A Typical Science Lesson (English)

One of my M1 classes (12 year olds)

Each of my lessons at my all-male public high school are 50 minutes. Here is a general break down of how I do my science lessons:

Since there are no breaks built into the schedule between classes, I typically wait about 5 minutes before I get to class so the kids have time to mellow out – it’s really a waste of time for the teachers to show up on the dot because the kids need the transition time and they will have it whether you’re there or not. The Thai teachers show up anywhere from 5-15 minutes late, but I don’t like to push it past 4 or 5 minutes.

For the first 10 minutes or so, we usually review what we did the previous class (I see my students twice a week, so review is essential). My students haven’t quite mastered the meaning of ‘review’ and I often have to walk around and tell them not to copy the notes again in their notebooks. Most of the time though, review means ‘I don’t have to listen for the next 10 minutes’ so sometimes I call on the kids who aren’t listening as a way to say, yes, you’re supposed to be paying attention to this.

Then for the next 10-15 minutes I introduce a new topic on the board and have the students help me write the notes: have you seen this word before? What do you think it means? What’s the Thai word for it? Can you give me an example? Etc. I always make the students copy the notes because it’s a great way to get them focused and Thai school culture heavily emphasizes note-taking (though the students usually don’t ever bother to read the notes again)

The same class pictured above, working
The same class pictured above, working

For the last 25 minutes or so of class we usually do an activity to check for understanding. This can be a worksheet, an assignment in their workbook, a game, or my favorite, an episode of Bill Nye. (When my students see that I’ve brought in my laptop, they always desperately ask me if we’re watching Bill. If I say yes, they start chanting Bill! Bill! Bill! just like in the intro. Even my 14 year olds do this!)

 

Sample lesson plan: Weather (12 year old students)

The class featured in my example lesson plan
The class featured in my example lesson plan (Mue is on the far right, Ken has his hand in the air, Boom is right in front of Ken being strangled from behind)

5 minutes spent wrangling:

Me: Please get in your seats! Bank, please stop hitting Ken. Take out your notebooks, please. Not your textbooks, we don’t need those today, your notebooks.

Student: Teacher, notebooks?

Me: Yes, your notebooks.

10 minutes reviewing:

We have already done these notes together and did an assignment to check for understanding, so all the students have to do is pop open their notes and feed me the answers

Me: Ok, what is the first layer of the atmosphere called (with visual on the board)?

Ken: Exosphere!

Me: No, that’s this layer, closest to Space. What is the layer closest to Earth (point at giant Earth I’ve drawn)?

Mue: Troposphere

Me: Good! Now, what do we find in the troposphere?

Boom: Plane!

Me: Sometimes, but they fly in the stratosphere, here, remember? What do we find in the troposphere? Look at your notes.

Mue: Human!

Me: Yes, very good Mue (draw a picture of a human on the board)! Now, what else?

Boom: Cloud!

Me: Yes, weather, good job Boom….

15 minutes introducing new topic:

Weather: Here I rely heavily on visuals drawn on the board. What kinds of weather are there? I have students brainstorm the different aspects, like rain/snow (precipitation), wind (speed and direction), sunny or cloudy, etc. I introduce new vocabulary (precipitation, humidity, air pressure, etc. They may or may not have any idea what I’m talking about). Then we do pronunciation practice of all the words, and I make them watch me make the sounds and try to mimmic me, etc. Yeah, I make this stuff up as I go but it works!

This is why I have to confiscate cell phones...
This is why I have to confiscate cell phones…

20 minutes watching Bill Nye episode, ‘Atmosphere’ and Worksheet

For practice and something fun, I give the students an easy worksheet* about our Bill Nye episode (fill in the blacks, short answer, multiple choice, etc.). We look it over and then watch the episode. The students chant Bill! Bill! Bill! in the intro and laugh inexplicably throughout the entire thing. I frequently stop the video to point out key concepts and check for understanding, or to point out answers and replay the crucial parts (they follow almost none of the English, but luckily there are a lot of visual cues). I spend the rest of the video confiscating cell phones and uno cards in funny ways to get the students to laugh, since they crave entertainment after all, and sometimes Bill just doesn’t cut it (sorry, Bill). Then we go over the worksheets if we have time, or I collect them (there is usually desperate, frantic copying going on in the moments before I collect worksheets**).

