How to Become a More Confident Teacher.

to buildyour confidencein the classroom

Everyone has been there: you’re confronted with a new class, a new job, a different type of course or age group… and the nerves kick in. Whether it’s your first teaching job or you’ve taught hundreds of classes, there are some simple things you can do to help yourself feel more confident standing in front of those students.

1. Plan!

Every lesson you teach should have clear goals to achieve by the end. Lesson aims are not just for CELTA! It sounds too obvious, but planning your classes well can have a two-fold effect on your confidence. Firstly, knowing what you’re going to do next can help avoid those panicked ‘now what do I do?!’ moments. Secondly, planning carefully means that you can ensure you include a good balance of activities, and that they are relevant and interesting to your students. Engaged students = a more confident teacher.

2. Slow down and breathe.

When at a loss how to go on, cough.

A while ago I came across this wonderful Greek proverb: ‘When at a loss how to go on, cough.’ Don’t worry, you don’t need to start coughing in the middle of your lesson! However the essence of the advice still holds true. If a student asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, questions something you say or otherwise puts you on the spot, stop, slow down, and breathe. If you don’t know the answer to a students’ question, it’s better to admit that you’re not sure than to wade into a garbled explanation that’s going to simply get everyone (including you!) more confused. There’s no shame in telling a student that you aren’t sure and will get back to them – if you simply need a little more time to think your answer through you can return to the topic at the end of the lesson, otherwise tell them you’ll tell them next lesson. Just make sure you do! (You could even encourage learner autonomy by setting them a little research task and getting them to find out themselves for homework…)

3. Don’t be (too much of) a perfectionist.

Most teachers I know (myself included) are their own worst critic. Teaching as a profession in some ways encourages this – most other careers don’t entail at least annual observations! However, you don’t need to teach perfect lessons all the time in order to be a good teacher. Students will ask questions you didn’t expect, things will happen in the classroom that you didn’t anticipate – generally neither of these things are your fault, and they certainly don’t mean that you’re a terrible teacher. Remember this, and cut yourself some slack.

4. Focus on your strengths.

Are you your own worst critic, or your own best friend? Often our confidence depends on how we talk to ourselves. If a lesson goes badly, or you receive negative feedback from a student, parent or observer, don’t allow yourself to dwell on it for too long. Take negative feedback into account (if it’s relevant, helpful and accurate), but make sure you are taking the time to remind yourself of the good things that happen in your classroom too. Positive behaviour – happy, engaged students, is a good thing. So is any learning that is taking place. Give yourself credit for these.

5. Act confident!

I’ve left this until last because in all honesty, it’s always been the thing I’ve found hardest to put into practice. But simply subtly changing your body language or the way you use your voice can make you appear (and feel!) far more confident. You can find lots of tips online about confident body language – for example here, here and here. Don’t feel like you need to suddenly change everything about yourself and try to incorporate everything all at once! Rather, try to notice your typical unconfident mannerisms (are there any particular things you normally do when you’re feeling nervous in class?) and then work on one thing at a time.

I really hope these tips help you feel more confident the next time you stand in front of a class! What other things help you to feel more confident?

2 Ways to Make it a Game.

2009

We’ve all had classes at some point where there is time to fill, or some sort of pacing schedule which limits the amount of ‘book material’ we can cover in any given lesson. For me, teaching became a lot easier when I figured out a few more ways to fill time!

In an ideal world we plan everything well, everything goes exactly as expected, and all the time in our lessons is filled with carefully thought out, educational activities. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world! Every teacher at some point finds that they just need something to pull out on the spur of the moment, no planning required, and that will take a good 10-20 minutes of the lesson. Here are two of my favourite ‘pull out of the bag’ fillers – they can be used:

  • To make feedback for an activity/homework fun
  • To motivate students to do grammar/vocabulary exercises
  • To liven up a lesson by adding in a team game
  • To provide you with a game which requires minimal prep, but will provide a good while of classroom fun!

