Teaching Routines Saves Time and Headaches

Sometimes I have noticed in English learning classrooms the lack of classroom management especially in classes where the teacher is there only once or twice a week.  You have so little time that you are in a hurry to get started teaching English.  The problem is that the time you gain by starting right away is wasted by misbehavior and interruptions.  In his post "How to Teach Routines," Michael Linsin states that "Anything you ask your students to do repeatedly should be made into a routine."

I have found the hard way that taking the time to teach students routines is an invaluable time saver in the long run and it saves you lots of headaches in classroom management.  This summer in our Summer Camp we had rotations at the end of the day and I had to teach one lesson to two other classes as well as my own class.  My class was not a problem because we had spent time setting rules, modeling routines, getting to know each other, but the first day a new class of students came in for rotations I decided to skip any of that since we only had about 20 minutes for each rotation.  Well, needless to say, I had problems with misbehavior within the first five minutes of class.  I had to spend the rest of the class calling students attention over and over again.

The next time we had rotations I was a bit nervous these students were 13 and 14 and there was a group of them that loved to show off in front of each other.  But this time I was prepared to go over the rules and establish some basic routines.  When they came in I received them at the door and directed them to sit on the carpet, instead of allowing them to sit in any desk.  I then went over the rules and modeled some routines. I asked students to then model what they thought I was asking them to do.  When they seemed to be clear I told them they were allowed to pick their own seat, but that if they were not following the rules they would be promptly moved.  It took me about 10 minutes to do all this and the rest of the class went so smooth that when their teacher came to pick them up she couldn't believe it was her class.  The following weeks went just as smooth.

Obviously in a school year class you have to spend more time establishing routines.  If you are using Cooperative Learning the time required to teach routines is more extensive.  At my primary school we used to take about two to three weeks to establish routines and model the expected behaviors.  This doesn't mean we were not teaching the regular lessons while we did this, but all lessons taught were targeted to establish classroom routines. If you only have the students once or twice a week take the first two to three weeks to establish classroom routines and create a good classroom atmosphere it will pay back ten-fold in time saved and class productivity.

If you are teaching Infantil where the students are not reading yet take some pictures of students modeling the correct behavior and some not doing the correct behavior and post these so they are visible to students.  If you are moving from room to room you can make posters that you can take to each class. If you can use tacks to post the posters get sticky tape.  It sticks to the board and comes off clean.

Teaching adults will take less time to establish routines, but it is also necessary.  Sometimes adults students can be very chatty or they ask you a question and start chatting among themselves without giving you a chance to answer. Given that most adults taking classes also have jobs, sometimes tardiness can become a problem.  Establish routines of how they should come in so that you minimize class disruptions.

What strategies do you use to establish routines in your English classes.
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Great Game for Learning American Idioms

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Para aprender ingles primero cree que puedes

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” 
― Henry Ford
Esta cita de Henry Ford, siempre me ha gustado, porque tiene mucha razón.  Si no creemos poder lograr algo no pondremos de nuestra parte lo necesario para lograrlo y será un hecho que no lo logremos.  En cambio si creemos que podemos lograrlo haremos todo lo necesario para lograrlo y lo lograremos.  
Esto nos pasa cuando pensamos en aprender un idioma.  Si creemos que podemos aprender a hablar inglés lo conseguiremos porque tomaremos los pasos necesarios para lograrlo ya sea tomar cursos, clases privadas, internet, viajar a un país anglosajón o cualquier forma que nos permita aprenderlo.  Pero si no creemos que podemos aprender aunque tomemos cursos, clases privadas u otras formas no lo aprenderemos porque no aprovecharemos esas oportunidades.

