18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 1. New Material

Which way to go? Naomi's Photos
Which way to go?
Naomi’s Photos

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 4: “Teach new material first, review later”.

Oh yes!

Yes for all of my deaf and hard of hearing students. An even more emphatic YES for those who I would call struggling learners

In the book, Ur refers to the structure of a lesson, but for me, in my class structured as a learning center (mixed grades, mixed levels) this refers to the plan for the school year.

We always begin the school year with something new, something slightly more challenging. Despite knowing without a doubt that the new 10th graders need a review of the basic tenses, of the “WH” questions and much more, we start with a grammar topic they hadn’t encountered in junior-high (the passive voice, the first conditional), a new literature piece, writing a short letter, etc.  The 11th and 12th graders also start with something new, whether or not they have completed all the material the previous year.

When the students begin the school year by working on new material they feel that they have gone up a level, made progress, are respected as being older. Then they don’t really notice that a lot of the material they are working on for the new topic includes serious review of basic material.

Self esteem is so important for success.

The only time I have a major problem when applying this tip is when it comes to absolute non-readers. For deaf and hard of hearing students, reading is the main source of exposure to the foreign language. In the (thankfully) few cases I’ve encountered where the 10th grade student  felt physically ill from just looking at any sort of review of the letters, I’ve resorted to starting with short sentences (or four sentence paragraphs) and an electronic dictionary. Then backtracking. However, I prefer using an organized methodology for teaching reading first.

How does this tip work for you?

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