Your TEFL Certification program is finally over. You have your TEFL certificate in your binder to prove it. Getting that certificate was such an accomplishment. You set up your resume and mailed it to schools on the list or looked at the offerings of recruiters. You also sent it to school advertisements, and finally, schools called you for interviews. You answered endless questions; some of them were unexpected. And after all this hardship, you finally landed the job you really like—teaching young TEFL learners at the elementary school level. This may happen in a lot of countries, such as South Korea, Vietnam, France, Japan and others.
Although your TEFL training did a good job in preparing you for the adult classroom, there are a few things regarding other age levels that could only be touched briefly or could not be taught within a four-week time frame. Here are some ideas to help you get started teaching your elementary class.
ORGANIZING THE CLASSROOM
You walk into an empty classroom, and you really don't know where to start. No one walked you through how to set it up. A couple of tips on this one:
(a) Ask other teachers. Veteran teachers usually have great ideas.
(b) Make it work for you. Other ideas are great, but make it make sense for you and your students. It is your classroom.
(c) Choose a theme. This is great for elementary classrooms, and it will help narrow down decorations and ideas. Good themes for second through fifth grades would be Around the World, Nautical, Sports, Modern/Tech and Fairy Tales. Of course, these are just few examples. Let’s have a closer look at the theme “Around the World.” What could you do? As students may be learning geography, so
include maps, flags, street signs and multicultural items in your classroom decoration.
Show different clocks in a row with different times to reflect time zones.
Decorate certain areas of the class, or each desk, as a different country (France, China, Argentina) or a big city (Tokyo, New York, Berlin).
Use vintage suitcases as storage containers for books.
Use a “passport” as a hall pass, a “boarding pass” for name plates, and a “travel journal” as notebooks.
Address the teacher helper as “tour guide.”
Use “first-class tickets” to reward students.
Create a board with student pictures and a sign “Best Students in the World.”
Display excellent student work as “Best Work in the World.”
This theme will give your students the feeling of travelling around the globe.
(d) Create an extra-activity area where you attach extra activities to beautiful pencils or Popsicle sticks (something that kids really like). Label it according to the current theme. Once they finish the extra activity, they may keep the item.
SETTING UP ROUTINES
In every classroom, we need routines. We need even more of them in the young-learner classroom. Before you start your first class, think about how to handle the following: lining up, handling make-up work, restroom procedures, lunch procedures, arriving at and leaving the classroom, hand signals for missing pencils, tissues, restroom, etc. Make sure you know what to do before your students come into the classroom. Be prepared to make adjustments if things can’t work as you had planned them.
Many parents love to be involved concerning the progress of their children. They like to actively support the teacher. We don’t really talk about parent communication during our TEFL certification program. Simply, we learn to teach adults. Experience, however, shows that quite a number of graduates land young-learner jobs. So how would I communicate with the parents? We don’t speak each other’s language.
You can create an e-mail notification system that contains certain key words such as homework, excellent job, etc., represented by certain pictures + the English words in your e-mail. Parents will understand and help you. I sent the parents of my elementary class a brief weekly overview of what we studied and the corresponding homework. It worked very well. A good e-mail program is www.remind.com. You can easily create a group for your class. The use of this site is free of charge.
If there is a problem with a child, ask the parents to come to school and see you. Sit together with a teacher who is familiar with the language and talk about how you together can help the child succeed in your class.
If you have additional ideas of what to do in the elementary classroom, leave a comment below. We will be happy to learn exciting strategies from each other.