Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Teaching Practicum Experience (Part 1)

I've received several requests for me to write a post regarding my teaching practicum experience and tips. I have no objections since I'm one of the earliest among my friends to go through practical, so it's good for me to provide a few tips to help them along the way. To the ones who are not familiar with me, please take note that I'm only taking Diploma of TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) in University Sultan Zainal Abidin, Terengganu. I am not from any IPG or teaching institute, which means that I may be lacking in some of the skills and experience of being a teacher. 

The posts about my experience in teaching practicum will be divided into two parts, since I've only went through halfway of the journey for now. I initially planned to mention about how I dealt with the classes in the campus, but I decided to omit those because I don't think they're of any help to my friends. I'll only mention them briefly below.

Okay, here it goes. This is going to be a very long and messy post, so please bear with me.

Before the teaching practicum

Alright, so let me get this straight. My whole life, I've never wanted to become a teacher. The times that I answered "I want to be a teacher when I grow up" during my primary school years don't count, because I'm still too young and foolish then. I noticed that it's hard for me to teach. I tend to quickly become impatient when I teach someone, especially if they couldn't understand what I taught. Being short-tempered made it hard for to teach even my own friends.

I don't know what went through me when I was applying for universities two years ago, but due to those decisions, I ended up going to UniSZA for Diploma in TESL. Life had been topsy-turvy being a TESL student, a lot of dramas whirled by and I went through many ups and downs. I had regrets in taking this course, but life had to go on. The longer I was in the course, the more I realised I might have made the biggest mistake of enrolling in the course. It was a struggle to learn things that I don't enjoy, but thanks to my supportive family and friends, I managed to survive.

And then the days that I dread the most came. Teaching practicum.

Preparing for the teaching practicum

I was absent on the day we had to pick the school that we want to do the practical, so I was given no choice to choose my practical colleagues. I end up partnering with two other boys, and Alhamdulillah, the school that accepted me for the practical was only 5 minutes away from my dorm house.

For the first week, us teacher trainees only needed to go to the school for PBS (I forgot what this stands for...), where we had to attend the school and make observations. After a week observing, we'll do a report regarding the school and send it to the faculty.

During the first week, I started feeling that maybe, just maybe, becoming a teacher was not so bad. The school that I attended for my practical was only a small school, which means that it was pretty much a close community, so I had quite an easy time to fit in. The teachers were all nice to me, and I think it was partly because I was the only female teacher trainee for this batch in the school. Thanks to a few events, I was also able to get to know a few pupils.

Things still seemed nice then.

Teaching practicum, Week 1-6

Finally, the start of the real thing. I was given two classes to teach, Year 2 (2 Al-Amanah, the lower class) and Year 4 (4 As-Siddiq, the upper class). Basically, the first week was a torture for me. I was always horrible with lesson plans, and I'm really not the most creative person you'll know, so I often panic all the while I was in the school compound. But slowly, with the help of the teachers and my own friends, I managed to pass. Not with flying colours unfortunately, but it was enough.

Alright now, I'll separate the info and tips that I got in several parts, to make it easier for you guys to read.

  • Making lesson plans
For some teacher trainees, they can plan lessons for the whole week. But this can only be applied to classes with advance students. In my case, the pupils that I have to teach were very lacking in English proficiency. Their vocabulary level were extremely low, and don't get me to start on their grammar level.

Due to this, I had no choice but to write lesson plans every single day, because I need to see whether my students were able to understand what I taught or not. Planning lessons were the hardest for me, but after six weeks, I can say that I can already write decent lesson plans now. I don't know about other teacher trainees, but lesson plans are very important as it outlines the lesson that you are going to teach.

  • Preparing the teaching aids (AVA; audio-visual aids)
Since I had to write lesson plans each day, it means that I have to prepare the AVAs daily too. For teacher trainees, we have no choice but to create interesting AVAs for the lessons, all in order to get good grades of course. My suggestion, if the school's multimedia resources are available, use them. It's definitely a good way to save money and time by showing the students videos, or teaching them using PowerPoint and slideshows. 

I was quite unlucky because the classes in the school could not provide the multimedia resources, so I had no choice but to settle with Mahjong papers, manila cards, flashcards and other physical AVAs, which require quite a sum of money. Teacher trainees from IPG are blessed because they receive allowance to cover for these things, but as for me, the university did not provide anything. Everything, every single material that I bought had to be paid using my own pocket money.

