In my six years of experience of teaching English as a secondary language to both students from the intermediate (4th-6th grades) and high school levels, I realized that no amount of knowledge and language competency could ever make up for a teacher’s ability to actually “sell” information so that he/she develops in the student an inherent love for learning English. I graduated from one of the prominent schools in the Philippines. I could say that in terms of mental aptitude, I fair well with an IQ of above 110 mark. But this was not my ticket to success insofar as being able to raise the bar in implementing my teaching objectives effectively.
My epiphany came to me one summer when, bluntly, a student of mine said as a form of reaction to the plummeting results of their final examinations that since most the class failed, there must be something wrong with the way I taught. Before my blood could curdle, I began to think that maybe he had a point.
I tried to look at the individual anecdotal reports of my students. I was surprised to see that the very same students who were flunking my subjects used to ace English during the previous year. I started asking about the teacher whom I have replaced. Most of the students answered, “She was strict.” The manner by which the word “strict” was said didn’t strike me as something said out of bitterness; it was more out of utmost respect for the teacher that allusion was made. I had asked some of my closest students and most of them said that I lacked the capacity to manage the class, behaviorally speaking.
I was dead set to setting things right before another school year began. I had decided to implement out-of-the-box strategies and techniques to classroom management and teaching oral English as a secondary language, some of which, to this time, I still use because of its efficacy:
1. The Four Houses – the teacher divides the class into four houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin) in reference to JK Rowling’s popular novel. The grouping is based on certain qualities that each member have in common with other students. The Four Houses will serve as the class’ permanent grouping scheme each time there will be group activities. The teacher also gives reward points – House Points – to members who actively participate during recitation. Each house is to acquire as many House Points as possible. At the end of each term, the teacher treats the winning group into watching a Movie of their choice. (CAVEAT: the movie titles require teacher’s approval before viewing).
2. Popcorn Party – The Popcorn Party works side by side with the concept of the Four Houses. The House with the most House Points gets to enjoy watching a Movie over popcorn.
3. The Silent Walker – The teacher mentally picks out names of students before the class begins. The students whose names have been picked are expected to behave throughout the entire period; they will be the Silent Walkers of the day. If a Silent Walker violates any of the house rules, the class loses 3 Silent Walker points. The objective of the game is for the class to acquire enough Silent Walker points because each point is equivalent to 1 minute free time. If the class successfully completes the 60 point mark, the entire class will be in for a treat of a) a home movie or b) a free reading time.
4. Friday Letters – each Friday of the week is allotted to writing activity. The implementation of this activity would make the students think that they are not really having a lesson but that they are simply expressing themselves through. The teacher provides parameters (the theme and objectives) to which the students will base their compositions. Class is almost always conducted outside of the classroom; in a place which usually encourage students to think creatively and leisurely.
NB: The techniques mentioned are not original concepts. They have been practiced in some American schools. There are plenty of effective techniques which are not mentioned. The use of such techniques will prove to be for the benefit of both the instructor and the students. Not only will the classroom be more manageable in terms of the class’ collective behavior, but it will also improve the its attitude toward learning secondary languages or any lessons from any academic discipline, for that matter.
If this article happens to get published and you happen to read it, feel free to share with us some ideas (borrowed or original). Teaching is fast becoming a serious science. The implementation of each lesson requires the instructors full contemplation on its planning and execution.