Teaching at a Public High/Junior High School tips

I have been teaching in Taiwan for several years now.

When I first taught here I was doing the Kindy thing. I really enjoyed it but the whole thing about it being illegal wasn’t agreeing with me.

I moved down to Jiayi 5 months ago or so. Now I am working for a company that is contracted to find teachers for one of the public schools here. I teach Junior High years 1 and 2 and High school year 2.

Now of course this classroom situation is totally different than I have had in the past. I have between 40 and 50 people in each of my classes. I only see each class once a week (except for the High School class of whom I see twice a week).

At first things were going OK. I was the new face in the class and they were farily well behaved. Now it seems as if they are getting bored. One of the classes is totally out of control.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to teach such classes. I have one book to work with and the students’ levels are really mixed. Some can’t answer when I ask them their name. The book is too difficult for 70% of the class.

I am looking for ideas about how to make classes more interesting. Like games. But with 50 kids it seems like games might be difficult to properly manage.

I would appreciate any advice. Thanks

LBT, try breaking them into groups. That’s what I used to do with huge sr high school classes. Give them a project to do as a group. Sure the slower ones won’t do much, but the class will run much smoother.

How is the grading system set up?

I’ll try that. I am limited to teaching from the book though so I am fairly limited as to how much of the work I can do with them in groups.

For example, today we did a lesson on occupations. There were about 20 pictures of different jobs and on top listed the 20 jobs by name. They had to match the pic to the job.

If I break them into groups I think it will just turn out that the member of the group with the strongest English would just tell the others the answer.

That is pretty fecked up actually. With 50 kids how the hell do they expect me to grade them?

What I have done is basically just test their fluency and how much of the material that was covered that they understand. I pretty much had to come up with a grade for each of them in one class. The class only runs for 50 minutes. I asked them 3 questions and looked through their books to see how if they have been doing their work. That gave me less that a minute with each student!

Of the 3 questions (given the lack of time available I was limited to 3) I asked 2 questions from the book and one that stimulates conversation.

I had a couple of kids that did almost nothing in their book and didn’t understand any of the questions I asked even though I review them prior to the “test”.

With the High School class I didn’t give anyone lower than 75% cause I don’t want this mark to screw up their chances of getting into College/University. I would not normally agree with this approach but given the setup (extreme range of levels in one class) I don’t think it is all their faults.

well, the flip side of that is the situation you now have - by ensuring them all a pass, very few will care one iota for what you present in class, even if it is stimulating stuff.

you have to weigh these things - i don’t care if a kid in a class can’t do it because he isn’t up to the level of the class, but if he tries, i consider that. students who don’t try get graded accordingly, including those for whom the work is too easy.

get the smarter ones running the small groups that you set up, but not just telling answers - helping the others to undestand the material. tell them (privately) that their grade is (somewhat) dependent on successfully attempting to communicate the lesson to the slower ones …

good luck.

With that set-up you’re not there to teach. You’re there to be the token foreigner to prove how progressive their school is.

50 minutes per week per class, 50 students per class = 1 minute of your time per student per week for the one thing that you can do better than a local teacher, which is to interact with the students so that they have exerience of talking with a native speaker.

You’re losing control because they’re bored, because they’re not participating in the class. If they can’t answer “what is your name?” then what hope have they of following you through the book? Most are going to have no idea what you’re talking about and as their previous experience of education has been all about memorising the answers the whole period with you will be a bewildering and uninteresting time. Not your fault, but that’s how it is.

Do you physically have space for group work? Can you control the groups, I mean keep discipline? Do you have a TA?

In your position the best thing might be to create worksheets based on what’s in the book, or work out a formula for getting through the bookwork that will keep everyone occupied. You have to keep them busy at something they can achieve. Some form of game or competition can keep them focused. Remember that someone else has already taught them the grammar and vocabulary. Your job, if anything, is to reinforce it and make them use it.

Do you take a roll call? That can easily be ten minutes of class time, and fun. Force them to find new ways to answer. Write each reply on the board and keep a total of how many times it comes up. Set a limit. Pretty soon they’ll be answering with Aloha teacher, yo, my name is Johnny, and more.

Have them read dialogues or reading passages in groups. Half the class is George and half is Mary, or each row of kids reads one line of dialogue. Getting underconfident individuals to read aloud won’t help much, but you could have them each read just one word. It’s amazing how hard it is for some kids to do even that. They’ll be a lot more confident in groups, just insist on them being loud enough. After you go through it a couple of times you can spice it up by, for instance, counting out loud while they’re doing it. Every time you reach some pre-determined number the group that is speaking has to perform some forfeit. Stand up, stand on your chair, stand on one leg, whatever. It focuses their minds on the reading, and once they’re into it you can insist on proper pronunciation.

I used to do the first few questions of each section, to model the answers and to give the more advanced students the chance to show off. I also pick people at random and push/guide them through giving me the answer. If they can’t do it you need to know who the smart kids are that can help them while you accidentally turn your back, but make the kid you chose read you ‘his’ answer.