I mostly use Mahjong papers (because they're huge) and flashcards (easy for the kids to remember) in my lessons. I also draw a lot on my AVAs, which always succeeded in attracting my pupils' attentions. Here are a few obvious tips for creating good AVAs:

  1. Make sure the letters are HUGE. The students at the back need to see the words clearly as well.
  2. Use bright colours. If you opt for black, blue and red markers only, use colourful manila cards. If you're using Mahjong papers, write the words using colourful markers. Colours excite the pupils, and they remember better.
  3. Don't make it too wordy. Write down only the important words.
  4. Don't use too many AVAs in one time. It distracts the pupils and it will confuse them.
  5. Use pictures. Draw. Pupils love it when the teachers draw something; they're so easy to impress lol. But printing pictures are acceptable too, of course.
  6. Be creative! Don't just settle with normal texts and flashcards. Make dices, big books, etc.

  • Class management
No matter how good you are in preparing lesson plans and AVAs, you'll end up struggling with class management. No worries, all teachers went through this at first. But just a heads up though: kids nowadays have very little respect for teachers. This is the very first thing that I realise when I started my teaching practicum. I can say that most of the students can be labelled as disrespectful, and some to the point of becoming 'rude'. I'm not embarrassed to admit this, I did cry several times because of the disrespect that I get, but there wasn't much a teacher trainee like me can do in a short span of time to change their attitude.

  1. The first impression is very important: BE STRICT. Act like you'll beat them up if they don't listen to you. If possible, don't even smile to the students in the first few classes = this can help to make the students scared of you (them being scared is the only way for you to gain respect actually, so don't be afraid to be strict)
  2. Set up rules in the class. State what they should and should not do in the class. It can be "no making noises or playing during lesson time" or "no speaking Malay in the classroom during English time", but make sure the students understand and follow the rules. Give punishments if they disobey the rules.
  3. Get to know the pupils' names. Memorise them. When they misbehave in class, call out their names and make them do something (answer a question or ask them why they aren't paying attention). Pupils hate it when the attention was given solely to them, so it helps when you can call out their names.
  4. LOUD VOICE. This is very important in order for the whole classroom to listen to you. If their voices get a little too loud for you to be heard, knock the board/desk several times to grab their attention again. Be loud, but don't scream. Screaming is definitely a no no.
  5. Build a good rapport with the pupils. This helps the pupils to love your class, and at the same time, still be respectful towards you. SET A LINE BETWEEN YOU AND THEM. Being friendly and nice to them is good, but make sure they are aware that you are still the teacher, and they need to differentiate the times when they can play around and the times when they need to behave well.
  6. Create more group activities. Children love doing hands-on activities with their friends, so opt for more group activities. It is also easier to control their behaviours this way.

  • Others/extras
- Make a star board for the students. If the student behaves well in class, or performs any good deeds (your call, it can be completing their homework or simply trying to talk English with you), give him a star for it. The star board can be a big star board on a mounting board, or small name tags where you can draw mini stars for each of the pupils. Make it a competition where the student with the most stars receives a reward by the end of your teaching practicum. This works very well for my students, they're excited to become active in class for the sake of the stars. I'll show the star name tags that I made for them in my next post.

- It's also important for those who are going to become teacher trainees or new teachers, to always give your level best in everything. Be polite to the other teachers, and don't ever show your bad side to anyone in the school. Always show your positive side. Please, please, please don't make the teachers or schools staffs lose trust in you, because that's when you're going to be doomed. If there are anything that you need help, do not hesitate to refer and ask help from the teachers. They do have more experience anyway.

For now, these were the only things that came up into my mind. It's a bit messy, but I hope it helps a little to a few of you. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email me. I'll answer them in the next post. 

Thank you for reading, and you're welcomed to share your own tips too if you have some!

Till next time ♡ Love, Maira


  1. hi, I'm currently taking Diploma in TESL in UnISZA...
    If I may ask, is it hard to get into other universities because I heard rumours that it's hard to apply for degrees in other universities especially in TESL. Other than that, if you don't mind I'm asking this, what did you get for MUET?

    1. Hello! That's wonderful, I hope you're enjoying your Diploma in TESL over there.

      I wouldn't say it's impossible to apply for a degree in other universities, but it is indeed a bit difficult. It's due to the fact that we finish our diploma at a different time than other diploma students of other universities. When we finish our diploma (teaching practicum, since it's on the last semester), during that time the application for UPU will already be closed. So what we did was we applied for degree through UPU while we were still in the last semester (teaching practicum). We'll use our academic transcript from previous semesters.

      So, normally our applications wouldn't be accepted. Only certain, if luck is on your side, you'll be accepted. But don't give up! Keep on applying, even if you can only be accepted in the next year, there's nothing wrong with it. This is not a race, when it's your time, you'll get it.

      Also, I got band 4 for MUET. If you have any other questions, feel free to DM me on Twitter or Instagram!

  2. thank you so much for the reply :)