by Harry and Rosemary Wong
Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers
"But it does not apply to me. I'm a high school teacher," is the criticism that we sometimes hear of our book, The First Days of School, either from people who write to us or occasionally by reviewers of the book on Amazon.com. No suggestions, however, are given as to what a high school teacher might be looking for. More often than not, these disparaging comments are made to imply that our ideas are better suited for elementary teachers.
Permit us to set the record straight. Between the two of us we have over 50 years of "in the trenches" K-12 classroom experience and The First Days of School is replete with specific high school examples such as
Jane Smith, principal, page 10
Richard Crewse, photography teacher, page 11
Pam Ware, drama teacher, page 12
Valley Central High School, teacher's handbook, page 22
Flowing Wells High School, Keys to Success, page 39
Luisa Valesco, secretary, page 58
Jim Heintz, English teacher, page 110
Merle Whaley, math teacher, page 139
Judie Gustafson, math teacher, page 172
Julie Joubert-Guillory, science teacher, page 181
Bob Wall, history/physical education teacher, page 192
The effective teacher is someone who can take an idea or technique, even if it is not related to education, and transform it into something that will apply to a personal situation. The effective teacher is a creative teacher---one who can THINK, REFLECT and IMPLEMENT.
Procedures in a Foreign Language Class
Yes, even foreign language teachers need procedures! In a subject area that requires much structure and rigor for student success, it would be only second nature to have a classroom that was organized as such. We are most pleased to share the work of five foreign language teachers, four of whom are secondary teachers, and their supervisor from the Newport News Public Schools in Virginia.
Chuck Walsh, German teacher, Denbigh High School
Christine Toni, French teacher, Menchville High School
Kathy Dupuy, Spanish teacher, Warwick High School
Charlene Lee, German teacher, Dozier Middle School
Marilyn Morris, Foreign Language Talented and Gifted Teacher, grades 3-5
Allison Foster, Supervisor
As you read the following, please know that their work was developed from the classroom management techniques suggested in The First Days of School. One of the major hallmarks of lifeling learning professionals is that they continually learn and are able to apply what they learn to their own situation. Simply stated, they are able to THINK and REFLECT on what others do, regardless of their subject, grade level, or type of school, and then IMPLEMENT these ideas and techniques into their own repetorie and classrooms.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASSROOM PROCEDURES/ACTIVITIES
- Teachers stand at the classroom door to greet students as they enter. This eliminates the need for attention, which certain students exhibit at the beginning of every class. This time can also be used to distribute any handouts as students enter, such as color codings for groups or the warm-up activity.
- Teachers put off dealing with non-emergency situations and needs until students are working. Then the teacher is able to attend to those needs without taking away from valuable learning time.
- Students who have something of a non-emergency nature that they wish to tell the teacher can fill out a prepared form titled "Listening Ear" with a line drawing of an ear and four blank lines for the student's message. Students can use the target language, which is the language being taught, to communicate in writing what they want the teacher to know. The teacher reads and responds as necessary to the message later, when it is not disruptive to classroom work.
BEGINNING OF CLASS PROCEDURES
- Personal contact with the teacher relieves students' need for attention while allowing the class to proceed. In the elementary grades, the traveling (visiting) foreign language teacher enters the classroom, makes eye contact, and shakes hands with each student while all students take out their folders and sing a motion song in the target language.
- High school and middle grade teachers have bellwork/warm-up/sponge activities on the board or overhead projector so students get to work as soon as they enter the classroom. It might be a cartoon for which the students must compose a caption in the target language or a Power Point presentation with something related to the day's lesson. For example, a rolling (scrolling or looping) message in the target language naming articles of clothing prompting the students to translate in preparation for the lesson that follows.
- Objectives for the day are displayed on the board or on a chart where students can easily see them before the lesson begins.
- Attendance is taken without interrupting the students' work by consulting the seating chart after all buses have arrived.
- Homework is always gone over in class, however most teachers don't personally check homework on a daily basis. Rather, homework spot checks are done and homework tests are given periodically.
- In some classes, language workbooks are collected periodically and credit is given, with assignments corrected by the students.
MAKE-UP WORK PROCEDURES
- A student "class secretary" maintains a "What Did I Miss?" folder with a dated sheet listing those absent, the daily class objective, classwork completed that day, and any homework assigned. The secretary takes any handouts, writes names of missing students on them, and places them in the folder to be accessed when the absent students return.
ORAL PARTICIPATION RECORD
- Teachers have a record of oral participation, maintained by a student recorder. Each day a student "recorder" is determined from the alphabetical list of students. The recorder's job is to mark participation points on a class grid. The recorder is not expected to participate orally that day.
