Monday, October 15, 2007

Getting into the Flow...My 2nd Week of Teaching

* Me with my first-ever lesson plan!

I am happy to report that I survived my second week of teaching with all of the wonderful momentum of my first week. With my dignity still intact, my creativity stretched, and my pantomime skills sharpened, I have found that I really really dig this new gig of mine.

After the first week, I knew I'd have some repeat classes and I would need to have an actual lesson plan. This was the really daunting part, since (as I mentioned before) my only instructions are: a) to get the students to speak; and b) teach them about American culture. This is soooo open-ended. Since I am assigned no particular topic, subject, or time frame, I can only assume that I have the whole lesson to teach about whatever I deem worthy of attention. Having never made anything close to a lesson plan before, I was totally stumped.

This is where my wonderful roommates come in. Not only am I blessed to live in a fantastic apartment with a couple of fantastic girls, but it just so happens that they're both English teachers! My American roommate, a friend from my study abroad days in Graz, just finished her second year as an English Teaching Assistant with the Fulbright exchange. My other roommate, an Austrian, speaks perfect British English and teaches English (and Spanish) at a local high school in Graz. As I'm still new to the world of education, they are both awesome resources as I flounder and flop through my first lessons.

The night before my second week began, I sat in front of my computer, frantically searching for material on the internet or in the resources provided in the training week (at the castle!) from which I could make a lesson. After 1.5 hours of this, I finally went to my roommates and pleaded for help. Together with their ideas and direction I made a ROCKIN' lesson plan about concerts. It was the *perfect* lesson plan: it was on a topic that interests the boys (bands, concerts), and it involved brainstorming (a great opportunity for the students to just shout out any words they want from their seats--yelling things out is always a good activity for them), a text (both practical for the new vocabulary and interesting, since it was about a riot after a cancelled punk rock concert), and a role play (they had to hold a town meeting to decide if Slipknot [their band of choice] comes to Weiz, presenting the view of the teenager/grandparent/local businessman/etc. The students were very creative with the activity, and it was a HUGE success, both among students and teachers. I never could have pulled it off without the help of my roommates. And since it was such a huge success, it completely motivated me to come up with more totally amazing lesson plans!

At the end of my second week, several of the teachers asked me how I was enjoying teaching so far. "So far, so good" was the general vein of my reply...actually, I'm fantastically enthusiastic about this year, but it *was* only the second week. It suprises me, but I feel like I'm a natural when I'm up there at the front of the classroom. Like it may actually be the perfect fit. That this teaching thing might stick. Granted, what I do is by no means they same as being a "real" teacher (I don't have to grade papers, discipline students, etc.), but it's a good crash course. And with positive feedback from both the students and the teachers, I know I'm on the right track.

I did some brainstorming for future lesson plans, and I realized that I am badly in need of interesting materials from America. And this is where YOU can help me out! I would be über-happy to receive any of the following:

  • To my teacher friends: I would LOVE anything having to do with American schools, especially high schools. I tried writing my old high school to ask for materials, but I never heard back. Anything like hall passes, detention slips, class schedules, student handbooks, honor codes (honor codes especially: Austrian students didn't believe me when I told them that Americans don't cheat--they thought I was making up the idea of an honor code to scare them...there's a whole cheating culture/system here...), lists of clubs/extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Sports: Actually, here I am open to both materials and advice. The students (being almost all boys) really want to learn about American sports. I know nothing about American sports. Ideas and any sort of sports paraphernalia welcome!
  • Fast Food: Fast Food will make a great lesson. They have fast food here of course, but even the McDonald's choices are different. Maybe fast food menus/nutritional information/etc.
  • New York City: New York friends, here is where you come in! I would love to make a lesson about NYC. For this, I would be greatly appreciative of subway maps (several--enough to split the class into groups so they can work with the maps), Metrocards, brochures for touristy things or free events around the city, and anything else that may come to you in a brilliant brainwave that is "typical New York."
  • Jobs: I thought I'd also do a lesson on teenage jobs. For this, I would love love love to have some sample job applications! So next time you're at the mall or a fast food place or wherever else teenagers might work and you see a "Now Hiring" sign, think of me and pick up an application? :)

I would, of course, be happy to provide my address again to whoever may need it. And there would, of course, be Thank You postcards. Oh, and I also get free international text messaging with my new plan, so if you might ever want to get a text from me, you can send me your number! Thanks so much!


