The academic year has begun but (pandemic or no pandemic) teachers arrive in Moscow throughout the year. This means it’s never a bad time to talk about first lessons when you teach English in Russa.
1) Say Hello
Unless you’re a teaching kindergarten try to dress in a smart shirt and trousers to convey a similar level of authority as your Russian counterparts. It’s important that the students understand how to say your name so it’s helpful to write this on the board and drill it with the students. Ask them their names and try to make a mental of physical note of them. This will be useful later when you need to get their attention. Warming up the classroom by doing will be a great help when you first start teach English in Russia.
2) Set the Rules
Make sure the rules for the class are clear and easy to see. You can ask the students what you think they are before clarifying. I usually just have: 1) Speak English, 2) Be nice; 3) Listen to Mr Duncan. Once they are displayed on the board you can tap your pen gently next to them to get the students’ attention and let them know what rule they are breaking.
3) Try to Mingle
Once the rules are set, try to do a mingle activity where the students need to speak to each other and find out different kinds of information (like in a survey). You will need to demonstrate this to them first so they understand what to do. Make sure you have enough copies for everyone in the class.
4) Flashcards are your Friend
If you have a class of younger or lower level students, it is unlikely they will know what to do in a mingle and trying this with them will be chaotic. Instead, print off two sets of flashcards (classroom objects will probably be the most appropriate). Before the lesson, stick some of the objects from one set to the walls. During the lesson, ask the students to stand in a circle (no distractions) and sit with you while you play flashcard games (eg. Pelmanism, hide a card while their eyes are closed, etc.). Once the meaning is clear, you can ask students to get a card for you from the set you have stuck to the walls. The great thing about such activities is that they are easy for students to understand and you can ask them to lead the activities, which takes the pressure away from you when teach English in Russia.
5) Plan for Mixed Levels
Most classes have one or two students who are either above or below the normal level of the class. Try to challenge stronger by adding some more advanced vocabulary to the flashcards so even they can learn something new. Weaker students can be given easier words to work with but still do the same activities.
6) Review What Came Before
If the class has had a teacher before you or is in a further year of study, try to revise what has been previously taught and connect it to the current lesson. For example: if they were learning about geography, it would be a good idea to revise this vocabulary with a game like taboo before moving into a lesson on transport vocabulary.
7) End on a High
Always take the last 5 minutes to end of a positive note. This will round off the lesson nicely and show the students they can have fun in lessons too, rather than watching the clock hoping for the end. If you keep these things in mind when you go into your first classes, you can look forward to less stress and more fun as you start off teaching.