Tuesday, November 3, 2009

(Pretty) Teaching Aides

Alongside my thesis, I teach English and debating to high school students, aged all the way from 11 to 17 years old. It's a real pleasure of mine, and I'm lucky to have a part-time job which I enjoy so much and which allows me to write for big portions of the day. Over the years, the most important lesson I have learned is that as a teacher, you need to be incredibly flexible with every new class: no student (or group of students) is alike.

Recently, I've started teaching groups of new students aged 13-14, who presented me with an entirely new set of cultural and teaching differences. For one thing, the group is comprised of both boys and girls together, which is a difference, but moreover, the students are really reluctant to hear feedback about themselves in public: they want to know how to improve, but become deeply embarrassed to talk about their strengths and weaknesses in front of each other.

Enter my newest invention! I made up these individual pocket books for each student in which I write feedback on slips of paper for the students to read in their own time. That way, I can feel as though I am saving them the embarrassment they seem to feel, but also communicating with them about their progress.

Since this group is particularly competitive, I added a small table where I can put different stickers for their behaviour: yellow for effort, green for improvement, blue for excellence and red for bad behaviour (signified by a grumpy face on the card!)Every few weeks or so, I will count up the good stickers and award small prize bags like these - they seem obsessed with both chewing gum and stationery - to the students who are either doing really well or trying really hard, or both. It seems to have worked so far: the students are happy, motivated and keen to contribute and concentrate, and I think they are really learning well.


  1. Excellent initiative. That is a really proactive way of engaging your students. I am very impressed.

  2. Oh this is such a lovely idea! If I knew debating meant lovely stationery I would have been more interested as a kid!! I love your books Kate - you are a gorgeous teacher!

  3. I am so in love with the pocket books :)

    And you're an awesome teacher, Kate! I love it when teachers really try to engage their students and show that they care. It makes learning so much more fun! :)

  4. This makes me want to join the class!! You would be a wonderful teacher xx

  5. This is a great idea! And you clearly care, which must make them feel all nice and loved.

  6. Such great ideas, and I love that you personalize the books to minimize the students' embarrassment - but you turned the books into something so cute! I love the prize bags as well.

    I work with 8th grade girls at church and there are 16 of them. It's difficult to keep them motivated BUT I have promised them a party at the end of each semester - with goody bags for all. Your bags are exactly what I'll be giving them!!!


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