Greece, Day 9: The Four R’s

As a student, I always felt that a new week was tough to begin after a weekend vacation. As a teacher (I use that term loosely, mind you…), I feel it even more profoundly.

Sonny and I make our lesson plan rather late on Sunday night after I get back from Santorini Island, both of us tired and eager to get to bed. After we part ways with a draft of the lesson plan complete, I promise myself to quickly add some finishing touches before heading to sleep. That’s the basis of another pro tip, by the way: never, ever, put off lesson planning. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, lesson plan forgotten.

And wake up with just barely enough time to run down and inhale breakfast before we have to leave. All in all, though, considering the events leading up to today’s teaching session, the day goes by relatively well.

Lesson Plan 6

First Hour

  • (Teams) Flyswatter game: words are written on the whiteboard and the accompanying definitions are read out to a representative from each of the two teams. They have to run up and swat the correct word. This is a reinvention of the flyswatter game we did before.

Second Hour

  • (Teams) Charades: A member from each team performs the action that we give to them. Whichever team guesses what it is faster wins the round.

Third Hour

  • Writing task: ask the students to write at least three lines about the activities that they would like to do in the coming week. Give a prize for a set number of lines (we gave out stickers for five coherent sentences)

Fourth Hour 

  • Free time

One thing that I’ve come to learn is that there is no way to make it by as a teacher without repeating certain activities. You aren’t going to be able to think of an entirely new game every single day of the year. Thus, out of necessity comes the ability to rethink activities that you’ve already done and reshape them to make them fresh and exciting.

The flyswatter game, for instance, is version 2.0 of the original game, in which we called out words and had the students run up and swat the corresponding picture. The second iteration is just as successful as the first, even though it is markedly more difficult in terms of the language comprehension and attentiveness that it requires. I think its success boils down to the fact that it hits on the very same strong points that the original game had: competitive and creative elements. Opportunities for the kids to get up out of their seats and run and shout and cheer. All the while learning. Well, hopefully.

The other notable aspect of today is a small change that we made to the writing component of the day. Normally, we asked them to write a set number of lines about a particular subject, be it hobbies or future aspirations and the like. This part of the day is usually met with relatively less enthusiasm. So today, we decided to offer an incentive. We set the minimum number of sentences criteria to three, and offer a prize for the students that write five coherent sentences (in our case, stickers).

A majority of the class hands in papers on which they’ve written five sentences. Some even have six written! Even some of the students that tend to require a good deal of coaxing to get anything written out of them produce solid work in response to this incentive.

Taking in and thinking back on all of these results, I’ve thus developed a tentative personal motto to go by when it comes to teaching:

Reinvent. Reward. Rinse-and-repeat.

Not that I’m trying to perpetuate a cut-and-dry, formulaic approach toward teaching. Far from it. I’ve found teaching to be one of the most unpredictable and challenging tasks I’ve ever undertaken, and it necessitates a great deal of adaptability and flexibility. This is more of a guideline than anything, and I rationalize it as such:

  • Reinvent: there’s rarely ever a single, definite approach to take. Exploring topics from many different directions keeps the students engaged and helps your lessons run more smoothly.
  • Reward: students will work without an incentive, but the promise of a reward helps keep them motivated.

As for rinse-and-repeat, well…why let a good thing go?


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