Typhoon

(or ‘Toilets’ as it was christened by one of my groups of Russian tweens)

There are other, more complex versions of this, but I have to admit that they are too complicated for me to keep track of. This version has just enough complexity to make it interesting, while also making it perfectly manageable. It works well with students 9 and upwards, although is particularly good for tweens and teens. A small amount of prep required for this one: before the game you need to draw a secret ‘crib sheet’ like the one shown below. You can even be uber-prepared and keep one with your lesson plans just in case – just be careful not to use the same crib sheet twice with the same class!

image (9)

  1. Ask the students to work in teams (around 4 students tends to work well). Give them a minute to decide on a team name, and while they are doing this draw your blank chart on the board. You can make for a longer or shorter game by using a larger or smaller number of squares – I normally opt for either 3×3 or 3×4.
  2. Explain the rules: the teams will take it in turns to answer a question. Here you have several options – the questions can be: a standard exercise you want the students to complete (or that they have already completed if you’re using this to check homework, for example), questions the students have written for each other in advance (great if you want to make this activity into a review lesson), or simply questions that you make up on the spot to ask the students (great if it’s a completely spur of the moment ‘help, I need an activity!’ decision). If a team answers a question correctly, they get to choose a square. You will then reveal what is in that square. In the squares there are four different options: it might be one pointtwo points (self explanatory), a tornado, or a house. If either team selects a square containing a tornado, both teams lose all their points. The one exception to this rule is if either team has a house. Houses keep points safe – a tornado will destroy the house, but not the points inside it.
  3. Once you’ve explained the rules, you’re ready to play! If my students are clamouring for a longer game (which at the end of it they often are) I sometimes incorporate a ‘bonus’ set of boxes which have one house, one tornado, and then higher numbers of points – up to 8 points per box.
  4. The winning team is the one with the highest number of points after all the boxes have been revealed.

I find this activity tends to work particularly well in classes where you have one student who is much stronger – in this situation I’ve often found students are reluctant to play team games as they automatically expect that whichever team has the stronger student will win. The element of chance here means that this isn’t necessarily the case! If a team does not answer a question correctly, however, they do not get to choose a square and so have no chance of gaining points; thus there is some skill required.

Give or Take

I originally heard about this game in a traning seminar at IH Moscow some time ago – unfortunately I’ve forgotten which teacher showed it to me. It has a very similar format to Typhoon, in that it entails the teacher having a hidden crib sheet, a parallel set of boxes being drawn on the board, and teams needing to answer a question correctly in order to choose a square. In terms of the content of the squares, however, it’s a very different game. I’d recommend caution with using this one with anyone younger than teenagers – it can get quite vicious.

image (8)

Here is an example crib sheet for Give or Take. As you can see the squares contain numbers of points – 50, 100 and 200, and also small pluses and minuses. Once the students have answered a question correctly and chosen their square, the procedure as follows:

  1. Teacher reveals the number of points in the square, writing it on the board. Do not reveal if this number is positive or negative.
  2. Teacher asks the team ‘Give or take?’ The students must decide among themselves if they wish to give these points to another team, or whether to take the points for their own team. It’s wise to give a time limit for this as I think some of my teens would happily spend half the lesson deliberating!
  3. Teacher then reveals if the points are positive or negative, and subtracts or adds the appropriate number to the chosen team’s points accordingly.
  4. The winning team is the team with the highest number of points at the end of the game (once all the boxes have been revealed).

 

I hope one or both of these are useful to you! Do you have any favourite filler activities?

 

 

 

Surviving Summer School: After It’s All Over…

This is part 6/6 of a series on Surviving Summer School. To read the other parts check here. 

Nail Art (1)

Today’s the day: it’s under two weeks until the usual start of summer school season, and my final post in this series. In this post I’m talking about after it’s all over – you’ve completed your two or four or six or even eight weeks at summer school, and now you need to relearn how to survive in the real world.

Expect withdrawl symptoms.

If you thought starting at summer school was a culture shock, finishing summer school is even more so. For the last x number of weeks, you’ve lived in a bubble. A somewhat hectic, crazy bubble, where you’ve not had much free time, you’ve had a very rigid schedule, and you’ve been working (and living) with pretty much the same group of people 24/7. Leaving that is almost guaranteed to be strange.

Personally, I know that for the first few days after my summer school contract finishes, these thoughts will be at the forefront of my mind:

  • Where are the children? Am I meant to be supervising them?
  • See above, preceded by variants on ‘It’s suspiciously quiet…’
  • What do you mean dinner isn’t at exactly 6pm every night?
  • What do you mean I have to cook my own dinner? And then wash up after?
  • Wait, I get to choose what food I want to eat?
  • What exactly am I meant to be doing right now?
  • Just wait til I tell (insert name of summer school colleague) about this!

