Let’s face it. Teaching a foreign language can be quite challenging, especially if your class has had little to no experience with learning a different language. Don’t let the current challenge discourage your efforts!!! In the last eleven months of teaching English, I’ve learned many ways to hold the children’s interests, and I hope that my tips for teaching in Asia will help you as you begin your exciting new path as a teacher.
1. In the beginning, visual cues are key!
If your students are completely unaware of what you are saying, try printing off pictures of what you need to explain. Printing off flash cards of a person sitting down nicely in a chair or a picture of an ear to promote listening will help the initial language barrier be easily bridged.
2. Be relate-able!
Children will appreciate a teacher who is relatable. Make an effort to learn all of your student’s names and try to have a personal relationship with each student. Respect is something that is earned. If you respect your students, they, in turn, will respect you. Earn their respect. Students listen to those they respect. Try to avoid using impersonal titles such as “you” to get their attention. Children respond more promptly when hearing their names. Most early childhood education degrees teach that children appreciate a teacher who is relatable.
No one likes doing the same thing over and over again. Don’t be afraid to mix things up! Teaching creative lesson plans will captivate your student’s attention and engage them as active participants. If a lesson is particularly difficult, try to incorporate a new game in order for the children to assimilate the challenging material in a fun way.
Teaching challenging material doesn’t have to be a bore. It can be really fun and exciting! Take for instance, demonstrative pronouns. They can be a little tricky to comprehend. I divide my classes into two teams, These and Those, and have them provide examples of the pronouns with nearby objects in the classroom.
4. Be flexible!
Have a lesson plan that you want to accomplish that day. Be clear with your goals and intended material. Make sure that the children are picking up and saying what you want them to learn. Have a plan, but be flexible and understand specific time constraints. If you are on track with what you want to have accomplished during a lesson, the children will be on track as well. Create an outline of the desired subjects that you need to cover, and try not to stray too far away during your class session.
5. Make them laugh!
Have fun! Students can tell if you are not enjoying yourself. When you enjoy yourself, the students will enjoy themselves as well. Class time will be a lot more enjoyable for you and your students if laughter is involved. I find that when students are having fun, they always pay attention.
6. Show your students that you care.
Do you have that one student in your class that just will not pay attention? Chances are, that he or she has some personal issues that radiate to outside of the classroom. Whenever I have a student that is having a hard time in personal matters, I always try to show him or her some special attention. Showing the child that you care will earn his or her respect and he or she will listen. Try giving the child a hug or a simple pat on the back to make him or her feel appreciated.
Whenever my class gets a little too loud, I have a stimulus which always quiets them down. I chose a bird shaped whistle named Kiki Bird. I know it may seem silly, but the kids love it and respond to the whistle positively. I simply blow the whistle, and call the names of the students who are being overly talkative. They apologize to Kiki Bird and I write their names on the board. After 3 chances, further actions are taken.
Give your students a chance to be aware of their wrong doings before taking further action. Having a stimulus will create a fun way to keep your student’s conversations at bay. Have catchy slogans which will trigger immediate responses from your students. I find that saying “be be be” triggers “quiet” from my students. Having your own catchy slogan will be a good, immediate way to captivate your student’s attention.
8. Get to know each of your students.
Having a strong relationship with each of your students will pay big dividends. Different students have different styles of learning. What works for one student may not be the best learning method for another. Adapt your teaching plans to involve more time for those who are in need.
Try to eliminate down time. I find that one or two students will finish their work before others. Try to find creative ways to occupy their time while the others finish their work. I would recommend a drawing book or a small selection of books in your classroom. This way, the students who are finished earlier are occupied and the others are being productive as well.
9. Rely on the strengths of your strong students.
I find, that there are one or two strong students in every classroom. Don’t be afraid to ask the strong students to help others. They love to help and feel privileged to help you. This is another way to occupy their time and keep conversations down to a minimum. Asking the strong students to pass out the books or hand out the name tags at the end of the day are simple chores that will make their day!
10. Use positive reinforcement in class!
This is one of the tips for teaching in Asia that took me a long time to learn. Minimize the negative and accentuate the positive. On days when my classes are particularly talkative, I award the students who are paying attention.
I use stickers and smiley faces, but you may choose whatever method works best for your particular class. Instead of focusing on the students who are doing wrong things, focus on the students who are following the rules and shower them with encouragement. This will catch the attention of those who are not following the rules and they, too, will want encouragement.
If the students are not looking at you, chances are, they are not listening. I often use “Wow, everyone’s eyes are so pretty! Thanks so much for listening to me today!” This will allow other students to engage eye contact with you.
12. The best tip for teaching in Asia: Set clear guidelines in your classroom!
You need to be aware that this is your class. Be distinct in your methods and let the children know what actions are taken after “x” amount of warnings. I find that 3 warnings are more than enough. Usually, after one or two times of warning a student, he or she is abundantly aware of the wrong doing in question. Be clear and consistent.
Make it to where there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that extra action needs to be taken. By being clear and concise, the students will be more alert, and more importantly, more aware of their actions. Some examples of further actions are sending him or her to an administrative assistant, or assigning sentences to be written.
I sincerely hope that my tips for teaching in Asia may assist you in your exciting new journey!
All the best,