6 week challenge: Week 1 – Starting a class


March 15, 2013 by gemmalunn

Last week I started my 6 week challenge and the focus was ‘starting a class’.

I wanted to focus on the start of my classes as I believe (as I’m sure many of you do) that it’s imperative to set the right tone right from the start. I only have 45 minutes with my students a week so every second counts and I need to get them interested and involved from the word go.

The class

It was the first grade 2 class (13-14 years old) of the new semester. I started the class as follows:

T: Ok, let’s start, good morning. (I wait for a response)…… good morning

(Co-T says something in Korean)

Ss: good morning.

T: How are you? Happy to be at school?

Ss: Yes

T: Really!? Ok, so we have a new teacher Miss Kim, you should say welcome, nice to meet you.

Ss: nice to meet you.

After my new co-teacher introduced herself I said the following:

T: Ok, so let’s have a warm up. So what did you do during vacation? (I show the question on the ppt) So catch (I’m holding a ball) and answer. What did you do during vacation? (I throw the ball to a high level student) What did you do during vacation?

This warm up continued for a few minutes, I then went on to explain the next short activity

T: Ok, so listen, how…how did you feel when you started middle school? So, one year ago how did you feel when you started middle school? Write two words on your boards, two feelings, how did you feel one year ago?

Once students had done this I went on to explain the task for that lesson which was for them to make a leaflet for new grade 1 students giving them advice and tips about middle school.


I recorded and transcribed the first 8 minutes of this class and made reflections based on the transcript using the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC). I was able to do all of this in one free period between my first and second class meaning I could implement my action plans straight away.


Photo from @JosetteLB

Description – I described what was in the transcript: what I did and what my students did. I did this non-judgmentally for example I say ‘so’ too much – I said so 12 times. The benefits of not immediately judging your actions and those of your students are that it gives you some distance and you can start to see your class from a different perspective. After describing what happened I could move onto interpretations and hopefully make these more clear and objective. Finally, I made a set of action plans/small changes. Having gone through the ELC these changes should be more robust as they are based on my analysis and facts from the transcript rather than a gut feeling.

Action plans / small changes

—- Elicit the first question to get students more involved by giving them the clue –

W___ d__ y__ d__ during y__ v______?

-—  Ask students to write down an answer before I start throwing the ball so they are better prepared and all have a chance to answer the question, this should also reduce the number of mistakes made.

—-  Correct the first mistake to show students which tense they should be using.

-—  Not say ‘let’s have a warm up’ this is unnecessary.

— – Use ‘how about you?’ / ‘what did you do?’ instead of just ‘what did you do during…’ to expose students to a wider variety of language.

-—  Stop repeating all students’ answers as this is unnecessary and not natural.

— – Try to use ‘so’ less!

I tried to implement these changes in the next class which I also recorded and transcribed. I could then see whether I had been successful and what the effects of the changes had been.


As I expected students were more involved from the start. Giving students a minute to prepare an answer meant fewer students avoided catching the ball and they gave a wider range of answers with fewer mistakes; it also meant the game had a quicker pace so more students got to speak. Not repeating all students’ answers also meant there was more time for students to speak instead of me. I halved the number of times I said ‘so’ from 12-6; this took a lot of effort!

I continued focusing on my openings throughout the week and made further small changes. Even this week I have been more conscious of what I’ve been doing/saying at the start of classes.

Going through this process certainly gave me more than my usual ‘tweaks’ and made me much more conscious of what I was saying and doing at the start of my classes. I’ve also been taking more time planning the start of lessons and thinking about what I am going to or not going to say.

Next week – Ending a class. 


8 thoughts on “6 week challenge: Week 1 – Starting a class

  1. ltllblog says:

    I was interested in reading this when it appeared in my Reader.

    I’m glad that this is having a positive impact on your teaching. It’s amazing how much we modify our classroom language after analysing it, even just a few minutes’ worth.

    I started experimenting with reflective learner diaries recently, and it was a very powerful experience for learners and teacher alike!

  2. gemmalunn says:

    Hi, thanks for the comment.

    I have definitely been amazed at how much information I can get just from a few minutes of recording and how many modifications I can make from it!

    I’ve never used reflective diaries with learners but it’s certainly somehthing I’d like to try in the future, are you going to blog about it? Be interested to hear more.

  3. Rose Bard says:

    My students are about to arrive, just to say though that this post is going to help me move to the transcription and analysis of the recording. Thank you Gemma.

  4. Josette says:

    Gemma, the way you lay out the ELC process here is truly inspiring. It’s practical and thought-provoking. I think this series will help teachers see that reflection doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Through your example, we see that reflection stems from curiosity and genuine desire to help students learn. Can’t wait for the next post!

    • gemmalunn says:

      Thanks so much for the comment Josette, that means a lot to me especially coming from you. I hope, as you say, that these posts demonstrate how easy it is to fit reflection into your regular routine and how beneficial it can be too! Thanks again x

  5. […] with the previous week I recorded the ending of my first class, transcribed it and worked through the ELC to see what […]

  6. […] 2. 6 week challenge: Week 1 – Starting a class […]

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