We finished our first week of school to learn how to teach ESL and we love it! We are currently in our first week of real teaching experience at UniTEFL in Chiang Mai, Thailand. After one week of instruction on theory and grammar, it was time to go to a local school and get some real world experience. I hadn't realized how much grammar I had forgotten or maybe had never been taught. Shelly and I were pretty nervous as were all the others in our class. It's one thing to practice in front of your classmates and quite another to teach in front of kids in a foreign school. We had the opportunity to teach two classes on Thursday and Friday.
In Class At UniTEFL Becoming Teachers
UniTEFL And Learning How To Teach ESL
Our wonderful British instructor Pete, has been teaching in Thailand for 13 years and has an amazing way about him. Some of the things he taught us was how to use gestures, theater techniques and eliciting words through drawings. The sole purpose of all ESL (English as a second language) lessons is provide opportunities for communication. The schools here have children from kindergarten (Anuban) to high school aged children. There is also a level called Prathom which is basically elementary school. We taught children in the Mathayom 1-3 levels which is basically middle school/junior high school and the second day we taught Anubans. We have met some interesting and unique people in our TEFL Class. The Students with us are: Trevor from New Zealand, Mike and Chris from England, Eva from Hungary, Stef from Germany, Kim from Canada, Pedro from North Carolina, Sean from Florida, and Patty from South Africa. The ages vary from around 25 to 60 and everyone gets along pretty well.
Wat Sri Ping Maung School Before Class
The Steps To The Lesson
The first lesson we learned how to teach is the flash card lesson which consists of 6 steps. The first step is the warmer or ice breaker. The goal of the warmer, in addition to breaking the ice, is to excite the children to begin speaking English with a game or simple conversational dialogue. It consisted of:
Hi, my name is (your name)... What is your name?
My name is (student's name)
It's nice to meet you..
It's nice to meet you too.
Very simple dialogue for the students to pick up and they have had a lot of practice doing this warmer. The teacher demonstrates the dialogue once fully, then repeats it with a student. A student then initiates the dialogue back to the teacher. The students then begin saying the dialogue with each other, switching roles and rotating so that they all have a chance to talk to each other. This warmer was fun for the kids, they were laughing and giggling because obviously, they already knew each others names.
Teaching The Context at Sri Ping
The next step is the context setting, the crux of the lesson. It's where we introduce the context of the entire lesson. The first day mine was Animals in the Sea, and Shelly's was sports. We then have two sets of dialogues. There are 6 lines of dialogue per subject matter and 3 variables per card. Mine was: What animals live in the sea? A crab lives in the sea. What does it eat? It eats snails. What color is it? It is red. Therefore the variables/vocabulary words were crab, snails, and red. In the context I also used a dolphin which eats big fish and is blue. We go step by step saying the whole dialogue 3 times and then draw stick figures on the board that "speak" the dialogue to each other with bubble texts like a cartoon.
The next step is a picture preview. I made my flash cards on the computer and had them printed in color at a print shop up the road. They were great!! The kids loved them as they don't see many color cards here, and it really drew them in. The front of the flash card had a cartoon crab with "crab" written under it, and then the back had a snail and the color with the words written below them. We had 9 flash cards in total and this was the step where we previewed the cards by going through all 6 lines of the cards. The next step was the Core Dialogue.
Core Dialogue and Vocabulary Expansion
We would "demo"(demonstrate) one of the original flash cards two times (I used a crab) and then the children take turns writing two lines at a time on the board after having myself ask one student... What animal lives under the sea.... the student then answers... a crab lives under the sea. We then asked another student to ask the first question, then two students asking each other. Then we had them write the two lines on the board together. We did this for lines 3 and 4, then 5 and 6. The we formed two parallel lines near the board and practiced the whole dialogue 3 times in the same way we did in the warmer.
Vocabulary expansion was the next step. We took out the variables they had written on the board and replaced them with a blank. Then had 3 students come up with one flash card each. I would go through one more time all 6 lines, and they would then sit down until, 3 more would come up front and so on, until all 9 were re-demonstrated. Then I had one student stand up and I did the entire card with them and then handed it the card to them and did another card with another student. Then we encouraged them to do it to each other, I then would "demo" another student and so on until all 9 cards were in circulation and they were saying it to each other. I let this go on for a few minutes then started having the students one by one demo the dialogue back to me and then I would collect the card and have them sit down.
