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When you ask a student a question, be patient and give them ten seconds to answer. Here’s what many teachers do; they would ask a student a question and, while the student is trying to formulate an answer, move on to another student. This actually shows two things: One, the student will feel ignored or offended. “Oh, I needed more time to answer. I feel stupid. This teacher didn’t give me enough time.”
Two, students will perceive that you are impatient, which isn’t very good for a teacher. You want to be patient; ask your students a question, wait for them to answer. You could rephrase it so that they understand, give them ten seconds to answer. Then if they can’t answer, go to a friend and say, “Oh Johnny, can you quickly help her out?” and give the pair of them time to answer.
Why do we do this? If you really believe in your students and you want them to succeed; it shows that you have faith in them. Think of an outstanding student you have; you know that he or she can answer the question, so you would give that student ample time to answer. There are many studies that also suggest that the more time that you give a student to answer, the better results they will have in that class later.
Don’t be afraid to get near learners, but also don’t tower above them in a way that may invoke a flight-or-fight response. When speaking to younger learners, go down to eye level so that you don’t intimidate them.
What do we mean by proximity? While you’re teaching or while the students are doing activities, walk around the classroom to show them you are comfortable and in charge of your class. Don’t sit in a corner and wait for the students to take over, you have to take up the space, walk around and survey the students like a general surveys his troops.
When working with difficult students, get close to them to show your presence and that they have to be on good behavior. You want to be close to troublesome students so that you can check on them and they can perceive that you are not afraid to get close to them.
A mistake many teachers make when students have done something bad, is to adopt a threatening posture by standing above them to intimidate them with size. This might work for the first time, but they will get angry with you. The next time you do it, they might actually verbally attack you, or they will dislike you.
On the flip side, students who are meeker will be afraid if you tower over them and that isn’t a pleasant situation to be in with students.
So, what I suggest is to get close to students so that they know you are comfortable being near them, but when you are admonishing students, don’t tower above them and try to intimidate them. It is a weak tactic.
Also, if you’re working with younger learners, get down on your knees sometimes when you are talking individually to them. They will like you more and will feel like, “Oh, this teacher isn’t trying to scare me. I can talk to this teacher.” So that’s a good tip when teaching young learners.
Structure and routine help students feel secure and understand their roles in the classroom. I have talked previously about procedures; you want to have procedures in your class that students can follow. Once the students come into your class, they need to know exactly what will happen, prepare them for success.
So, have a routine. Let them come in and know that the teacher is going to do this, then that, and I’m supposed to do this, this, and that. So structure and routine are the way that you set up your class for success.
Procedures are the things they have to do if they do something wrong; when they break classroom rules. They will have that feeling of, “Oh man, I’ve messed up.”
So, make sure to have a structure in your class, so that students know what is happening, who do they go to with their problems. As humans, we feel way more comfortable and secure when we know what our roles are and what will happen next. That’s just the way people are.
Most English-language schools where I taught in Korea often had the date, written in full, on the whiteboard, and at the start of class, the students had to read it out loud. This enforces learning to say the months and numbers in English. Educator Janelle Cox gives the following excellent classroom routines to start the morning:
Morning Message: “I began the day by writing the date and what we had planned for the day on a piece of large chart paper. To make it interesting, I included spelling and punctuation errors into the message. The students’ job was to copy the morning message into their notebooks.” Her students then gathered and read the message together and point out any errors. Her class then talked about the plans for the day ahead before starting the rest of the day.
Question of the day: The teacher let older students submit messages for the following week on Friday. The teacher then randomly selects the daily message each day and writes it on the board before class. After settling down, the students must guess who wrote the question and copy the message into their journals. It helps them to formulate their answers for the morning meeting when they discuss their answers.
Morning meeting: After the students have settled, the day starts with a morning meeting. If the situation allows, the teacher lets them gather informally for a class discussion. They can talk about what happened since the previous class, how they feel and what the program for the day is. This provides students with a relaxed and informal opportunity to raise problems. It’s also a great community routine to strengthen team spirit.
Morning packet: Another proven morning routine Janelle Cox gives is what in the USA are called morning packets or work bundles. “Morning packets usually contain a variety of quick review activities that students can master independently,” writes Cox. “Packets have always been an effective method for reviewing information learned in class, and they’re a great way to start the day. When students arrive, they put their belongings away and sit at their desk to complete their morning packet until either the bell rings or the teacher says to put it away. Each morning, the students work on their packets until they’re complete. Then, they’re handed in, and another packet is given out in its place. Through continual daily work review, students can master the essential skills needed to learn.