets (but i'd imagine the worksheets are to English intensive) but you can demonstrate with the simulations in class (if you have a projector linked to a computer) and ask questions - what happens as i increase light levels, temperature etc.

In order to teach science you must do science, it's just to abstract to describe and to learn in a second language

By john, Bangkok (20th February 2013)

Great suggestions, William! I will certainly give them a try. My biggest problem with the labs, as you said, is that it's difficult to keep them under control; not only are there a lot of students, but the room is twice as big.

I did have the students write suggestions and things they liked/didn't like about the class in each level, and although none of the suggestions were really "helpful," they certainly were hilarious.

I seem to recall one saying, "Teacher sam look crazy a little sometime but he a good man." hahaha

As for the agency, I try to ignore them. Until the semester ends (soon), there's no point in worrying. :)

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (19th February 2013)

If this particular school retains or in plain language , pays them more money to cheat on teachers, after what has happened then there is certainly "Total Corruption" with this establishment who, to read Sams Blogs, you would think cared about the students whose parents pay for an SAP Special Academic Programme. but the school does not look to hire qualified teachers, it uses an agency that has the worst reputation in the city and has cheated so many teachers.Shame on that school

By damon, Bangkok (17th February 2013)

I am having the same difficulty in some of my classes. I teach primary science to P1-P6. P1-P3 generally understand the topics and can follow them with relative ease. However, P4-P6 topics can be much more difficult. My students, like yours, have very limited English skills.

I have just learned that we have a science laboratory with minimal supplies. My plan is to have students create and produce presentations like you said before. I had P6 create solar system mobiles and each student had to say a little about each planet. It worked out pretty well.

I also tried a conversation type of science teaching. For example:

A: What is the largest planet in our solar system?
B: Jupiter.

It was generally a simple question and answer type conversation but I think it helped the students with their vocabulary and it got them all involved. I made every group have a performance for the class.

I think I did an alright job this semester but I always feel there is need for improvement. With classes of 40+ students it can be difficult at times.

I hope to hear some good suggestions as well.

By William, Sisaket (14th February 2013)

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