A new term has started here at CDI, and with that comes new classes with new students. Even though this term will round out two years in Korea for me, the first days of new classes still fill me with a little excitement and anxiety. I just want them to like me, you know? In my time teaching at CDI, I have learned a thing or two about how to start your new term off on the right foot. So whether you're fresh outta training or you're a fellow seasoned teacher, here are some tips to implement in the first few weeks of a new term.
Be clear with your expectations.
CDI's set curriculum gives us teachers a solid structure to lean on -- you have set components of each class with clear methodology as well as a timeframe for each class that's (usually) accurate and helpful. As you become more experienced as a teacher, you'll find ways to improve or modify some of those components, which is a great way to keep the class more dynamic.
Since every teacher will be a little different, your students need to understand what you want from them -- this is one of the biggest questions in their minds during your first classes together. You need to outline your expectations for your classroom clearly. Make sure they know your goals, your rules, and your consequences for breaking said rules. If you do this well, you'll set up your classroom for a great term.
If students could make the class rules, this is what they would look like.
Don't be afraid to be strict.
Every CDI branch will vary when it comes to discipline, and one thing my particular branch chose to implement was a "yellow card" system. It's essentially a referral, given out for rule infractions. Usually, these are given to kids who speak Korean in the classroom, which at Chungdahm, is a huge no-no since we are trying our best to create an English immersion environment. As a student receives a second, third, or fourth yellow card, their punishment escalates accordingly, from a phone call to their mother to detention.
No matter what you or your school's method of discipline may be, the most important part is following through. When a student breaks a rule, you can't give them another chance, followed by another chance, and then another. When you get a new class, the students are typically spending those first classes getting a read on you. They want to see what the parameters will be for your classroom, so they can then gauge reactions to their bad behavior accordingly. As soon as they realize you mean business, they'll fall into line and class will be more enjoyable for everyone.
Always remember this advice: as a teacher, it's easy to move from strict to fun over the course of a term, but it's really difficult to make the switch from fun to strict.
But, also remember to have some fun.
At my branch, the first class means no homework check or vocabulary test, so we've got some extra time at the beginning to get to know each other. I love this part of the new term because I feel like it's a chance to show my new class that they don't need to be afraid of me, and that I do have a sense of humor.
My go-to icebreaker game lately has been Two Truths and One Lie. After explaining the rules carefully, stressing that they need to be creative and trick all of us, I give the class time to jot down their three things. The fun part of this is getting the rest of the class to guess the lie. Each student reads their three things and then I lead the class in trying to figure out the lie. It's a great way to get everyone laughing and lighten the first-day-of-class nerves for the students.
For some of my more advanced classes, I've been having a lot of fun with Would You Rather. We all take turns coming up with ridiculous questions and then each student thinks of their answer. Since these students have higher English skills, I typically also ask them to explain why, stipulating that silly questions can definitely have silly answers, so long as they are well-developed. This went over well with my students, and everyone seemed to enjoy the ridiculousness.
Get to know your students.
In the first few weeks with a new group of students, I ask them questions constantly. Before class, during group work, during break time, during CTP... I just strike up conversations so I can get to know a little bit more about each student. The one-on-one conversations also make them feel more at ease with you as a teacher, meaning they'll feel more comfortable about expressing opinions or asking a question when they don't understand something. These kids are going to have a billion questions for you, and while you patiently field each and every one of them, feel free to fire questions back at them, too.
Obviously, this shouldn't stop after the first couple of weeks. So many of CDI's lessons have built-in discussion questions that can lead to some really fun conversations with your classes. I learned a lot about my new Bridge class today because our lesson was about fears and phobias. As soon as I shared some of my own, hands were flying into the air to share stories, most of which were quite funny.
What advice would you give to a new teacher? Any sage wisdom to pass along from your time in the classroom? Leave it in the comments below!
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Yeonsu branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange English shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!