This week of teaching English as a foreign language was interesting and challenging to say the least! We taught at two schools that we have already visited in the past. The MettaSuksa School and the Bua Krok Noi School as well. It is amazing how from one week to the next how things change with regards to the student's level of English and grades. Last week I had M2 at the Bua Krok Noi School and M1's at the Metta school. (M1 is like 6th grade and M2 is like 7th) The M2s in my class were a bit difficult to teach with the lesson plan I created and the M1's were easier a the Metta School. This week I taught M1 at Bua Krak Noi and M2 at the Metta Suksa School (not sure if it's one world or two mettasuksa or metta suksa?) and my lessons were completely flipped as far as success in teaching English as a foreign language.
Teaching "Can and Can't" At MettaSuksa School
We taught at the Metta Suksa School first this week and I had prepared a stellar lesson, one I was truly proud of. I spent a lot of time and energy making my lesson plan and materials even though I promised myself I wouldn't. We were to have two activities this week instead of two worksheets and my context was a bit more advanced. I was to teach "Should and Shouldn't" and the difference between them. Should, although a common word in English, carries meaning. I needed to teach them that it's advice and a decision to be made.
Like Deer In Headlights
I used weather as a context, and said one should wear a hat in the sun, but not look directly at the sun. You should wear a raincoat, shouldn't drive fast. You should go inside in a storm, and shouldn't swim. You should wear gloves in the cold and shouldn't go barefoot. This lesson had a great warmer where I had a ball of string and wrapped it around my waist, then I said that I liked dogs, and made a woof-woof sound and acted like a dog. We were all in a circle and then I passed the ball of string to the child opposite of me and he had to say he liked another animal and wrap the string around his waist acting like the animal they chose. This went on until all the children had a chance and there was a web between us of string. This went over without a hitch and the kids had a great time acting like animals.
I delivered my context with pictures, and then played a game of Pictionary. This didn't work at all with the kids. They really didn't understand the rules of the game and it was almost impossible to have them understand that they were not supposed to show their theme to the other student. I also had a 4 line skit for the next portion of my lesson where they acted out one of the weather patterns and I had props like sunglasses, hats, shoes, gloves, a little motorcycle toy, raincoat, etc. They seemed to enjoy this, but had difficulty reading the script and making the associations needed to learn the material. They would have to wear or use the props in their mini-skit.
More Disasters In Teaching
The final endgame was a relay race to put on the corresponding prop when I played a thunderstorm sound, or rain sound, motorcycle, etc. We never got to the endgame due to the students really not getting the material. They understood should and shouldn't, but couldn't speak the dialogue and got messed up with the vocabulary words. Overall, a complete disaster and I felt horrible. Shelly had similar problems but not as bad with her students. Shelly taught had Can and Can't. We were both a bit discouraged that we had spent so much time making awesome lessons that weren't really actuated effectively. I also go my lowest score since the first day. 2.25 which I think was generous on the observer's part.
Teaching Present Continuous Verbs at Bua Krok Noi
Turning Failure into Triumph!
The next day we taught at Bua Krok Noi School. I had the M1 class and Shelly had M2s. My theme was the "Present Continuous" form of verb conjugation (ing words) . I figured that this would be even harder than "should and shouldn't" and was worried. Our prep was nowhere near as good and materials, they stunk! Present Continuous is I am + and ING ending verb. Example. I ran... I am running. It shows a now action on the verb. Pete, our instructor showed us a great way to show this on the board with a table. Long story short! It was my best lesson ever. The children had a great time, and were getting the material with ease. I loved teaching the kids at Bua Krok Noi School and my score was the best I had had... 1.25. Shelly also had a great time with her tense past simple with irregular verbs. You would think that would be tougher than can and can't but she did wonderfully!! Example: I swim / Swam - Run - ran, Drink - drank. We left feeling great that the information was well received and that we didn't have a repeat from the previous teaching day at the Metta School.
Ups and Downs
A week of ups and downs for sure. The theme of this week is contingency plans, if something is too easy you need a plan to make it challenging, if something if over their head, you need a plan to make it understandable. 50 minutes isn't a long time to teach a lesson and it's imperative that you can recognize when something isn't working and make adjustments.
This week, Shelly and I realized we should have, but didn't know if we could change our plan so drastically as to scrap it completely until after our lessons were over and we were in conference with our observers. Lesson learned! This next monday, we take our final exam, and have two more teaching days left. Basically if we pass our exam this monday we pass the TEFL/TESOL course and get our certificates. We have been offered work already but think we are heading to Hanoi, Vietnam to teach. The money is about double what it is in Thailand, and they are in need of teachers. We hope to get a hold of our friends Scott and Ashley and see if we can get references from them so we can maybe get jobs at their schools. We shall see. This next week we will be working on our resumes and getting ready to job hunt! Been awhile since either of us have done that!!
Change In Perspective
What did I learn? I learned that it's not always your lesson that fails. It has a lot to do with student comprehension and ability as much as your material. I should have scrapped my lesson completely at Metta because it was over their head. I should have simply done some simple exercises and walked them through it simply. I plowed through the material anyway and in the end, the children were the ones who suffered not learning. I also learned that it's not the material or concept that is the issue, it's how you explain while teaching English as a foreign language.
At times in life we prepare and prepare what we think is going to be something great. We work hard to make what we feel is the best thing, and it fails miserably. Just as we thought that our worse plan was the best we had made and were cocky thinking we had this, life can be this way too. How many times in life have we worked on something that we thought was great and the delivery or reception was terrible? Maybe it's some great ideas we have to show our bosses or an activity with our kids that fails to connect.
I think it's important that we don't get discouraged when things like this happen, because there will be that time, much like our second teaching session this last week, where even the least planned things turn out the best. We are trying to realize this in life. That we over plan at times and think that by doing so, it makes it better. Not the case in all circumstances. Sometimes, it's the spontaneous, unplanned things that create the best experiences.
We have been on the road for nearly 9 months now, and have enjoyed a lengthy vacation. Time to get a back to work and make some money to replenish our dwindling bank accounts. Oh and by the way... congrats to the blog to us! This is article is our 100th!!