All I can say with regards to any of this is a) it’s normal, b) give it time.

This one time, at summer school…

The double-edged sword of returning to the ‘real world’ post summer school is that not only are you rejoining your previous life, but you’re also suddenly spending all your time with PWWNASSs – People Who Were Not At Summer School. Understandably, the only known cure for this is both to keep in touch with your summer school colleagues, and to start (or restart) a teaching job in the autumn with a load of other recovering summer school teachers.

In the meantime, I must offer my condolences to all your friends, family, and loved ones. If you’ve ever seen the first few American Pie films you’ll know where I’m coming from with the title of this section: recovering summer school staff are destined to retell all of the hilarious summer school stories at any available opportunity. PWWNASSs will not get it. That’s ok.

Taking it back into the ‘real world’.

I’m well aware that this is a pretty light-hearted post, but I do still have some wisdom to impart. Hopefully, over your time at summer school, you’ve learnt something – now is your chance to put it into practice.

  • During your time at summer school, chances are that you’ve come across something new. Be it a new game or activity, a type of lesson you taught that worked really well, or a coursebook or online resource that you hadn’t used previously – make a note of it, and use it again! If you’re returning to or starting a teaching job in the autumn, you’ve got a great excuse to try it out. If you’ll be returning to uni or looking for work, simply make a note of it that you’ll have available when you are next in front of a class.
  • Never underestimate the amount that summer school can help you grow in confidence, or in your ability to be flexible and think on your feet. I can honestly say that if I’d never done summer school, I’d be a very different person to who I am now – and I can’t imagine any situation where that would be a positive thing.
  • Don’t forget to keep in touch with people!* If you don’t keep in touch with your summer school colleagues, where else are you going to share those summer school memories? Perhaps I’m biased, as I met the love of my life when we were both teaching at summer school. But I’ve made some great friends that way as well!
  • On a slightly less sentimental note, people can be a resource too. If you’re in the market for a job come the autumn (or even thinking about what you’re going to do the following year) summer school is a great opportunity to find out what working in different countries/for different schools is really like. Where else are you likely to find someone you know personally who’s been working for IH Madrid, or who has backpacked across Asia, or who has taught primary school students in Poland?

Looking forward to next year…

…in more ways than one, I hope! If you loved your summer school experience (and I really, really hope you did) then it’s never too soon to start thinking about next summer. The summer school recruitment season doesn’t seem to start properly until spring, but most schools tend to prefer returning staff to get in touch early. When I worked in the Head Office for a language school, we had one staff member email to let us know he’d like to come back the following year – on the day his contract finished! While perhaps that’s a little too keen, remember that summer schools do tend to work on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you really want to return to the same school you worked at this year, or you want to work with a particular colleague (and have made plans to return there together) it’s probably wise to get in touch early. Otherwise, there’s always the option of applying to work for a school in a different location, or even a different summer school company.

If by any chance your summer school experience wasn’t a good one, I’m truly sorry. I have to admit that just as not everyone is a talented artist or a skilled sportsman, summer school simply isn’t always for everyone. It can be a demanding job, an intense environment, and particularly if you’re dealing with problems of any kind back in the real world, it can all be a bit much. If this is you and you’re still struggling through, well done for making it as far as you have, and please talk to someone.

Do you have any other questions or things you’d like to know about summer school? 

Please do get in touch – I’d be happy to help!

 

*Disclaimer: Pretty much every summer school has a policy about staff not keeping in touch with students via social media etc, and if they don’t, they should do. Keeping in touch with child or teen summer school students is never a good idea, and can result in you being disciplined or even fired. If one of your students asks if they can add you on Facebook etc, politely decline, let them know it’s nothing personal, and if they persist tell them that it’s the company rules and you are simply not allowed. I’ve never had a student argue with that.

5 ways to build your team

One of the things I love about leading workshops, giving advice or even just chatting about work with other teachers is that often other people can make you look at things in a completely different way.