He tenido muchos estudiantes que me dicen "Es que yo no puedo aprender inglés, se me da muy mal." lo primero que tengo que hacer es cambiarles ese pensamiento, demostrarles que si quieren y creen, pueden.  
Antes de tomar un curso o clases privadas decide que si puedes, que si en el pasado no has podido, no ha sido porque se te de mal, si no porque no te supieron enseñar.  Asegúrate que el curso que vas a tomar es el mejor que hay, que su sistema de enseñanza no es uno que solo enseña gramática o vocabulario desconectado, si no un sistema integrado que lo enseña de una forma más natural que te brinda muchas oportunidades de practicar.

Primero,comienza por identificar específicamente los resultados que deseas. Luego crea y desarrolla las acciones que van a darte esos resultados. Por último, examina lo que crees sobre esas acciones para ver si te están deteniendo. 

Por ejemplo si quieres aprender inglés identifica primero que nivel tienes y que nivel te gustaría tener.  Si tienes un nivel Básico, pues en un año de cursos de dos días a la semana con hora y media de estudio podrías subir al nivel pre-intermedio.  Si tienes un nivel intermedio en el mismo tiempo podrías subir al nivel avanzado. Eso si asegurándote que no solo vas a clase, si no que haces todas las tareas, participas en la clase, lees, escuchas ingles y si puedes haces intercambios para que puedas practicar fuera de clase.

Y si no te puedes convencer que puedes, ocupa tu tiempo en otra cosa, porque no puedes ir contra lo que crees, es ir contra la corriente.  Pero yo te aconsejo que te des una oportunidad y celebres cada nueva palabra, frase que vas aprendiendo, porque cada una te llevara mas cerca de la meta, cada vez entenderas mas.

Me encantaria saber de como has logrado mejorar tu ingles.
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It's Your Choice to Learn English

"Teachers can open the door but it's your choice whether to walk through or not"
You can be in the best English school or academy, you can have a dedicated an talented teacher, but if you are not willing to put your part into learning English there is only little a teacher can do for you.  If you decide to walk through and commit yourself to learning English you will.

When I first went to the university for my Bachelor's Degree I failed to make the transition from High School a system where if you did not do your work you got in trouble with your teachers and your parents.  At the university the teacher's had no time to give consequences for not doing your work, the consequences were a big fat bad grade and then you got called into the Dean's office if you were not keeping the required grade average and put on probation.  But if you were able to stay within the ... you were ok.  The problem was I was not learning as much as I could be.  Once I graduated I realized the big mistake I had made when I began to work and did not have the skills I needed for the job.

My second time around at the University to get my teaching credential my attitude was totally different.  I studied to learn, not to get a good grade and ironically not only did I learn so much more, I also got a 4.0 grade average, straight A's (sobresalientes) all the way.  The final reward was when I started working and I was able to apply my knowledge to my teaching.

So if you have decided you want to study English, make a real commitment to learn as much as you can, so that not only will you get good grades, you will have the skills required to speak English fluently.
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Using Youtube to Improve Your English

One great way that I have found to improve your English Listening skills is to watch TV or Movies in English.  Theatres with Version Original movies in Madrid are not the norm as a matter of fact ironically there are not that many with all the interest there is in learning English you would think there would be more.  Considering all my students claim that countries that don't voice over their media speak a lot more English than Spain, yet when I assign them to watch at least :30 minutes in V.O. they moan and groan because the subtitles available are in Spanish.

So I tried to find other venues where my students could watch original version series with English subtitles.  I
found that many Youtube videos of American TV series have the option for subtitles, others have the text available and yet others are available with Closed Caption.  You have to be careful with the Closed Caption because sometimes the translation is way off, but a lot of them are pretty accurate.

Do a search for their favorite American series on Youtube like "Big Bang Theory with subtitles in English" the search will list some with the following: CC for Closed Captions, but others will have subtitles and not have the CC icon.  The other option some of these videos have is Interactive Transcript which has all the story text in a small window.

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How to Get Your English Teaching Organized

At a Teacher Conference toward my third year teacher a colleague showed me the book that would have saved me so much headache had I had it on my first year.  "The Organized Teacher."  A lifesaver even for experienced teacher's.  The authors have taken so much guess work out of organizing your first year and provide so many templates and visuals.

