Dealing with your First SSBlue class
Okay so i’m almost 2 months into teaching and I’m pretty confident about walking into a new SS class. I have a few and I feel like i’m getting on really well with the kids and that they like me. So when my DOS said, you have a new SSBlue on Monday, I thought ‘Fantastic! I love it!’. So I spoke with the local teacher who taught them first and planned my lesson. I took extra materials and games with me and of course my bubble wand and lots of stickers. I walked into the class and started talking to them (with the help of my wonderful TA). One parent asked me to giver her kid an English name, which I was more than happy to since there was an Amy I had to call this little man Rory (Dr Who) which made me smile. I thought it was all going great and then class started……… I shut the door and Rory started crying and asking for his mum, the TA was in like shot calming him down and I gave him a sticker. All was OK. I started my lesson with a quick TPR activity which got a few of them laughing, then the hello song, and that Rory crying again, which made another one cry, then like a bunch of domino’s they all shortly followed suit. I whipped out the bubbles and let them all blow their own and got them back on my side. Except Rory who was trying to escape the classroom to look for his mum who had disappeared. I carried on with my lesson, having listened to the previous EFers podcast about teaching SS so I used some of those techniques. The students started to get it and a tiny bit of progress was made. I was so happy. Then Rory let out a huge cry so I asked the TA to take him to find his mum. Another TA came in to help me. I played a couple of games and then went back to drilling the flashcards. They forgot everything, and wouldn’t speak at all! I got them to sit on the floor and make a tower with the flashcards but no one was responding. Every other game in my arsenal bombed and I didn’t know what to do but to get the colour handouts and pens out for them. I felt so bad that 40 minutes into the lesson and no progress had been made. I completed my ODIN and got out of school as fast as Usane Bolt. On the way home I met another EF teacher who I spoke to about the class and he smiled and said ‘yep! That’s how it goes’. I realised at that point that it wasn’t me that failed. These kids are 3 years old, they are only starting to speak their language and learn the foundations of Chinese grammar. Most of them have never been to school before and all of a sudden their in a class of other kids with a weird looking foreign lady talking at them in a strange language. It’s no wonder they couldn’t remember anything I taught them ten minutes ago. Crying is normal, I mean if it were me at 3 years old and a Chinese lady was talking to me in Chinese I would be crying for my mum too.
Here’s what to do:
If they cry, bribe them. Use stickers, sweets, bubbles, anything! Distract them into happiness without disrupting your lesson.
If they don’t speak to you at all during the lesson, don’t worry. You look strange and you’re a stranger. They don’t know these other kids either and want their mum. It’s not you, it’s the situation that they don’t like.
Have 1 million and 1 games in your arsenal. Kids are brilliant at games and love them but if they are playing in a game in a foreign language they may not get it or like it. Think of games you played as a kid, and ask the local teachers what they played. Make sure to explain these to your TA before the lesson so they know how to explain to the kids easily. If one game bombs move on to the next.
Go with the flow. I had a perfect lesson plan but it wasn’t full proof and I ended up not using most of it. The aims remained the same but I had to adapt a lot to the kids needs. If they smiled and made lots of noise I was onto a winner but if they stared at me blankly I moved on very quickly. Kids get bored easily so you have to as well and be able to move from one activity to the next with flow.
Be the duracell bunny. These kids are coming to you at night. They may be tired and really not up for learning anything. If you can be highly energetic it will catch on. Don’t let them see you tired because they will think you don’t like them. Overacting goes a long way for 3 year olds.
Don’t be disheartened if your lesson aims aren’t met. You haven’t failed at anything. They are only 3. You may be a native speaker or it’s your second language but you find it easy. You have had years to perfect your language, they haven’t had any lessons before. Think of your first time learning a language. It took you a while before you remembered the word for ‘hello’. They are trying to process their language and yours. Give them time, and be patient. They will click soon.
If they don’t like you at the beginning they will at the end. I’ve been told by a few teachers that it can take weeks or months for them to open up to you so don’t think they will ignore you forever.
I’m no expert on teaching SSBlues, or teaching for that matter, but these are just a couple things I’m sharing with you because they happened to me and I felt awful after my first lesson with them. But EF is a great family and they helped me to see that I didn’t fail at all and it will take time for them and me to get into a flow. This is by no means a how-to guide for this class so if you agree or disagree with anything please let me know any other tips, tricks and hacks for teaching SSBlue, and any other level for that matter to.