Source
Source

*Thai teachers really like to use worksheets and like for the foreign teachers to use them as well. The students are conditioned to do worksheets, so it’s often a more effective way to get them working with the material than to do writing assignments or abstract discussion-based activities.

**As I said in other posts, copying is always permitted by the Thai teachers at our school (and it seems sometimes, even encouraged). I had to reconcile my own opinions about copying with those of the ‘school culture’ and find a happy medium. Don’t judge me!

 

Do you have any tips for lessons with ESL students? Have you taught science in Thailand before? What are your experiences? Let me know in the comments!

 

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5 thoughts on “A Typical Science Lesson (English)”

  1. Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a
    similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam
    remarks? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or
    anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving
    me crazy so any assistance is very much appreciated.

    1. Hi, I use WordPress which has a setting you can turn on to automatically block spam or suspicious users’ comments. Then every couple of days I go into the ‘spam’ section of my comments and read through them to make sure that no legitimate comments got stuck there (it’s happened a few time). Then you never even see the spam unless you look in that folder. Hope that helps!

  2. Hello Blayne,
    I have a B.S. in Biology so it is refreshing to see someone teach science in Thailand. I am moving in December to Thailand with the hopes of getting a TESL certificate within a couple months of moving to Pattaya and starting employment immediately after I attain my certificate. I have dozens of questions but I will limit them to a few. I have never taught before and my main concern is how to develop courses, both for the year in general and day to day lessons. Do schools give you the material (i.e. worksheets like you mentioned in your blog) to help plan your lessons or are you expected to come up with daily lessons and develop a course for the year? Also, is it necessary or encouraged to be TESL certified when you have a 4 year degree with no prior teaching experience? Would online TESL be frowned upon? And (one last question), are there any TESL courses in the Pattaya region that you or your friends suggest?
    I am sure many people that are reading about your blog have these questions and I hope they benefit from the answers that you provide as much as I do. Thank you, in advance, for any information that you can provide.
    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      It’s great that you are moving to Thailand! Please feel free to ask as many questions as you like, as I’m more than happy to discuss my experiences. I hope these answers are helpful:

      In all of the classes I taught at a government school, there were both textbooks and workbooks for the students in math and science (and just textbooks for regular English classes). I think this is usually the case. You can follow the outline of the textbooks and the workbooks are a great resource, but sometimes they are too difficult for the students. I found that to plan my lessons, I would just read the chapters and try to highlight on the main points in class, usually through powerpoint (thinking specifically of science here). I did sometimes make my own worksheets to simplify certain concepts and help with preparation for exams, but I relied heavily on the workbooks as well. If you are expected to design the course for the year, I would say you should be getting paid A LOT. Generally the Thai teachers design the curriculum and you follow it as best you can.

      It is not necessary to be TEFL/TESL certified, but without experience it may give you a leg up for getting a teaching position. That being said, in Bangkok I have a few friends who managed to get jobs without any experience or a TEFL just through friends and connections (a very powerful thing in Thailand). If a teacher is personally recommended, the schools will usually choose that teacher over someone unknown, even if they are more experienced. I’m not sure about Pattaya as I don’t know anyone who has taught there before, but I do know that it may be more competitive to get a job there due to the high volume of foreigners looking for work. If you look specifically for science positions though you may have a leg up. A lot of people are afraid to take those jobs.

      As for the legitimacy of an online TESL, I really can’t say. In the few positions I’ve been interviewed for, they didn’t seem to care where my TEFL degree came from, but for higher paying positions I assume it may matter more (at a university or language school for example).

      I don’t know of any TEFL/TESL courses in Pattaya, but if you do decide to take one in person, make sure that there are at least 20 hours of teaching practice. You should be teaching in front of actual students and being supervised/scored for that teaching. At least that’s what I read when searching for legitimate TEFL courses, and from personal experience in my TEFL course.

      Good luck on the big move and make sure to read up on the new visa regulations before you go as they are changing quite frequently these days.

      Thanks for reading!
      Blayne

      1. Thank you very much for the detailed response to my questions. This will be very helpful as I plan the next few months prior to my big move.

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