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Time and time again


New teachers often have trouble with time management. Some new teachers can finish an entire unit in a class and others won’t even finish a page. Finding the Goldilocks’s zone comes with experience.

With beginner students, we want to go S-L-O-W, right? Well, yes…and no. We don’t want to go so slow that the students are bored and are now daydreaming. We don’t want to be too repetitive and we want them to advance.

But we don’t want to fly through material so quickly that our students’ heads are spinning. They need time to absorb the language point, apply what they have learned, and practice. Practice is key!

Always schedule time for students to practice. If they don’t apply what they have just learned, it will be quickly forgotten. We also need to remember that just because something seems really simple or easy for us, it may not be the case for our students.

Which brings us to an important point: Adults don’t like to say that they don’t understand something, so they won’t. They won’t speak up for a variety of reasons. They don’t want to look foolish, they think other students do understand, or they don’t quite know how to tell you that they don’t understand.

So, how can we check if our students truly understand? Can we just ask them, “Do you understand?” Well, if you ask that question, nine times out of ten, you will either get no answer or a “yes”. Instead, ask follow up questions and try to extract answers from your students. Make sure that your questions are not just yes or no questions. If students can answer your questions, then they do indeed understand and you can move on to another topic. If you get wrong answers, or worse, blank stares, then you have some more work to do.

For example: You’re teaching a lesson about emotions and you want to check if the students understand some of the vocabulary (nervous, excited, frustrated, etc.) 

Teacher: I locked my keys inside my car. How do I feel?
Students: Frustrated!
Teacher: Today is my birthday and my best friend is taking me out to my favorite restaurant. Do I feel frustrated?
Students: No!
Teacher: …No? How do I feel?
Students: Excited! Happy!
Teacher: How do you feel if you have to speak in front of a lot of people that you do not know?
Students: Nervous!

Questions like these can be used to check comprehension or instructions. They can hone in on specific points that need to be addressed or reviewed.

We need to stay focused on our lesson and objectives. As much as we don’t want students to derail our lesson, we need to be mindful of ourselves. It is easy to find ourselves on a tangent. Try to stay on topic.  Don’t teach too much, too fast.