Kelly said...

Rebecca, check out this website for FSU's TAs. There are some fun exercises in here to do with culture:

Lindsay said...

Rebecca... Sounds like you're having a ball and are blessed with some good resources. I'll see if I can be one of your resources as well.

Rebecca said...

Teresa, if you read this, email me at! :) Also see my comment to you on the last post...

Teresa said...

Rebecca, Here's my link suggestion. It's a large site so don't be overwhelmed.

My only advice is to mix up the nature of the activities as students learn and respond to different teaching methods. Some respond to lecture, others love in-class discussion, some love to write, others use various media to describe or express opinions artistically, some want to always work alone and others like to work in groups.

Develop a nice mix to give each type of learner a chance to participate that compliments their learning style.

One favorite excercise of mine includes a lot of the above. Post 4 variables of a given situation, the war in Iraq was what we used, on different spaces on the wall fairly well spaced apart. The students read the four sheets, yippee, they love to get out of those chairs, then you ask the questions you've prepared and the students move to the sheet that most closely describes their opinion, feeling, etc.

Be sure to ask why they chose that sheet so they aren't just following their friends.

This technique works with any topic that has more than one sensible viewpoint, which is just about every subject.

It's especially effective on dreary days when everyone is tired or dragging. Maybe keep it in your arsenal for that sluggish day.


Anonymous said...

Yay, I'm so glad you're having such a great time teaching! My friend Jenna is also loving being a Fullbright ETA in could check out her blog to see some of the lessons she's done with her Korean students--apparently they're responding really well to some of the stuff she's done. Happy teaching!

Teresa said...

Rebecca, Just thought of another lesson that is very enlightening. It's always fun to teach across the curriculum and incorporate technology into lessons. This one also involves a little math (yeah!)and is a very interesting cultural comparison.

Simply use the internet to find out how many churches to pubs there are in your town then do the same for a U.S. town.

If you don't have p.c.s in the classroom it will still work by having the students name as many churches as they can from their town. Then name the pubs.

Figure out the ratio of pubs to churches in Austria then compare those same two figures to those in a same sized town in the U.S.

It's always fun to use a bible belt state for this exercise.


And please, keep sharing your lessons. They're very inventive.


Kimberly said...

Hey Rebecca

I was thinking that boy bands might be a funny topic to cover...and you could discuss the English slang used in tabloids! Okay, maybe you want to actually educate the kids...

I'll look thru my RHS stuff and see what I can send to you.

As far as fast food being a good topic, I agree, especially since certain fast food companies have tried to break into the European market unsuccessfully. I can send you propoganda against them, but you could check out their websites for some interesting information :)

Something I've found interesting in traveling the US is how different each region is... that would be a very interesting study for the students.

I'm glad to see that you're having so much fun! Try to work too :)

Much love,

Bruce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce said...

Rebecca, I recommend you delegate some fun assignments to the students. Ask them to do internet research on specific items such as a McDonald's menu. Then have them report to class what they found, and you, as one with experienced exposure (too bad!)to Mc Donalds, can confirm their findings and make fun comments. That's the beauty of being the teacher. You don't have to do it all. You can facilitate learning and give follow-up critique because you are the expert. Of course that means you must have done your own research, but it looks like in this case, it comes with being from the American culture itself. :)

Kristin said...

Hey! I have no ideas to share on teaching but I *will* say that we are totally on the NYC stuff. Email me if there is anything specific (other than what you've posted) that will come in handy for your lessons (or yourself!) and keep an eye on the mail in the coming weeks...

~ k

the octopus said...

about the students in austria not knowing the concept of after school jobs:

dont make us sound like lazy slobs, hon ;))))))