Core Dialogue and Vocabulary Expansion
The last step was a tic-tac-toe game using all 9 subjects. I split the teams into two teams and had them rock scissors paper to see who went first. They then would need to have two students from each team say the entire dialogue to each other correctly to get an x or an o on the board. Who would have thought that becoming TEFL Teachers would be so much work?
How Did We Do Teaching?
It was great fun doing this whole thing with the children. Shelly and I did great!!! We had a monitor that graded us and gave us instruction on what we could do better. Some of the things I had issues with were getting the steps right in the right order. We were given most of this lesson material and steps the day before our first class, and it just wasn't enough time for me to get the steps down pat. Shelly however has a photographic memory and can remember everything perfectly. My kids loved me and were shouting out answers and really go involved (which is the whole point of the lesson). A negative is that I pointed a lot. In Thailand it is rude to point at anyone or even point at the white board we were using. This is a hard thing to stop doing. All in all I got a 2.25 and Shelly got a 2. 1 which is good. 1 is the best, 2 is good, and 3 acceptable, and 4 is needs work, 5 is you really stink at this.
2nd Day of Teaching - My Kids
Second Day Of Teaching
The next day we had a different context. Mine was Dangerous Animals and Shelly's was Baby Animals. We both did even better than the day before. I got a 1.75 and Shelly got a 1.50. I didn't point and was very conscious of it, yet forgot one of my context animals. It was; what animal is dangerous? A snake is dangerous. Why is it dangerous? Because it has poison. Where does it live? It lives in grass. I said it had fangs not poison. When I got to my flashcards I realized it was poison and not fangs. Luckily the picture on the flash card I had made, had a snake with fangs and poison dripping from them. I then made the connection and introduced poison and where it came from fangs. It worked out great and maybe even better than trying to introduce poison (a hard NEW word to them). This lesson is 50 minutes long.
We Love Doing This
We both love this!! It's great teaching these kids. They are well-behaved for the most part and eager to learn. We aren't allowed to speak any Thai, only english. It's hard not to speak Pidgin English to them so they understand at times, but through proper gestures and pictures, they understand well! Next week we are able to chose our own warmer and end game, and have less variables and subject matter. It won't be a flash card lesson however and on Monday we will get the lesson plan outline. We then teach again Tuesday. We did however get the context for next week. Mine is parts of the body and I will be teaching Mattayom 1. Shelly's is the Olympics and she will be teaching Mattayom 3. We are going to an under-privileged all boys school on Tuesday and we were forewarned that they may be a little unruly. It should be fun though. We can't wait to get going!!
Getting Haircuts Before School
Teaching In Unconventional Spaces
As you can see... we don't teach in a classroom. The first day we were in a big open air room split by groups and white boards propped up on chairs. The second day I was in the lunch-room and Shelly was in a classroom type room. The first day, we showed up and saw all the boys sitting on the floor indian-style. A Thai instructor was scolding them about something. We asked our monitor what he was saying, and were told that some of the boy's hair was too long.
Time For Haircuts
He then had about 10 boys rise and come to the front of the class where one by one they bent down in front of an instructor and were given a "haircut". It was actually cut shorter on top with clippers and most were given just one (nearly to the skin) line in the back. It was incredible.... The kids were laughing and were pretty good sports, and consequently were forced to go get haircuts when they went home or go around with a terrible haircut. We couldn't help but think how many lawsuits and PTA meetings would be formed if this happened in the States. But here, it was ok and no one got upset about it.
Transportation To The Schools
Change In Perspective
Overall a great week and we are on our way to learning how to teach ESL! We both love being ESK teachers and feel like we are naturals at this. We will have no problem getting jobs after we graduate. Can't wait for next week. We have really changed our career path in the last month and now we are learning how to teach ESL in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We originally came to Thailand to become Divemasters after becoming dive professionals in Honduras, and things have changed drastically in a short amount of time.
It's interesting how plans change. The key is to not get discouraged when your original plans don't work out. It's important to have the faith that if one plan doesn't work out, there will be another plan that will. You need to listen to your intuition and follow your heart. This is what we did that brought us to Chiang Mai to learn how to teach ESL. We didn't plan this, it just happened. Now we are doing something we never imagined and doing it well. Don't be afraid to try something new and fail at your original plans. This is what we learned from this experience on top of the realization that we are good at teaching children English.