Small Groups > Whole Class

*Malaysia posts coming soon*

I’m three months in to my fourth year of teaching, and ever since day one (back in San Jose, teaching 2nd grade), I’ve preferred small group time to whole class teaching. I always feel like more of a real teacher when I’m working with less than 10 students at a time. Whole class teaching can be fun, rewarding, and intellectually stimulating, but in small group contexts I feel like I can really meet students’ needs and make them feel significant.

After doing math homework after school with a student who struggles in that subject, she got 5/6 on her pop quiz a few days later.

At lunch, I “invite” (OK require) students who failed their math quizzes or tests to have a math party and help them fix the errors in their assessments. They roll their eyes when I call it a party, but then they all end up smiling the whole time. They feel relieved to be in a non-threatening environment, away from high-achieving students who make them self-conscious.

Students who do 100% of their homework for a whole month, regardless of accuracy, are rewarded for being “Homework Marathoners”. In June, students got homemade snickerdoodles. For the July marathoners, I popped popcorn and let them pick YouTube videos to watch during lunch. This gave me a chance to get to know them better and see them in a more relaxed atmosphere.

This afternoon I helped a grade 2 student finish her water color painting that she’s finishing in time for Mothers’ Day (which in Thailand is on Monday). Sitting there with her, and helping her paint the sky above a barn with a mama chicken and baby chicks, I learned that her brother is a student I know, I learned all of her relatives’ birthdays, I learned what toys she wants for Christmas, and I learned of her favorite vacation spots. In regular class, there would not have been enough time to learn that much about one student. I only have her class  of 32 twice a week for an hour.

In San Jose, I taught a couple after-school interventions, held homework club, and taught yoga, and I was always shocked at how well students do in a more intimate setting. They feel special, they feel important, and I feel like a teacher.

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