Imagine your very first day as a teacher. You try to prepare for all eventualities.

You memorize your lesson plan, study your new class roster, arrange your materials, choose a few extras, get ready. The bell rings, you enter the classroom on cotton legs, and suddenly you are faced with triple the expected number of students. The other two teachers are out sick, you learn; nobody warned you. This is what had happened to me. And it kept on happening with maddening irregularity and complete unpredictability.
Activities that help.
*switch on an audio warm up. It does not matter if you have 10 or 30 students chorus, it will just be very loud.
* while the class repeats after the speaker! write down any current writing exercise quickly on the board.
* sort through all your remaining activities. Figure out how many groups you can organize. Distribute your texts, cards, pictures, props and keep your fingers crossed.
* suggest that each group choose one speaker or presenter. This way, you will be able to check on every activity and economize on the time.
* always have a video clip or a song recording ready to finish up the lesson with.
* be sure to write down Home tasks on the board!

Some Common Obstacles.
When you have to act as a substitute teacher, both your class and your colleague's class should be on the same page, literally.: same Unit, same level, same exercises. It seldom happens in real life.
In my country's school system, a class of 30kids is divided into three groups, with three teachers per class. My older colleague was a strict disciplinarian; her students were made to memorize new words, grammar rules et cetera by heart, then parrot it back. No, they could not really speak. My younger colleague's class had no idea discipline existed, yet they were a lively communicative bunch. My own group could speak, read, write, plus we were engaged in an international internet project. They deeply resented the sudden onslaught of their not so savvy classmates.
When the headmaster told me the situation would continue for at least a term, I mentally rolled my sleeves up.

We all work with mixed ability classes. All I had to do was mix triple the usual number of students well. How?

* identify all the strong students! bring some extra tasks for them.
* help the weaker students perform the allotted tasks! build up their confidence.
* motivate! explain that they can all become a part of a project if they work hard.

try to find a balance. All work and no play makes Jack and Jane dull kids. All play and no work makes them dull or disruptive.
Results and Residue.
*during the autumn school break, my young colleague asked me to teach her about project work. She became a great coordinator.
* the older colleague told me she would never forgive me, because students and parents kept demanding that she us some new activities and really teach the children to speak.

Next time I opened the door to find triple the number of students, I was mentally prepared. You only feel the shock once.
Never show fear. Never shout. Smile, say, " Hello children, I am so happy to see you!" Encourage them to do the same.
Nina MK, Ph.D.

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