This fortnight has been filled with some absolute corkers.
One of my 5 year old students interrupted a game to ask me if I had brushed my teeth that morning. I told him I had. He replied, “But your teeth have a little bit of yellow today.”
A forthright greeting
Sometimes, there are opportune moments for comedy in the classroom. This week, a student misread a line. He read, “He shook my head.”
I paused the activity and asked that student to come up to the front. I encouraged him to forgo the traditional greeting of shaking hands and instead grab my head. In a Monty Python-esque skit, I allowed my head to be wobbled around while the students were snorting with laughter.
Huff and puff
A student wrote in a composition that they “blew the candles off the cake.” I imitated the scene, wheezing like the Big Bad Wolf and obliterating my imaginary cake.
An honest morning routine
I’ve been testing out an empathy experiment with my younger learners where I ask them three questions: What is your favourite colour / toy / food?
We went around the class and I joined in too. Then, ten minutes later, I would ask “What is Barnie’s favourite food?” or “Whose favourite toy is Lego?”
The children did not take notice of their classmate’s answers at first, but after a quick review, they began to listen. I tested them again at the end of the lesson, then the following week, then two weeks later.
A learner amazed me as she remembered my favourite colour is turquoise a whole month after we had initially shared this information.
The students didn’t only surprise me with their memory skills, but their ability to step outside themselves to understand the perspectives of others.
Some students who come across phonics later need to learn how to blend sounds, alongside memorising sight words to give them a fighting chance when they begin to read.
I have various methods to present these common words, from using whiteboards and getting my learners to write, wipe, then spell out from memory, to a ‘swat the word’ game where I give them a table and they have to hit the word that I say, or to pronounce the word that I tap.
When I showed them the word ‘and’, I gave them the example, “Cats and dogs.” I asked them for some sentences too. One girl said, “The cat was and-er the table.” Nearly.
Overheard in the classroom when a pencil dropped to the floor: “Oh sheep!”
My older students can sometimes switch off when faced with a long text, especially when it is on a dry topic for an explanation piece. To liven it up, I developed a reading game with three instructions: next, switch and skip.
It was a success, and after testing comprehension afterwards, it showed that they were still soaking up the meaning of the text while concentrating on the game mechanics.
One of my Chinese students often acts out in my reading class. He occasionally announces that he is bored, despite fully throwing himself into the activities and making his classmates laugh. As I’ve said before, I do not prescribe to labels such as ‘naughty’ since these do not address the issues that the individual needs to overcome in order to best learn.
This week, I tutored him on some new material, guiding his writing and comprehension skills for the first time. He responded really well and showed an earnestness I’d not seen in class before.
Towards the end of our lesson, I encouraged him to select three words from a list of ten. He chose ‘classmates’, ‘homework’ and ‘teacher’. I asked him to write a sentence for each.
He wrote: “My classmates are fun.” Then, on the second line, “I love my teacher.” Then, on the final line, he hesitated. He asked me how to spell ‘like’ as he wanted to write: “I like doing homework.” He said, “I only know how to spell ‘love’. Not ‘like’.”
Buzz around books
I’ve been busy getting my students excited about reading. I’ve given out book recommendations and homemade book reviews.
I’m delighted that around 70% of children have returned their book reviews. The best news was that one child boy who visited the library for the first time is now hooked:
One of my best finds is an interactive book about life on a farm (I’ll share details in my next post). It has cut-out animals, vehicles and fresh produce which the children can describe using simple sentence formation. Placing the pieces into the story also builds their motor skills and shape awareness as the pieces can be flipped.
On the last page, we visit the market and see eggs, milk, flowers, fruit and vegetables for sale. I asked my class of four year old students, “What do we use to buy things?” One girl, despite holding the money piece, enthusiastically shouted out “Flowers!”
That’s it until next time. Share your comments about working with young learners below as I’d love to hear your stories.