Tuesday, March 13, 2018

As a coach, we are asked to deliver a national policy and to unpack everything for the teacher.  In our excitement, we fail to see where the teacher is coming from and the issues we are facing.  Some of the tough statements and situations that I have faced are:

  • That's not going to work.
  • I don't have time to finish the syllabus.
  • I've been teaching for x years. I don't need this.
  • This looks childish for my students.
  • My weak students won't be able to do it.  
  • I think what you are doing is a waste of time.
These are statements which I would have asked as a teacher when I was still in school, dealing with 1001 issues and problems, a demanding HM and teaching 5 exam classes.  Sometimes, we forget that these issues are real and the statements are not just mere excuses.  They could also be feeling uncomfortable learning something new after doing something for 25 years.  It's not about me as a coach.  It's about listening to the things said and unsaid, the wisdom to tell the difference between giving excuses and genuine need of support.
So, instead of coming down hard on the teachers, I choose to show support:

Yes, this looks difficult.  Maybe we could do it together.  Shall I demonstrate for you?  Maybe we could just do one part at a time?

Could we speed it up together so that we can have time for this part?

Maybe, with your experience, you could try out this strategy on your own before showing me.
Would it help if you could see a video of another teacher doing it?

With Mr Edmund at SMK Dato Zulkifli Muhammad, Slim River.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An anchoring activity is one way to differentiate our lesson.  This is done when a student has finished his task. One of my favourite project is journal writing.  Students who have finished their task would whip out their journal and answer a prompt which has been given earlier.

More ideas:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lessons from Facebook for New Teachers

Not too long ago, Facebook was just a coding project for Mark Zuckerberg.  Today, it is a global business worth billions.  I remembered when Facebook started, there were many other social networks such as Friendsters and MySpace who were going after the same opportunity.  A few years later, FB has wiped them out.

Image result for facebook

Here are some lessons we can learn from Facebook and how we can apply them in our classroom:

1  One of the successful selling points of FB is it is very user-friendly. Even an uneducated adult knows how to use FB. The features are easy to use.  Keep your lessons user-friendly.  Simplify, simplify and simplify.  Remember that many in your class might not understand what you are saying and are too shy to ask.  Use the traffic lights to get feedback.  Do not fall into the 'syok sendiri' syndrome.

2  Allow students time for sharing their status/opinions.  Each child has a voice and it is often drowned out by the noise and the teacher.  FB gives airtime opportunities for  people to air their grouses and share whatever they like, no matter what they look like or sound like.

3  Keep changing things around by bringing a new game, a new idea to your classroom to keep things fresh.  Look at what others are doing, network and learn new things so that you will continue to have something new to offer to your students.  Do not be afraid to try new ideas.  FB does not take its success for granted.  It keeps learning, keeps asking for user's opinion and keeps bringing something new every now and then.  You are only as good as your last result.  You cannot keep basking in your past glory and refuse to change. Look at Nokia.

4  FB also listens to its customers and clients.  Each time it rolls out something that customers didn't like, it takes it out.  It is important to listen to students.  Although they may not be brave enough to tell you that your class sucks, the parking lot is a place for them to put up their grievances too.  Roll out an evaluation now and then about your classroom practices.  You will learn a lot and be gracious enough to learn from your mistakes.
5 Learn to take criticisms and do not let them get to you.  Zuckerberg had to face a lot of attacks and criticisms but he survived every one of them.  When you are successful, people will get jealous and they like to pass unkind comments sometimes.  You just have to develop a thick skin and move on.
6  Build relationships by celebrating birthdays and events together.  Get a monitor to be the reminder for everyone's birthday.  Everyone loves to receive greetings and presents.  FB recognises this and it has helped many remember their friends' birthday and it has made possible for a person to receive so many greetings in a day.
7  Create a group of friends and mentors to help you learn. Mark Zuckerberg was not as good at management as he was in coding.  He surrounded himself with a group of advisors, including Steve Job.  He learned as much as he could from each of these men, as well as from many of the executives he recruited to Facebook. Look at the company you keep.  If you surround yourself with negative people who are always complaining, then you are going to be like one of them.   
8  Focus on a long term vision and do not let the assessment data pull you down.  Yes, the data tells you a story and think smart about helping students achieve their learning goals.  However, you need to pace yourself to avoid burnout.  You are not here to run a sprint but a marathon.  So, while helping students prepare for the exam, think about the vision you have for the class and the subject you are teaching.  The projects and classroom tasks should point towards achieving this vision. FB's mission is to make the world more open and connected and everything they do points towards this vision.
What is your mission?

