Sunday, 25 December 2011

Back to School Checklist

Everyone's talking about SBPA (the new remuneration scheme) and whether to sign or not to sign the option. Now that it's extended to January 15th, we have plenty of time to consider. Soon teachers will be attending numerous meetings in schools such as the first teachers' meeting on 27th Dec, panel meeting, etc. The new school term in Johor is 4th January and I'm sure there are many things that you need to do before the term starts. It's good to have a checklist of the 'tools' and resources you need before you start teaching. Here's mine:

  • Preparing the scheme-of-work for your classes. I don't believe in having a 'standardised' scheme-of-work simply because my set of students is different from the other class and they learn at different paces too. However I do agree if we have a common writing target for example so that say by May, we can test some already taught genres. We are so used to the idea that everything must be standardised but as the teacher, you know that you can go faster with one class than the other.In other words, there should be a different scheme of work for each class but make sure all essential language components for the particular form are covered.
  • Proficiency test- I administer this from week one to two to get an idea of the level of proficiency my students have. This will help me greatly when deciding on workbooks, materials and exams.
  • Getting to know your students warmer/ice-breaker- you can find many from the internet. For example: Education World
  • Writing Skills Target- depending on which form I'm teaching, I have a file on the kinds of writing assignments given to students for the entire year. I make sure all genres are covered and a copy is pasted in the classes that I teach so students also know what our target for writing is.
  • Record book - mine is a plastic file with loose templates for easy handling and compiling. Remember that a record book can be kept in a mode other than the one provided by the school. Record books can be kept in a mode more in keeping with current technology.  However I don't believe in over-decorating a record book because it is an official document. Some say it's a 'buku cari makan' (!) Some say they get a lot of motivation when they look at a beautifully decorated record book...I still don't think it's appropriate though. Keep the embellishments to the minimum :)
  • Topics list for your exercise books -students paste this in front of their exercise books to keep track of the types of topics covered and whether we are on track as a whole class.
  • Clear files for writing assignments- I'm thinking of using clear files/folder for my student's writing this year. This means that students submit their compositions on A4 test pad paper instead of the usual exercise books. This will be very handy when I've to bring the compositions home for marking. No more heavy 40 exercise books in the car boot!
  • First week activities- I will usually have these ready once I know which classes I'm teaching. Unfortunately, I still do not know my classes so I'll just have these ready just in case...
  • Resource materials- these are master copies of materials I've been using over the years kept in files for easy use. The materials are reading, listening-speaking, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, literature, songs and games and past-years papers. 
  • I also go to the bookshops to get the latest reference books and workbooks and then decide which ones I want to use. It's ok if you don't use workbooks but I find them handy for extra language practice. Choose one that's suitable for your students' level. You'll notice that some workbooks are too difficult for your students in terms of language level, topics (especially factual texts).
  • Stationary- manila, mah jong papers, flashcards, notepaper, pens, and pencils, marker pens, masking tapes, stick-on-notes, pilot pen refills etc.   
  • My Magic Box- this is a box I carry to the classroom whenever we have group work that requires scissors, glue, marker pens, clips etc.     
  • YOU! Don't forget that you are the most important resource - many of us are probably still in holiday mood  and we will be dragging our feet to that first meeting :) Well, it's important to set the right frame of mind as the new term begins. Set your goals so you have a sense of direction. Mine is to teach well (the saying goes that 'the moment of truth in the four walls of your classroom'), to be there for my students, to produce classroom innovations, to write new books and to be a positive person.

I've no doubts that many of you have better ideas on how to get started in the new academic term. Why not share them here and we can add them to the list?

Happy New Year!

The Thinking Teacher


  1. whch workbook would u recommend for my form 5 kak rahmah? he just started school here in skudai...

  2. I think the 'Magic Box' is very very useful. In my case, I call mine the ToolBox and use an actual toolbox sometimes. But in my last school, I used a rattan basket. The sight of it seems to inspire some enthusiasm in my students. Sometimes I keep stickers and chocs inside. Yes, I know.. not good for the teeth but for some of the kids I had, they were a luxury. I could also load five small thesaurii in the box.

    Another suggestion... dictionaries are being updated all the time. Why not update the dictionary you use? Shockingly some teachers still use the dictionary they bought in their first year of teaching :) For someone like me, that would be more than 19 years ago.

  3. hi hanim,
    i used Twitter before but i realised there were too many factual passages for the reading comprehension section. i need to look at the latest version in the bookshop first. very much depends on the kind of students you have.

  4. dear roslynn,
    yup i've seen people use baskets as well. it's a good idea. i might follow suit :) thanks for sharing.

  5. As'kum Puan, thats a mind-stimulating checklist u hv there.. its great to have everything planned & organized b4 the school term starts.. May I know what type of proficiency test that u normally do? essay writing or grammar test?

    Thanks Puan.

  6. wassalam nuha,
    yes a 140 item test based on grammar.

  7. Another question Puan, how long is the test? I've never administered a proficiency test b4


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