Congratulations on becoming a ChungDahm teacher! As a ChungDahm teacher myself, I want to share my top five teaching tips that will shed some light into my own personal teaching style, philosophy, and experiences, all of which will help you in your exciting new journey. Let’s begin.
Establish and Maintain High Standards
Communicating and setting high standards for your classroom will greatly contribute to a successful 13-week term at any ChungDahm branch you may be teaching at. I expect myself and the students to work at a high level of quality throughout each 3-hour class, so students can effectively reach their English learning goals. Here are 5 Standards I communicate to the students on Day 1 and expect them to uphold during the term:
- Effort. Work hard and participate at a 100% level. It’s okay to make mistakes.
- Listen. Pay attention to the teacher. Pay attention to other students.
- Think. Use your mind to understand. Use your mind to solve problems.
- Speak. Communicate your thoughts and ideas. Use only positive words.
- Respect. Respect the teacher and other students. Respect the classroom.
Establishing these standards and expectations in each of my classes has helped provide a framework and foundation on which to build upon with the students each week. Not only does setting high standards provide a structure for my class, but it also creates a goal and a challenge for my students and I to work together to reach and grow towards their learning goals and potential.
Regulate the Classroom Environment
As a ChungDahm teacher, the best teaching style for me to regulate the classroom and create an optimal learning environment is to be an authoritative leader. That does not entail conforming to an authoritarian style where you attempt to control the class by means of an autocrat or dictator. This is not North Korea. The best way to explain this is to give an analogy of a thermostat and how it functions and operates to regulate temperature.
A thermostat sets the desired temperature of the room and actively works to maintain it within a given range. Should the temperature rise above a predetermined target such as 23 degrees celsius, the thermostat signals the air conditioner to operate and cool the room down until it matches the target of 23 degrees celsius. Should the temperature fall below the target, the thermostat causes the furnace to turn on in order to warm the room up to the set temperature. The thermostat is always monitoring the environment, and if the temperature gets too hot or cold relative to the desired temperature, it decides what to do to correct the situation.
My teaching style is akin to that of a thermostat. The desired temperature or standards of what I want my classroom environment to be are already set. I now act as a thermostat, meaning I am constantly aware of and monitoring my students and the overall energy, focus, and behaviour of the classroom. I am providing the necessary direction, discipline, and guidance to the students, so they can trust me and depend on me to help them learn effectively in an optimal classroom environment.
For example, in my EC3 class there are younger students who have only been in classes that are 1.5 hours long in prior levels at ChungDahm. At this level, they are now exposed to classes that are 3.0 hours long. Naturally this is a real challenge for them to adjust to especially in terms of focus and behaviour. I was constantly observing and aware of their energy and state and how I could bring them back to center in an effort to direct and guide them forward in the lesson. The key for me is to first always bring them back to center or the preset temperature, which is the optimal atmosphere and environment conducive to learning.
To illustrate, at various times in the lesson, I was aware the students needed to release some energy and stress, so we would play a short active game involving keywords or phrases from the lesson story. As a result, the kids could get up and move around the class. This works twofold. It acts as a small reward for the hard work they have done up until now, and it allows them to physically release some energy and have fun which will allow them to refocus once I resume the next part of the lesson. At other times when the situation called for it, I would be more strict and instill discipline so that students would get back on track and understand that the standards and expectations were not being met and that they needed to adjust to meet those standards.
Techniques to Regulate Classroom Behaviour
Certain techniques I will use are helpful in regulating classroom behaviour, but they are secondary to establishing high standards, your personal character, and teaching style. Please remember, this is not about power or trying to micromanage and control every aspect of the class for the sake of it. The overriding purpose is to create the best learning environment where the teacher is respected and can teach the lesson effectively so that students can maximize their learning efforts. Here are some techniques that I use:
- Nonverbal intervention 1 - eye contact - Look at the student or students not meeting the standards and that will quickly dissolve the issue.
- Nonverbal intervention 2 - silence - Don’t speak and just wait until the student, students, or class understand the problem and refocus on you.
- Positive group correction - question and challenge - “Are you able to focus?” - “Can you do it?” - “I know you have the ability to do so.”
