Here are a few suggestions that I have found to be very helpful when teaching English classes. Too often, some of these concepts are confusing to students, and they fail to grasp onto them, causing them to dislike the subject. I have found that consistently repeating these five practices greatly increased my students’ understanding and enjoyment of the class.
1. Always give the same example when learning a concept so that it will stick in the students’ minds better.
2. When working on diagramming sentences, after using some of the examples in the textbook, diagram a few sentences about your students and things that happened at school. They usually love this.
3. Make writing enjoyable. If students write a few sentences a day and enjoy it, the harder and more difficult assignments suddenly become much less of a chore. Using journals daily is a great practice for this.
4.Tackle larger assignments like research papers in smaller chunks. Make each step due fairly soon, give a grade on each step, and keep your students accountable. Dragging it out for weeks feeds procrastination, apathy, and is a breeding ground for students hating writing. It is much more palatable for them to tackle it and write while they have the thoughts and ideas in their brains. In a week, they will have forgotten much of it. I often will make something due every day for two weeks during research paper season, and we will often spend twenty minutes of class doing it. I give them good examples (often from former students’ writing) and cheer them on. They work and write and turn in some good stuff.
5. Read quality literature (including poetry) aloud each day. They need to hear it, and the more they get used to it, the more they will appreciate it. Use voice inflections and be a little dramatic when the piece calls for it – (“The Raven,” anyone?) I once had a class that was really struggling with literature. I got another student to read one of the plays in the literature book aloud with me. We were all laughing so hard (it was a comedy) that I had tears running down my cheeks. They began to enjoy literature much more after that.
CONTRIBUTOR: Deana Swanson