GROUP ASSIGNMENTS AND BEHAVIOR
- Each teacher has a system of procedures for setting up small groups. Some teachers assign groups by using a clock system. Students select partners at the beginning of the year by having other students sign for each hour on their clock. Then partners are assigned by saying, "Go to your 3 o'clock partner," etc. Others use animal groups or other extension vocabulary groups in the target language for pairing students.
- Index cards are used for forming larger groups of 3, 4, or 5. Colored cards with city names, different cultural symbols, animal sounds, etc., are distributed as students enter the room. One teacher uses family groups and German-speaking countries. Also used are cutouts of the country or its flag or automobile stickers with the abbreviations for different countries, which are handed out to the students as they enter. These procedures allow students to move quickly and efficiently to their groups.
- Every member of each small group has a specific role or task. One teacher requires students to learn military titles in the target language. Each title or rank has a specific role in the group, such as group leader, recorder, etc.
- Students are informed of and discuss the specific purpose/s before viewing a video from the series which coordinates with the foreign language textbooks. Videos sometimes serve as the springboard to a travel simulation where the students use a passport to board an "airplane" for travel to the country whose language is being studied. Realia from the destination city or country can be incorporated.
MAINTAINING THE CLASSROOM
- Because many of the Foreign Language teachers move from room to room and do simulations and other activities, a period of at least 5 minutes between classes is set aside to allow for putting the room back in order before the next class enters. This allows for an orderly, efficient start to the next period.
PROCEDURES FOR ENDING THE CLASS
- An elementary teacher ends each class with a goodbye song in the target language while students put their nametags in their folders and store the folders in the designated area.
- To exit some classes, students must say a vocabulary word from the theme being studied.
COMMUNICATIONS WITH PARENTS
- All conferences, phone calls and other contacts with parents are recorded on a standardized "Parent Contact Log," recording date, person contacted, type of contact, reason/purpose, and notes.
- Schools wired for email use email contact with parents. Some schools use an Infolink system which allows parents to call a number every day to find out what activities were done in class.
- Some teachers send home progress sheets and letters informing parents whenever a new chapter or unit begins, outlining the objectives and providing information about any cultural activities or projects associated with the new unit.
DISPLAYING STUDENT WORK
- Student work is displayed in scrolling Power Point presentations and corridor showcases. "Museums" have been created where students portray famous people who speak the foreign language or famous Americans who came from a different country (i.e. Albert Einstein). Other students are invited to tour the museum, which encourages sign-ups for next year's course.
- Advanced students develop newspapers and newsletters in the target language. These are shared with beginning and intermediate students.
- Some classes have fashion shows related to the clothing of the country whose language is being studied. All students have specific roles and responsibilities in the fashion shows (models, commentator, set design, etc.).
- One teacher has students make 3-D houses with all rooms and objects labeled in the target language. Students write a house tour in the target language and present the tour for an oral grade. Projects are entered each spring in the Virginia Geographical Society contest.
Additional Tips for Traveling Teachers
Careful organization is a must for those teachers who must travel from room to room or from school to school. Pack bags ahead of time for different lessons and different schools.
Put magnetic strips on vocabulary lists, posters, objectives, homework charts, Standards of Learning, and other materials for the board so that they can be slapped up quickly at the start of class.
Let carts become your rolling classroom. At Newport News, Virginia, carts are reserved ahead of time. They use carts called "The Traveling Teacher"TM (877-722-4435), which allows for lessons to be placed in sequential order and moved so that they can be easily taught.
Most importantly, develop a relationship with at least one supportive colleague in each school, so that there is an emergency person to ask for help, such as when quick coverage for a class is needed.
Think, Reflect, and Implement
Learn from your colleagues---all of them. They all have something to offer. You just need to take the time and the thought to discover it. Fill your chest (or rolling cart) this year with new ways to become even more effective.
Remember, the effective teacher is a creative teacher, one who can think, reflect, and implement. If you are a 3rd grade teacher, were you able to steal any of the foreign language procedures from the high school teachers to use in your classroom? For instance, you can have a "Listening Ear" form for your students to fill out any time during the day the students need to talk to you about non-lesson, non-emergency "things." Require the students to write in complete sentences. Respond to the slips in any manner you see fit. The point is you can take an idea someone else uses at a different grade level and adapt it to your classroom situation.
This is the art of a true professional and effective teacher, a learner who learns along with the students.
For a printable version of this article click here.
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