In a workshop I led recently on anti-bullying, we briefly touched upon how we as teachers can build students’ self-esteem – emotionally healthy students are less likely to bully others, as well as more likely to be able to cope if they are the victim of bullying. One teacher spoke about a colleague who chooses to spend the first week of the academic year on team-building and getting-to-know-you activities, as she feels that this creates a much better working environment for the rest of the year. The students truly know and respect each other, and see themselves as a team in which each person must play a role, not simply a group of students who come together to learn English.

Given my background in summer school activities/youth work, I’m fairly well-versed in team building games, but the comment really made me think about how these kinds of activities might be used in the EFL classroom.

Some of these five activities I have used, others I plan to use in the near future… and for anyone doing summer school, they could be a way to get the summer off to a positive start!

Drawing an Alien.

Time: 5-10 mins

Materials: 1 piece of paper per group, 1 pen per student (ideally different colours)

Level: Elementary plus (no language used so all levels can complete the activity, however the discussion stage is more suited to pre-int plus)

Ask the ss to work in groups of around 4. Give each group a piece of paper, and make sure each student has a pen (ideally each student in the group with a different colour). The students have 2 minutes to draw an alien – the catch is that they are not allowed to speak to their group while doing so.

Questions for after the activity:

Was there a leader in your group? How did you know they were the leader?

Did everyone draw the same amount of the alien? Did some people draw more or less?

You couldn’t talk. How did you communicate with each other without using words?

This activity is pretty interesting for the teacher to look at – it gives a real sense of group dynamics and enables you to easily see who the more dominant and more passive students might be, aside from their linguistic ability. It also can increase the students’ confidence in their ability to communicate in English – it’s a clear example that there are other things (body language, facial expressions) that contribute to communication, rather than just whether or not you use the right word. 

Stand Up Together

Time: 5 mins

Materials: None, but you need a reasonable amount of space!

Level: Any – no language required

Ask the students to work in pairs. Use one pair as an example, then the others can join in. Students sit back-to-back on the floor with their arms linked at the elbows. The students must stand up together, without unlinking their arms. When a pair is successful, they can join another pair and try to do it as a four.

Questions for after the activity:

Was it easy or difficult? Why?

What could you do to make it easier?

Balloons in a Circle

Time: 5-10 mins

Materials: One or more balloons, a reasonable amount of space!

Level: Any (you could also use it to practice body part vocabulary)

Ss stand in a circle holding hands. The teacher throws a balloon into the ciricle. Ss must keep the balloon in the air for as long as possible. They may tap the balloon using heads, hands, arms, shoulders, chests or knees – but NO feet, and they must not break the circle by unlinking hands. They’ll quickly realise that they need to work together, as for one part of the circle to move, other parts of the circle will need to follow.

Advertising the Class

Time: 20 mins +

Materials: Paper (Ideally large!), felt tip pens, pencils

Level: High pre-intermediate plus (nice way to practice describing/personality adjectives)

Ask the students to work in small groups for this one. They need to produce a poster to advertise the class – make it colourful and eyecatching! The poster needs to include something about every person in the class, and it’s an advert, so it must all be positive!

Awesome Begins with You!

Time: 5-10mins

Materials: Paper and pens/pencils

Level: Intermediate plus

Ask the students to work in groups. The teacher chooses a letter; ss must think of a positive attribute/quality for each person in their group, starting with that letter.

eg.

Adina – awesome!

Matyas – always on time

Lucie – adventurous

Martin – active

Questions for after the activity:

How do you feel about the words chosen for you?

Do you agree with your words?

Students could also create some kind of poster or writing as a follow up, featuring either the attributes their group gave them, or ones they feel are more appropriate.

Do you use team building/self-esteem building activities in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Summer School: Lesson Planning 101

This is part 5/6 of a series on Surviving Summer School. To read the other parts check here. 

Surviving Summer School

For many new CELTA/Trinity graduates, summer school is their first teaching job. If you are one of them, then this post is for you!

Summer schools all work a little differently, and one of those differences is in terms of *what* exactly is taught. Whilst I can’t offer one-size-fits-all advice here, I can offer some hints and tips to make teaching a little easier.

