Your Book is a Paper Weight
Your book is not going to carry you through the semester. Thanks to lazy writers, it may be irrelevant. If your book isn’t tailored to Thai culture, and it probably won’t be, then some of the vocabulary and conversations won’t be very relevant. Many Thai kids haven’t been on an airplane, haven’t been on vacations, don’t go on weekend getaways, and generally just don’t do a quarter of the stuff the books talk about.
Try teaching a chapter on careers in a country where most people work for their family and eventually take over the family business. Thais don’t typically hop from job to job every five years or work their way up enormous corporations. Many will take over a restaurant, shop, farm, fishing business, tourism business, or small manufacturing operation.
The books are also written by the morons of Western culture. Lets face it, our brightest stars are not writing ESL (English as a Second Language) books. Some questions make no sense. Half or sometimes all the activities in a chapter require you to play a CD for listening comprehension and if you have no CD player in the class all those activities become useless.
You could buy and bring in a CD player but listening comprehension is fairly good. Thai kids struggle more with speaking so, in my opinion, I’d say don’t waste your time with the CD player stuff.
If You Fail: Try, Try Again
You cannot explain something once and expect the kids to remember it. You have to drill it over time. It took me about three or four lessons to hammer home the idea of adjectives. Some kids got it on the first day but most took longer.
First the attentive kids get it, then the less attentive but better English speaking students get it, then the ones who barely pay attention.
Demo it > Explain it > Demo it again > Re-explain it > Ask them to use it
Use It or Lose It
Once they get it, review-review-review. Every Monday morning the kids come back having not spoken English all weekend. It’s a terrible time to teach something new. Instead, I start out by reviewing all the material I’ve taught them so far in the semester. It’s an opportunity to jog their memories and encourage every student to participate since they all know the material.
The same concept applies to your normal lessons. Don’t silo them to have nothing to do with each other. If you’re lesson is asking them to write a story, to practice grammar, assign a topic you’ve taught them vocabulary for. If the week prior you taught conjunctions like:
And the week before you taught:
- exotic animals
Then ask them to write two paragraphs, one on their favorite exotic animal and one on the scariest exotic animal. Add in the rule that they must use each conjunction word at least once and talk about where the animal lives in the world.
**As a note, clear and detailed directions like the above will help students start and keep writing. There’s a lot of math and science in Asia but not a ton of time spent on creative writing.
This is the biggest battle. Young kids require more interaction. They don’t sit and listen for very long. I struggle to keep some kids sitting even when playing a game. One group of kids will learn from a lecture, others just want to color.
Try not to stereotype. By no means does energetic mean dumb. Some of my most attentive are the last to connect the dots and some of my least attentive learn the lesson in a flash. But the reverse is true too. There are definitely energetic kids who are out to lunch and focused kids who comprehend everything I throw at them.
Overall, just realize that 60 minutes of engagement is hard. Plan to have to think hard about it and possibly be forced to just teach varied lessons including board examples, drawing, worksheets, games, etc.
The younger the kids, the more they love cheap prizes like stickers, pencils, erasers, etc. Find cheap stuff at the markets or places like ‘Big C’ and ‘SuperCheap’. The students don’t mind learning as long as you make it fun.
Most, although not all, older kids are too cool to act excited about a sticker but might still get excited about a nice pen or notebook. All older kids seem to enjoy competing. Team games are a big hit.
What type of game you can play depends on how strong their English is. Some school’s have 5th grade classes that speak very, very impressive English. Most schools are somewhere in between. A few schools are quite behind.
Every school allows different disincentives.
- In some schools you can have them stand on their chair with their hands on their head.
- You can redo the seating chart move them away from friends
- Put them in a corner for timeout
- Make the kids come in for extra work during lunch
- Some schools even allow detention
You’ll have less time to teach than you might expect. There are Thai holidays, lots of school activities, haircut day, Buddhism studies, and kids being late. Plus, in class you will lose time to having to do behavior control.