Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Take Attendance with a Smile

When I was teaching in London, I started a new tradition in my classes. Let me paint a picture for you.

Schools in London are incredibly diverse. I regularly had 22 students in my classes, and of those 22 at least 15 were from other countries. Sometimes all of the students were from abroad. Many were EAL learners (English as an Additional Language) and sometimes more than half of the class had IEP's (Individual Education Plans). I usually had a Teaching Assistant, and often the TA spoke another language on top of English.

Taking attendance (called "the register") can be a nightmare. Luckily, I was able to pronounce most of my students names. Most foreign teachers stumble with all the different names. When you take the register in a primary school, you have to also take the lunch register. Students tell you whether they will be having a hot meal, packed lunch or home dinners. You then tick all the appropriate boxes, and mark the students down for free meals when they get them (decided by the government, based on income levels).

This can take 10-20 minutes depending on your class! It should only take about 5 minutes maximum. Don't worry, you'll get better at this.

I only taught at one school that used their interactive whiteboards for taking attendance and it was an absolute dream. Imagine a computer screen where you simply look at the board, notice who is absent and tick those boxes. Ask if anyone is having anything different from usual for lunch, tick the boxes and ta-da! Attendance is done in less than a minute.

Usually, teachers in the UK start their day by saying "Good morning..." to each student. The student replies "Good morning Miss/Mrs/Ms/Mr (insert last name here)". When I first started teaching in London, I thought this routine was sweet but over time it became repetitive and boring. So I changed our routine to celebrate the diversity of London.

I printed out this list from a website that shows you how to say Good Morning in most languages. Every day, I'd choose a different student (by alphabetical order) to choose the language we would learn. So every day, my class learned how to say Good Morning in a different language.

It was great fun & while it did take a bit longer to get through the register it made it more interesting for all of us. When a new student arrived, sometimes we already knew how to say Good Morning to them in their language. Imagine how that felt for a student fresh off the boat.

Do you have any other ideas you can share with us? What do you do with your class?

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