1. Find out what materials are used.

Some summer schools do base their syllabus on existing coursebooks. Others produce a ‘lesson plan pack’ that is individual to that particular school. Still others have school-unique workbooks for the students to complete during their stay, and the lessons aim to cover those topics. This is something that’s helpful to find out about during your interview. If you didn’t ask and they didn’t tell you, don’t panic – do some scouting around on the summer school’s website, email the company, or even just wait until you get there; it won’t be the end of the world. Once you’ve found this out, there are three main questions you’ll want to address:

  • What exactly is it? If you have a standard coursebook to work from (which will likely be accompanied by teachers’ notes), teaching isn’t really likely to be too different from what you did on your CELTA. The same theories still apply – for each lesson figure out what you want your students to be able to do by the end of it, and then work backwards from there. If you have lesson plan packs, that’s potentially great! Lesson planning done! (At least to some extent – see the next point). If the students simply have a workbook, or a designated ‘theme for the week’ and nothing else, chances are you’ll need to be a bit more creative with your planning. Importantly though, don’t panic!
  • How useable is it? This is probably more likely to apply to lesson plan packs or workbooks, as coursebooks are normally rather more thoroughly ‘tried and tested’! However: if you’re teaching teens and you’re given an adult coursebook (has happened!) then be prepared to do a little more work when it comes to figuring out how to teach it. I’ve worked with teachers who have assumed that because the summer school provides lesson plan packs, that means no lesson planning required – it’s all been done for you! Check what you’re working with before you decide if this is the case 🙂 Often provided lesson plans will do the majority of the work for you, but there will still be parts you’ll want to change and things you’ll want to add or leave out, depending on your students.
  • What can you add to it? Just because you’ve been given some kind of material to follow, it doesn’t mean that you have to only do that. Don’t be scared of the idea of using supplementary materials. I share some ideas about how to choose what to use here.

2. Start from the very… end?

I remember in my first few months of teaching finding the idea of ‘lesson aims’ utterly daunting, and something I’d rather avoid thinking about. After all, it’s much easier to simply aim to cover page 66 and 67 of the coursebook. What I found completely changed my approach, however, was the idea of starting at the end and working backwards in order to figure out what your aims actually are. Whether you’re considering a set of vocabulary words, a grammar point, or even just a couple of pages in the coursebook, think about what you’d ideally like your students to be able to do at the end of the lesson. Do you want them to be able to talk about their favourite film? Do you want them to write a story using past simple and past continuous? Do you want them to ask another student in the class questions about their family? Once you’ve identified that ‘end aim’, what you do in the lesson should enable your students to get there. For example, if you want them to ask questions about family, they need to remember words for different family members, they need to know how to form questions, and they perhaps need some work on intonation/pronunciation in questions. These are the things you need to include in your lesson. Working backwards suddenly makes it very easy to work out what you do (and don’t!) need to include, and so helps you to work out what the different stages in your lesson will be.

3. Teamwork is your friend!

At most summer schools, there will be more than one teacher for each level – for example, there will be several classes of pre-intermediate students, several of upper-intermediate students, etc. This means that there is likely to be someone else teaching the same material as you. Make use of each other! One of the nicest summer schools I’ve worked at was where one of my colleagues and I set up a ‘photocopying agreement’. The syllabus involved lots of worksheets/bits of paper on most days, which meant lots of time spent at the photocopier. We agreed that on one day, one of us would do all the copying for both our classes (we would be teaching the same lessons, so it simply entailed making double the amount of copies), on the other day the other would do all the copying. More free time, everyone wins! It’s also nice to have someone to plan with/bounce ideas off – often other people have fantastic ideas that you might not have thought of.

4. Ask for help if you need it.

I feel as if I spend a lot of time reiterating this point, but it is an important one. Your senior teacher is there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re uncertain or even if you simply want reassurance that you’re on the right lines. No one starts out teaching knowing everything (in fact it’s the people who think they do who often run into problems!), and all of your colleagues were new to teaching once. At some point in the future you’ll be the one giving advice to the scared-looking newbie, and realise just how far you’ve come!

Good luck, and happy teaching!

Anti-bullying

Anti-bullying

This post is a summary of an anti-bullying workshop I gave at the British Council school, Prague, on 8th June 2016.

Why talk about bullying at all?