The visual format of this guide is specially helpful for the busy teacher who has many other things to work on other than reading very heavy text instructions. It has many charts, templates, checklists and reproducibles. 

It has information on First-Day checklists, sample room setups, classroom management, including many class signals, classroom organization, planning fieldtrips and more.  

Now there is a book by the same authors specifically for first year teachers, who unfortunately will find the principal's hardly ever have enough time to do a thorough training and other teachers, although willing might not remember how much you don't know on the first year.  Actually I think this book would be an excellent teacher graduation present, so if you have just graduated or have a friend who has this would be an welcomed gift.

These books are not the type you get excited about at the bookstore and then when you buy them find you don't have the time to read them.  They sat on my bookshelf and were I always referred back to them.

The series also has a book on Classroom Management and one called "The Creative Teacher" which are all done in the same format with lots of graphics, checklists and super simple step by step directions.
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Using Eric Carle books to Teach English

One great way to teach Young Learner's English and make it both enriching and more effective is to teach with Children's Literature.  Of course you have to adapt the Literature you use to your ELL students level.  If your students are in 4th of primary or lower, one great author to use is Eric Carle.  His books have highly predictable text which helps develop vocabulary and at the same time help comprehension.

His most well known books "The Hungry Caterpillar" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" have been helping children in the United States learn since the 60's.

In the book "Slowly, slowly, slowly,' said the Sloth" the adverb slowly is repeated throughout the book giving the teacher a chance to have the ELL students, after a first reading, join in choraling the repeating text.  Although the text is predictable it is not by any means uninteresting, the students can learn a wide English vocabulary that is beautifully illustrated.  Plus like in all of Eric's books it gives ELL children a message in a way that they can understand.

Check Eric's Official Website for more information on his great books. There is also a Caterpillar Exchange where with ideas for using Carle's books in your classroom. And if you become a Carle fan here is a link to his Blog.

One activity I often do with my students after reading his books is to make a drawing of their favorite part of the book. Depending the age of the students I can simply ask them to copy a title for their illustration. If they are older and able to write more I ask them to write a sentence or two about their favorite part.  Depending on their English level I sometimes give them a writing prompt such as "My favorite part of "Title" was_______________.  If their English level is higher I ask them to tell me why.  I've used this effectively with children from 3 to 6th grade.

Please share some fun ways you use Carle's or other children's books to teach Young Learner's English.

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Using Cooperative Learning in CLIL

Teaching English in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a better way than the old teach grammar, where students know all the tenses of the verb to be but have no idea how to use it in a conversation.  But CLIL by itself isn't the answer either.

Teaching Science in English and using the old Teacher Directed method where the teacher is the only one getting a lot of practice speaking English while the students are just bystanders will not get much better results in improving students' English and it will have disastrous effects on their learning science.

In order for students to improve their English skills, they need to have opportunities to practice not only listening to a lot of foreign words, but to be able understand what they are hearing and lots and lots of opportunities to speak, to write and to read and should be as real as possible.  When I say real, I mean it should be as connected and representative of things in their real life as possible.

I had someone once tell me that students could not learn a language without learning grammar.  She was right, but nobody as an infant has had to learn the rules and verbs of their grammar in order to speak their language, they learned their grammar in the context of what they were learning.

This is where Cooperative Learning can really improve CLIL classes.  In Cooperative Learning students are active participants of their learning and by doing so are getting many opportunities to speak in English to their peers, to their teacher.  The teacher is a guide in the learning by Front-loading the new vocabulary.  Using images and realia to make the new words as real as possible.  The teacher also teaches students the skills they need to work effectively in groups. Research shows that Cooperative Learning increases retention which is what ELL need, instead of learning lots of new words that they forget as soon as they leave the classroom.

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