When I began teaching in Hanoi, I brought all of the tricks of the trade I’d developed in the States. Largely, my teaching techniques have carried over: keep students busy, refocus student complaints, and never disabuse students of the misconception that you know something you actually don't. There is one area, however, where my experience in the US has not fully prepared me for teaching here.
All students need the opportunity to share their ideas with the class. In the US, I’ve generally been able to convince even the shyer students to put their work on the board or to answer a question every once in a while. To do this, I have two approaches. I create awkward silences in class and make eye contact with a student who has not shared an opinion recently. Eventually the painful awkwardness becomes worse than the idea of going to the board, and the student will put their work up for the class. Other times, I prepare the student beforehand to share their idea. When students are working, I ask the student individually if they could put their answer on the board in a few minutes. Then I call on that specific student when the time comes to share their work.
One way I've found to circumvent this difficulty is to give all students a low-stakes chance to share what they know, which gives both them and me feedback about what topics to focus on. In my Pencil & Pen activity, I give all students a slip of paper with a math problem and five minutes to solve it in pencil. After the five minutes, I solve the problem at the board and ask students to correct – if necessary – their own work in pen. Then I collect collect their work, and see how many students were able to solve the problem without help and how many needed a crutch.
I’ve done this activity twice now and both times have received useful feedback in designing the next week’s lessons. I’m looking forward to engaging all of my students throughout the year and hearing their voices. I hope you’ll check back often for updates.