Like it or not, and no matter what we do, bullying is something that happens in our schools and in our classrooms. What we can do, however, is take steps to discourage it, and, if it starts, to stop it. Bullying can have a severe (and often long-term) effect on its victims – children who are bullied are more likely to:

  • Have low self-esteem
  • Suffer from depression or anxiety
  • Be socially withdrawn or isolated
  • Have lower academic achievements
  • Be unable to form healthy, trusting relationships in the future

It isn’t only those on the receiving end whose lives are impacted – children who frequently bully are more likely to:

  • Drop out of or be expelled from school
  • Engage in criminal behaviour
  • Suffer from depression or anxiety
  • Be abusive as adults

Bullying is also a child protection issue – as teachers we are expected to ensure the safety and well-being of our students while they are in our classrooms.

It all sounds pretty serious, doesn’t it. It’s pretty clear that bullying is something we need to do something about.

What exactly is bullying?

When preparing for this workshop I encountered several perfectly well-meaning adults (teachers among them) who tried to tell me that bullying is a natural part of growing up – and that children shouldn’t be weird if they don’t want to be victims. I want to make it clear from the very beginning that children being mean/rude to each other, and bullying, are not necessarily the same thing.

As children and teenagers grow up they are developing their social skills – and yes, being rude, mean to each other or simply being inconsiderate is to some extent a natural part of growing up. As adults we don’t love everyone all the time, and so it’s kind of understandable that kids don’t either. A child calling a classmate names because they have had an argument at school earlier that day does not necessarily constitute bullying – they may easily be best friends again the following morning. So how do we know what is and isn’t bullying – when is it ok to assume a situation will swiftly blow over (perhaps with a brief word to the students involved), and when do we need to intervene more seriously?

The Anti-bullying Alliance (who produce some great resources about bullying and who provided many of the facts I used in this workshop) defines bullying as follows:

‘The repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can by physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or in cyberspace’. 

So, what does this mean for our classrooms? Well, for a start it tells us that for something to constitute bullying, it needs to be repetitive. A one-off incident, whilst it obviously needs to be addressed (and depending on the severity, parents may need to be informed) does not constitute bullying. Likewise, bullying needs to be intentional. A child telling another that their hair looks weird simply because they haven’t considered that it may be hurtful the other person is not bullying – rather it invites a discussion about what are polite and impolite things to say to people. Bullying involves an imbalance of power – people are bullied as a result of a real or perceived difference and therefore a scrap between two equal friends is unlikely to be bullying.

Bullying isn’t only the traditional ‘beating someone up’ that we often think of. As this definition addresses, bullying can be:

Verbal

  • name calling
  • teasing
  • mocking
  • taunting
  • threats

Physical

  • violence of any kind
  • intimidating behaviour
  • theft
  • intentional damage of possessions

Emotional

  • excluding people
  • tormenting
  • ridiculing
  • humiliation
  • spreading rumours

Cyberbullying

  • Messages or actions (for example taking photos or video recordings) that are designed to cause offence, anxiety or humiliation

How do we know if a student is being bullied? As an EFL/EAL/ESOL teacher we have the additional challenge that we do not necessarily speak L1. A student may keep quiet about bullying as they do not have the language skills to easily speak to their teacher and be understood. It also means that we can’t necessarily follow what is being whispered about who in the classroom. We can however notice some things – signs of bullying such as:

  • Sudden changes in behaviour
  • Students skipping classes
  • Becoming nervous, losing confidence, or suddenly becoming withdrawn
  • Not doing as well in school
  • Exclusion of particular students (for example in group or pair work)

I think one of my students is being bullied. So what do I do now?

It has to be said that first and foremost the school has a lot of responsibility when it comes to addressing bullying. Schools need to have a good anti-bullying policy. They need to take bullying seriously, and all reports of bullying must be investigated. They need to encourage good behaviour (and to do so must explicitly address this with the children). They need to train their staff about it.

On the teachers’ level, teachers need to make sure students know how to report bullying behviour. They need to know the correct definition of bullying – this helps to know the difference between normal, everyday conflict, and genuine bullying. They need to take every report of bullying seriously, and stick to the facts. They need to ensure that they don’t stop until the incident is resolved, and maintain communication with everyone involved – this could be school management, the students involved, students’ parents, or all three.

In the grand scheme of things though this will vary depending on the school you work for – if you’re unsure who you should talk to if you suspect bullying or you don’t know if the school has an anti-bullying policy or not, ask someone!

