Taking notes can help you reflect.
You could also go through your lesson plan with two colours. Highlight or underline the sections that went well in one colour and highlight the sections that didn’t go so well in another colour.
This process should give you a fantastic resource for planning your next lesson.
3. Try new things
Now you have prepared some reflection notes you need to go back to the drawing board.
Think about what went wrong in the lesson and research some tips for those aspects of your lesson. It is important that you take some control of the situation and don’t lapse into lazy assumptions like “this class just don’t get it.”
If your students are struggling to grasp the material and you are met with a deafening silence, then consider whether you are going too fast for them. Do you need to give them some easy practice activities before expecting them to use the language independently? Do some research into “scaffolding” for ESL teachers to help you out.
If the students are behaving badly then consider what was happening just before they started to misbehave. Had they done lots of dry writing activities? Perhaps they just need more variety in the types of activity you are giving them. Just google “stirrers and settlers” for some tips on this type of classroom management.
Or maybe you need to re-arrange the classroom. Is there a cluster of difficult students who are disrupting the lesson? Do you need to move some desks? This sort of thing usually only takes five minutes (with some student helpers) and can absolutely transform your lesson.
Perhaps your students looked blank and were unresponsive. Well, maybe they just don’t understand what you’re saying. Often students are embarrassed to admit how little they might have grasped. Questions such as, “Do you understand?” almost never get an honest answer. Graded language for ESL teachers can help you make your communication more accessible.
It might be that your students are bored because you are being too serious. It took me a long time to learn to “loosen up” in the classroom. If you are having fun, then the students will probably have fun too. Embrace the opportunity to be a bit silly and to channel your inner child. It’s one of the things that makes working with young learners so wonderful!
This is obviously a very short list of possible ideas and there are far too many to include in one article, so please don’t be demoralised if none of them work; there are lots of resources online and there are probably some experienced teachers in your school who can help you too.
This brings us nicely to the next point.
4. Get an outsider’s perspective
It’s easy, as a teacher, to feel a bit embarrassed about a difficult lesson. We all want to do a good job and it can feel unpleasant to admit that you’re struggling. However, if you want to become a better teacher then it’s essential that you move past that feeling and start asking for help.
Speak to your colleagues about the issues you are facing and get their tips and ideas. They may well have faced a similar issue in the past and, as they are working in the same school, their advice is likely to be especially relevant to your situation.
As well as speaking to colleagues it’s a great idea to ask another teacher to observe your difficult class. They can attend the lesson in person, or (if school policies allow) you can film the lesson and watch it back with them. This may make you feel a little self-conscious, but it is amazingly useful. They won’t be distracted by having to actually teach the lesson and will likely pick up on some patterns in the lesson that you are just unable to see.