This year, my teaching load was taken from me so that I can focus on my new responsibilities as a member of the Student Activities Program (under the Principal’s Office team). But because my heart is in English, I’m still tapped to substitute during times when an English teacher is absent.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I love being in the classroom. Being taken away from it is both a blessing and a curse. I get to explore new things and responsibilities and best of all, I don’t have papers to check! What I hate though, is that my interaction with the students is limited because now I face budgets and request forms and paperwork and things unrelated to academic mental exercises.
So when I am tapped to substitute, I am elated (unless it conflicts with my new job schedule; then I’m torn). While I can’t deviate much from the instructions in the teacher’s lesson plan, I can inject my own flavor in the teaching. Here are some ways I do this:
- I have a strict “English only policy” in class. Since the majority of students are not fluent in the language, they need all the practice they can get. When I enter the classroom, one option is to vary the way I greet the kids. Instead of saying, “Good morning, class!” I sometimes say, “Top of the morning to you, guys!” and I instruct them on an appropriate reply.
- At the end of the period before I leave them, I vary my greeting as well. Sometimes I use, “Farewell,” “See you tomorrow!” or sometimes I just stick with our standard, “Goodbye and thank you!”
- Getting kids to participate is sometimes a pain especially when the kids come in after recess / lunch and are on food coma. I call them by class numbers, but I base the number to call out on the day of the month or a computation (“Give me a number between 50 and 100” then I add or multiply or divide or subtract the digits to get a random class number).
- Another way to get them to participate is by letting them call each other. I call out a random class number then after that student recites, I let him call out the next person to answer. Sometimes this takes forever, though, so I give that student just ten counts to call out a classmate. This perks people up because a) they don’t want to be called but MIGHT be called because the person calling out people is their friend or b) it’s fun to see classmates squirm and groan when they are called. This works all the way to senior high school; I don’t know why.
- I secretly note the people who recite the most and give them a small prize (an extra cookie or candy I have in my secret food stash) at the end of the recitation period. This gets them hyped up and attentive because they’re not sure if I will give another prize towards the end of the period (sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t).
- Grammar drills can get boring, so I constantly make up sentences on the spot using the students and their contexts. This gets a laugh out of everybody. I make sure, though, that I don’t use embarrassing sentences. Sometimes I get it wrong, though, and a student is embarrassed. Processing and taking time to apologize and clarify is important. One pro to this strategy is I get to know the students better. They give me names of people and what they usually do/like doing, and I turn those pieces of information into sentences.
That’s it off the top of my head. These things work whatever the grade level I use them in; I just usually have to be mindful of whether the class is getting more rowdy than participative.