How can I talk about bullying in my classroom?

There’s no ultimate ‘right way’ to discuss bullying with your students. Some suggestions might be:

  • Discuss it at the beginning of the academic year or new semester – teachers often use the first lesson or so to discuss appropriate and inappropriate classroom behaviour and to create or sign ‘class contracts’. An activity or two about bullying could easily be worked into this.
  • Tie it in with anti-bullying week. The Anti-bullying Alliance holds an annual ‘Anti-bullying Week’ in schools across the UK – this year it will be the 14th-18th November.
  • When it links well with the syllabus. Often coursebooks contain topics which present personality adjectives, or discuss, for example, what it takes to be a good friend. This could link well with an activity about verbal bullying – what are nice things or mean things to say to (or about) someone.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss it as and when needed. I’ve had classes where students have repeatedly laughed at or teased a student for making mistakes or some kind of physical or verbal tic. Don’t be afraid to address rude or mean behaviour when it starts – this can help stop something before it becomes a problem.

What can I use in my class?

Stop A Bully: This Canadian site contains lots of resources both for schools and teachers. I particularly like the idea of the Anti-bullying comic strip – students could easily create their own, perhaps with an Anti-bullying superhero as the star.

Childnet International: Last year Anti-bullying week focused on the theme of cyberbullying, and there are some great resources available here. The ‘Safer Internet Day’ video (scroll down the page) could easily be used as part of a listening activity with a teen class.

Bullying. No Way!: An Australian site with lots of resources, including videos which could be used for listening activities, and ideas for creating roleplays and posters which could easily be done with EFL students.

Kamaron Institute: Another site with a variety of lesson plans for different ages or levels, including one specific ESOL lesson plan on friendship.

Bullyproof Classroom: I’ve used an activity along the lines of ‘Wrinkled Wanda’ before – it was a great addition to a couple of lessons with pre-teens on personality adjectives and describing people. I’ve also used some similar ideas to the ‘positive self-talk’ activity with teens – particularly useful coming up to exam season when they’re inevitably feeling pretty stressed! I also love the idea of getting students to research the meaning of their names – I think this would be a great thing to do in a multilingual class, when names students are not familiar with are often the first thing to mark children out as ‘different’.

TeachersPayTeachers: I often view this site as one of my teaching ‘secret weapons’! It has tons of great printables on different topics, and a search for ‘bullying’ or ‘anti-bullying’ throws up a lot of results. You need an account to download, but it’s free to sign up, and despite the name there are loads of things which are free to download (just remember to select ‘free’ in the side menu when you search!).

Finally, to find out more information about bullying, I’d recommend checking out the websites for the NSPCC, the Anti-bullying Allicance, Kidscape, this article from the Guardian and this page of TES resources.  

New things I’ve tried this month – May

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Again, a few days late with this post, sorry! The end of the month always tends to be rather hectic, with a combination of marking students’ tests and paperwork. Last month was busier than most, as one of my colleagues was on a week-long school trip: so for me, a week worth of doubling-up classes and extra students!

It’s probably because of the craziness of the last month that my new things I’ve tried are both technology related, rather than specifically for teaching. There are two great websites I’d like to share this month – I hope you find one or both of them useful!

Canva

Canva bills itself as a tool which ‘makes design simple for everyone’. I have to say it’s an absolute pleasure to find a site like this, and it truly lives up to its name! Canva is a free online design software, filled with templates, graphics and beautiful fonts. With it you can design logos, graphics for social media, and even things like save-the-date cards and letterheads.

It’s Canva I have to thank for the lovely new banner and blog graphics on my site – I have to say I’ve found using it rather addictive!

Prezi

Prezi is another website with a wonderful piece of professional-looking software – which you can access for free! For those of us who have to do presentations as part of their work (or even as part of their teaching) Prezi provides a more interesting template than the traditional Powerpoint presentation. Rather than functioning as a standard series of slides, Prezi enables you to start with a visual overview of your entire presentation. Then you can zoom into the key details and move fluidly back and forth between them.

Later this week I’ll be running a training workshop at the British Council in Prague – and I’m really excited to be using a Prezi rather than a normal boring presentation 🙂

What are your favourite websites/online tools?

How do you use them in your teaching?