Ideas for Classroom Management

Here is a great link to ideas on managing the classroom.
Great classroom management ideas from Scholastic

No. 1 - Hand up - is like parking lot.  Students put up their names if they need help on the hand.  Such a cute idea.   I love the Bingo for good classroom behaviour.  Good behaviour gets a reward of a number, and the first to fill up a line gets another prize.
No.2  looks like another version of the traffic lights that we are using.  No.4 helps us to keep track of students' whereabouts.  Some students like to ask for toilet breaks but never come back.  A look at the Cheat Sheet will tell you whether they are back.  Which is your favourite?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Feedback Signals: To use or not to use?

Feedback Signals
Feedback signals and hand signals are non-verbal signals used to help run group management.  It was originally introduced in Kagan's cooperative structures to check for comprehension.  It helps facilitators and in our case, the teacher, to see emerging results and immediate feedback.  Some teachers told me isn't that against the idea of cultivating the communicative skills. The TL is used when teachers have given a task and wants to know whether all students understand the task- immediate feedback from all. Or after explaining a concept, the teacher may use TL. TL gives a voice to each child, especially those who might be too shy. Every time a teacher asks whether students understand, there will be a few who might be too afraid to say anything.When all students are required to use the TL, everyone has a chance for their learning to be more effective.  No where should it be used to replace communicative activities.

For a class with only two students, I guess you might not need quiet signal or TL but in my observations in the classroom, students enjoy using it.


Image result for kagan's feedback signals

According to Kagan's research, we lose 18 days requesting our students to keep quiet.  I sometimes see teachers stuggling, shouting "Listen, listen, listen!"  The goal should be to obtain silence and attention within 5 seconds.  Hence, the need for the quiet signal.  It is not about not giving the chance for students to speak.  There is a time for everything in a classroom.  If teachers cannot command the attention of the students when they are in groups, it would be tiring for the teacher to explain to every group. Some teachers use a chant to gain attention, some use "High Five" or 'Give me five".


Friday, June 17, 2016

Transforming the Classroom, School by School

Sharing some ideas from my visits to schools everyday.  These pictures are taken at SK KUALA SLIM, Slim River.  They have just got started in transforming the classrooms.

As you can see, the tables have been arranged in fours and are slanted so that students can also see the whiteboard clearly.

These are reward stars for the students.  Each student has a container to house the stars that he has earned.

                Teacher has added a parking lot for all subjects.

                     Traffic lights are ready to roll.

                             Reward charts and birthdays are shown on the board.


I love this chart to show those who are present and absent.

This is a reward chart, using the ships to chart their progress.

The role tags for group work are done.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tips for Organising Group Work

There are a few things to remember when you are implementing group work.  Many teachers ask students to work in groups to complete an activity but often, collaboration is not seen.  How do we ensure that group work is implemented correctly?

1   Determine the learning objective that you want students to achieve.  Ensure that the group activity you are organising plays a role towards the learning objective and not just a mere activity.

2  Share the purpose of the activity and model the target language or product if the class is weaker.
This means telling the students exactly what they have to do or showing what their final product might be like, allowing some room for creativity.  Use the quiet signal to get the attention of the students before giving instructions.  After the instructions, ask for feedback through the traffic lights.

3  Determine a time limit for each activity to provide some competition and suspense.  Stop the activity by using the quiet signal.  You can provide more time if you want at the end of the time limit.  Often, I see teachers allowing too much time for one activity and students become bored and start their own mini party.

4  While students are doing their work, monitor each group by moving around.  Do not start to interfere the minute you sense something is wrong.  Prompt the group to solve the problem.  Ask Three Before Me would be a good principle for students.

5  After the group activity has been completed, it is important to decide on how you want the reporting to be done.  The usual senario is the teacher asks each group to come up to present their work.  After the second or third group, the whole class will lose interest as they feel that they are going through the motion.  I would recommend doing a carousel feedback or gallery walk.  Groups put up their work then  circulate around the room and read each other’s answers, They can add their own comments in response. I would normally move around with my post-it notes and give comments.

6  Give a closure by summarizing the main points that have been presented.  You can also ask students to do a reflection of their work and what they have learnt for the day.

7  Always reflect on the group activity afterward.  Reflect on what worked and what could be improved.  

1  Students have nothing to say in a listening and speaking activity
    Provide more help in the target language.  Students who are weak might be unable to
    produce anything.  Give more notes or help with pictures.

2   Students are unhappy with their group members.
     Spend some time doing team-building activities and ice-breakers before introducing serious