Small Change, Big Effect

“Why don’t you stand on the other side of the room?”

“Why don’t you stand on the other side of the room?” Lisanne asked after observing my Kindergarten High lesson one Saturday. Lisanne is a teacher at MY English School. Prior to her observation, I usually stood on the side of the classroom where my back was to a glass window facing the lobby. That meant the children saw their parents, who were usually standing outside of the room watching their children. That also meant the children had more distractions because they could see all sorts of other things happening outside of the classroom.

The following week, I made sure to follow Lisanne’s advice. I positioned myself on the other side of the room. Almost immediately, I noticed a significant change in the classroom dynamics. With nothing but a plain wall behind me, the children had almost no distractions. It felt easier to catch their attention. It still wasn’t 100% full attention, but at least I no longer had to compete with a parent who was waving to their kid urging them to behave, or with whatever colorful distraction behind me that may catch the children’s wandering eyes.

The tiny change—in this case, the place where I positioned myself—led to a better situation both for me and the children.

“Why did you have only 2 lines?”

More recently, Alina, another teacher, observed one of my first-year elementary-age lessons. In our post-observation discussion, she asked, “Why did you have only 2 lines for Dice Bucket?” That was how I saw other teachers run the game; that was what I saw in a training video that I watched. Alina’s suggestion to create more lines only came to mind during our discussion.

Again, with the tiny change of making a third or even a fourth line during the game, it instantly led to some noticeable changes. I tried it in my other first-year class. First, the students got more oral practice of the target language (in this case, CVC words). Second, the waiting time between turns for the children was reduced. As a result, students were not as distracted.

Sometimes all we need to address a particular issue in the classroom is a small tweak in how we do certain things.

Following these two conversations and looking back on previous lessons, I realized that sometimes all we need to address a particular issue in the classroom is a small tweak in how we do certain things. I sometimes fall into a routine regarding how I do lessons. Feedback from fellow MY teachers on what changes I can carry out, big or small, is helpful.

How about you? What tiny change(s) have you made that led to a big change in your classroom? Are you able to get helpful feedback from colleagues? For those experiencing a classroom issue at the moment, have you tried reflecting on what changes you can make? If you have, what change was it?

recent posts

Classroom hack – How to erase permanent marker.

One of these pens it not like the other.

Two of these permanent markers found their way to Sakata.

In my neighborhood, I have to write my name on my rubbish bag in permanent marker. After doing that recently, I put the pen in my pocket, took it to school, and wrote all over the classroom whiteboard with it. I had done the exact same thing while I was teaching in elementary schools, and luckily knew how to get the whiteboard looking brand new.

Step 1 – Draw over
the whiteboard in permanent marker.

Step 2 – Try to
erase the it. Is it permanent marker?

Step 3 – Get a whiteboard marker pen, draw over the permanent marker.

Step 4 – Erase, and watch in awe as the permanent marker disappears from the whiteboard.

Step 5 – High-five your co-workers and enjoy being the hero who saved the whiteboard.

I don’t think this will work if you leave the permanent marker on there for a significant amount of time. When I have done it, I have managed to get it off about an hour later. You may need to repeat step a couple of times to get everything off.

There is a solvent in the dry erase marker pen that will dissolve the ink from the permanent marker. The hand sanitiser trick from before will leave the whiteboard a smudged mess and should be avoided.

Get a 100-yen whiteboard and give it try.

Chris really likes his whiteboards. Really, really likes them.

recent posts

Classroom hack – Marker pen on the partition

First post in a series on classroom hacks. Short tips that help in the classroom

This one relates to keeping the classroom clean.

It can be hard to distinguish the partition from the
whiteboard when you are writing in a hurry. I have had almost all age ranges
doing it including adult students.

Hand sanitiser takes it off very easily. It only works on the partition.  

Never use it on the white board.  

Sakata partion got pen on it at some point. Watch me in action!

Did you already know this or has your mind been blown?

recent posts