Small changes: My 6 week challenge


February 21, 2013 by gemmalunn

When the new school year starts on the 4th of March I will only have 6 weeks left teaching at Dong Pyung Girls’ Middle school here in Busan. This idea just came to me this morning (whilst reading Ava Fruin’s recent post – thanks for the inspiration*!) so I’m posting it before I realize it’s a bit too ambitious and chicken out!

My idea is to choose 6 different areas of teaching, one for each week left, which I want to work on. I will focus on this area by recording the relevant part of the class, transcribing it and making small changes. I will also do relevant reading on the area to help explore ways in which I can improve. I teach 3 different lessons/grades a week and repeat each lesson 6 times so plenty of opportunity for tweaking and experimenting!

I want to do this challenge for a couple of reasons:

1)      I want to avoid the sense of apathy that comes when you are in the last few weeks of a job.


2)      I don’t know when I will next teach in this type of environment – large classes & teens. Therefore, I feel I should make the most of the last 6 weeks and use them to push myself and my students; hopefully we’ll both learn something new.

Below are my initial ideas of areas I want to work on. So far I’ve got 4 weeks, I have a few other ideas for the last 2 weeks but I’d also love your input; so please leave a comment with any ideas you have.

My 6 week challenge

1. Starting a class – I generally start each class in the same way, we say ‘good morning/afternoon’ then I ask a general question like ‘did you have a nice weekend?’ or ‘how are you today?’ to which the same few students always answer, then we start the lesson. I want to try and get the students more energized from the start of the class by trying out some different approaches.

2. Ending a class – Each class is 45 minutes long and I usually end up running out of time and we finish in a rushed way. Sometimes I finish with time to spare and use the time for review. During this week I want to focus more on timings and leave enough time for a valuable closing activity.

3. Silence – Inspired by Ava Fruin’s post = -TTT+STT = 🙂 I want to explore the use of silence. I’m not sure how well this will work with classes of 30 teenagers; will they fill my silence with valuable English or will they fill it with chatter and start to become disruptive? I shall see. I don’t just want to reduce my TTT for the sake of it but also, as Ava mentioned, focus on the quality of what I’m saying and extend the time I give students to respond and speak.

4. Giving Instructions – I want to look at different ways of giving instructions. I tend to put the instructions on a PPT then explain them and use as many actions as I can, my co-teacher will then check that students understand.

  • 5.      ______________________?
  • 6.      ______________________?

*This post was also inspired by John Fanselow’s Breaking Rules course where he highlighted the benefits of making small changes to your teaching.


5 thoughts on “Small changes: My 6 week challenge

  1. ltllblog says:

    I really like this idea – it’s realistic and hopefully will make more long-term difference (improvement?) than the typical “I’m going to change everything about my teaching style because I read something somewhere!” type plan you hear from some teachers.

    Good luck, it’ll be interesting to hear how it goes.

    PS I tried using silence with a large group of teens once, it really worked.

    PPS For number 5, I recommend trying to change something about how you plan your lessons. It worked for me when I was looking at making some changes to my students’ lessons.

    • gemmalunn says:

      Hi (sorry not sure who this is as your blog link doesn’t work?)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Glad to hear someone has had success with silence + teens, makes me more hopeful! That’s a great idea for number 5 as all the other points are classroom based so would be good to look at my planning as I always do this in a very routine way.

      Thanks again,


      • ltllblog says:

        Ah, sorry – blog link should be (it’s only just started though, so only a couple of posts so far).

        Be prepared to justify your decision to go silent for a lesson – I found here in China that co-teachers tend to think your silence is an indicator of anger or frustration with the group.



      • gemmalunn says:

        Hi, sorry for the late reply been on holiday! Thanks for the blog link will check it out and thanks for the tip, my co-teachers would probably think the same actually and maybe even fill the silence. I’ll have to let them know what I’m doing beforehand!



  2. […] When I decided to do this challenge my two main reasons were: […]

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