Allow a set amount of time for each section, and after you’ve done the first few Qs you have a bit of time to walk around and look at people’s books. Have them finish it for homework, and move on to the next section.

Also, and this worked wonders for me, you have to keep a record for every student. I make up an excel sheet of student names and numbers with columns for their bookwork grades. There’s an additional column for their classwork grade, which I set initially to whatever the pass grade is, say 70%

Print 2 copies, give one to the class leader every week - or to the home room teacher.

You don’t need to collect books in. Check them while they’re doing bookwork in class. You don’t have to see every book every week. Just look at your list and pick the students you don’t have grades for. Mark the work, write the grade on your sheet, and type it up later. It takes five minutes per class. and can automatically calculate running averages for each student.

If a kid doesn’t have their book, hasn’t done homework, etc then deduct points from their classwork grade (one per offence) and make a note to check that kid the following week. If they talk in class, goof off, etc then deduct points. If they volunteer answers - even if they’re wrong - then add points. Give points for good homework, interesting replies when you call the roll, anything that indicates effort. You can even assign someone to keep score for you.

Pretty soon they will see that their initial pass grade is turning into a fail or a merit and that they have the power to change it even if they aren’t very good at English. In making the effort to keep you happy they’ll hopefully actually learn something too. You can also set objectives such as an average grade for the whole class that will earn them some reward such as a games class or no homework for a week.

This is hardly progressive teaching, but with these numbers and limitations your first priority has to be to keep them focused or else it will be mayhem.

Good er… make your own luck!

Thanks Loretta. Great suggestions.

do you teach by yourself or do you team-teach with another teacher? (like a Taiwanese English teacher)

If you team-teach, I suggest breaking the class into two groups, you’ll take one group and the other teacher will take the other… it’s much easier handling 20-25 students at a time than 50

I teach alone.

I am starting to get the hang of it.

I have a sheet of paper with all their names on it. I give them a point when they show any sort of participation in class and maybe 2 points if they really gave an effort. This seems to be working well.

I told them that these points add up to make up their final grade.

Simple I know. I just found out that I will be teaching them for the rest of the year so I want to get to know them as much as possible and I think having all their English names in front of me and where they sit helps a lot.

Any games ideas would be appreciated.

I’d just like to add a couple of ideas to this already excellent thread of teaching ideas.

Two things that I’ve found work well with reluctant students in Taiwan are dictations and drills. They may not be the most fun, but the students will do the work.

Read the following to learn more about doing dictations:


onestopenglish.com/Teacher_S … /tip_3.htm

This article will tell you how to do drills:


A lot depends on the maturity level of the students. Student centered activities are the best bet. But this can sometime lead to mayhem as stated above. I find that short skits work great. Look for a book called “Skits in English” or search around on the net. Make sure to find funny ones with some “over the top” situations. My students really get into the drama and foreign gesticulation. If you have a video camera or even a small camera that can take short videos plus a projector or some other display device… use that and show it to them afterwards! It’s pretty fun actually and yes the students do learn.

The excel worksheet definitely works for me as well. Especially if you can display all the students grades on the projector!

Worksheets, sentences, and other types of homework are kind of useless as one or two students will do them. The rest will copy the answers. Its very normal.

One additional thought is to be clear about weather the school gives you the power to give the students bad grades. If they want you to have a “minimum grade” then make sure NOT to tell the students about it! I had one school that basically told me the students were not allowed to make under a 60, even if they: (/rant) threw away their books, talked chatted, fought with their classmates all the time, called the teacher (me) the Taiwanese equivalent of “f* off” and “bast@rd”, didn

Projector. Hmmm.

I’ll ask if the school has one. If they do then that will make life soooo much easier.

But the problem with a projector is if I don’t have a computer to attatch to it then what use is it?

Projectors are expensive. NT20,000 minimum.

i remember back in the stone age when I was in school that they had projectors that used lith film pages that they shaned a light through and magnafied.

Do they use something different in classrooms now? (apart from modern projectors hooked up to computers which i’m pretty damn sure they don’t have in public schools here)

I’m pretty sure that I am just a face to get face in the school. But I feel that the students deserve more than that.

Thanks for the advice people. This is a good thread. It’s been useful to me.

Loretta knows the score.

Yea projectors are expensive. I wouldn’t buy one with your own cash unless you plan to use it yourself… Like watching DVD’s on that empty wall in your new apartment you just moved into! They are a pain to lug around.

Most high schools I’ve seen are equipped with projectors, at least in Taipei. There might be a cryptic room somewhere in the dungeons of your school where you can sign one out. If you go yourself to get it the person taking care of it might look at you as if a pink elephant just walked in the room. Get a student to rent it out and take it to the classroom for you. You can have some students transport it for you to your next class too. It’s kind of their job.

A few more thoughts that might make things go more smoothly for you: