Teaching can be scary, even though Halloween is well and truly behind us, there’s something sure to instil fear into the hearts of teachers everywhere. It’s not ghouls, goblins or all things grim and gruesome. It’s not even the fast approaching Christmas season. So, what’s more scary you ask? Teaching a subject or topic that you know your class are going to struggle with. Thats what.
Firstly, it’s important to put yourself back in your pupil’s shoes and cast your mind back to where you were sitting at your own desk at school, your brain struggling to grasp fractions, complex English literature interpretations, algebra or the French for ‘help me, I’m going to fail this exam’.
It can be just as much of an uphill battle for teachers, but fear not, we’ve got you covered with some tips designed to make teaching tricky subjects a little easier on you and your class.
1. Encourage them to speak up
It’s important for you, as the teacher, to create an environment where your class feels as though they can ask as many times as they need to if they don’t understand something.
They are there in your class to learn after all and there isn’t much point in staying silent if something isn’t quite clicking in their brains.
Frequently encourage them to speak up and talk to you directly if they don’t understand anything so you can go over it again. It might be wise to advise them that it’s totally fine to ask more than once as some children think they will get in trouble if they don’t instantly grasp a topic first time. Reinforcing the idea that you would rather they spoke up and asked a hundred times rather than staying quiet and suffering in silence is so important and will hopefully make them more confident in asking for help. Needing a little more time on a subject is nothing to be ashamed of and your class should know this.
Telling your class that everyone learns at different paces will help them to feel more secure and less embarrassed if they don’t get something first or even second time.
2. Know your students and establish when they are struggling
It’s a great idea to really get to know your students so you can notice promptly when they are having trouble. Being a teacher who goes above and beyond like this will ensure that your class feel valued and respected. They will hopefully feel as though they can come to you to discuss if they don’t understand something.
Making the time for them at the very start will cement this relationship. Make an effort at the start of the new school year if you find yourself with a new set of pupils.
Let them learn a little about you and in turn get them to talk about themselves, you’ll then learn to suss out who has no problems in asking for help and who is more reluctant, it will also help you discover their own learning styles and what works best for the majority of the class. Use icebreaking activities to make them feel comfortable, you’ll learn about them, they’ll learn about you and they’ll learn about each other. A good teaching relationship with your class is pivotal when it comes to getting them through a difficult subject.
3. Go slow
Take it slow. Rushing anything never produces the best work. Let your class know that you are prepared and more than happy to not move on until they are all comfortable and confident that they have grasped the topic.
Offer revision sessions towards the end of terms as well if thats plausible for you or direct them to useful online sites or books that they can look up for extra practice. Advise extra reading or extra activities they can do to help their learning in the classroom, practicing tricky topics outside of the classroom is a great way for them to grasp something. also, set appropriate homework, don’t make it too easy or hard.
Whilst in class, even things like making sure you don’t switch the slides over on the powerpoint until everyone has finished writing makes the world of difference and makes your class feel as though they are not being rushed.
4 Diagrams and visual aids are your best friend
Another little tip when teaching something that you know will be a little harder for your class is to bring diagrams and visual aids into the mix. This can help with practically anything; teaching fractions or numbers in maths? Use colourful pens to engage the class. Use examples like they do in maths exams, don’t just ask what is 200 minus 52, use examples like; if Sally has 200 cakes and gives out 52 to her year group, how many does she have left? Engage the students, that will help them remember the specifics.
History? Get them to design posters or annotate their essays or writing with drawings. Geography? Suggest the whole class work collectively on a map of the world to put up at the front of the room to help them with learning where each country is. Make the ideas as creative and quirky as possible, then hopefully the learning will get easier.
5. Group work
Learning from peers is often overlooked but it’s a valuable weapon in your arsenal when tackling tricky topics. Sometimes a student can still not understand despite you explaining and going through the subject a hundred times, sometimes it just wont click.
Discussing ideas with their class sometimes offers the opportunity for the topic to be explained in a slightly different way which may make all the difference. Discussions also are invaluable for your students to learn from each other as they can talk about their own ideas and listen to other’s theories. This allows them to expand their own thinking.
So there you have it, got a difficult topic coming up that you are dreading teaching your students? Try the tips above and hopefully you’ll all be breezing along.