- Individual correction - private - Question the student to understand the issue. - Remind them of the standards and encourage them.
- Be firm - 100% of students are on board. - It’s not okay for 1 or 2 students to hold the entire class back.
- Less is more - Use fewer words or the minimum needed to get the point across.
- Quiet power - Maintain a firm and strong voice. - Speak at a comfortable pace. - There is no need to raise your voice or speak faster.
One example I’ll use to illustrate is the one with eye contact. As I was teaching my C1 Birdie class, two boys were talking and engaging each other in some playful physical contact. I simply stopped talking and looked at both of them. They immediately stopped. They understood exactly what my look meant, and I didn’t need to raise my voice or say even a single word. It was back to the lesson.
Make Personal Connections and Build Relationships
Making personal connections with the students will greatly help to foster a healthy teacher-student relationship based on trust and respect. The best way for me to make a personal connection is to show that I genuinely care about their learning and progress and that I want them to improve, succeed, and reach their goals. For example, during the reading section, I set the timer for about 7 minutes, and students need to find and highlight the topic, thesis, and main ideas on their own. I will walk around and check in on each student to see how they are doing and if they are on the right track. Just walking around, looking over students’ work, and helping and correcting when needed makes an enormous difference in how the students trust me and look to me as a teacher. They really do like it when I come around to them individually and give them personal attention. Now, students will constantly call me over to check their work to see if they are right, and I will either encourage them for doing a good job or guide them to make the necessary corrections.
An added benefit of giving personal attention and investment into each students learning progress during the class is that they now look forward to and are eager to answer the questions once it is time to review the section as a class. I’ve noticed that they now compete with each other to answer the question. Since there are so many students that want to answer, the student chosen is excited and feels like they won, while the other students are disappointed. This is a good problem to have.
Another important way I like to make and build a personal connection with all students is to listen to and acknowledge them. It sounds simple, but it makes a big difference. It’s important that I listen to each student whether it is an answer from a lesson or a personal anecdote they like to tell me before or during class. Acknowledging their answer in class makes them feel validated and valued because I listened and made sure their input was embraced as important.
Randomly calling upon students is another way to make a connection. This is another form of acknowledging them as the students get to hear their name called, and they know that I am aware of their presence. It gives them a chance to participate and contribute to the class without always having to volunteer to answer. People love to hear their own names.That alone will help build the connection and relationship.
Preparation, Planning, and Challenge
Knowing the material and planning the lesson with relevant media and challenges in mind will greatly help students learn and be engaged in the lesson. At ChungDahm, integrating relevant media cards (digital images) and videos into the lesson is essential with the 3.0 Smart Learning Platform. Finding images and videos related to the lesson helps students to visualize ideas, concepts and vocabulary they otherwise may be unclear about during the lesson. These words and ideas are frequently new to them so being able to help them visualize and see through an image or video is a significant part of planning the lesson besides just verbal explanation.
Another key element to preparation and planning is to create ways to challenge them beyond the lesson at hand. Using media cards, I will create my own questions, quizzes, mini tests or games regarding the topic, the reading passage or vocabulary and insert them throughout various sections of the lesson. In this way, it challenges them and gets them thinking beyond just rote memorization. The students enjoy the personal challenge and the friendly competition it creates in the classroom as I show their final answers on the monitor. In addition, students have their own pride, keeping them on their toes to not just memorize, but to understand the material and vocabulary because they could be tested and challenged at anytime in the lesson.
Another added benefit of these challenges is that the students now anticipate them and look forward to them in the reading or listening sections. I can see them paying greater attention to the material and scanning for where the next challenge may come.
There you have it. My top five teaching tips I have learned, developed, and implemented to help me become a more effective teacher and leader in the classroom as well as improve the quality of my personal life. I hope you can use these tips and ideas to help you on your mission to become the best version of yourself as a teacher at ChungDahm.
Brian Lee began his second stint teaching in Korea for ChungDahm Learning in February 2018. He previously taught at the Main Mokdong branch back in 2013 and is currently placed at the Mokdong2 branch. He enjoyed his first time so much that he decided to come back for a second time in order to continue exploring and experiencing all that Korea has to offer. Brian is a native of Canada where he graduated from both the University of Toronto and York University.