Discipline & Power Teaching

After yesterday’s less than positive (but heavily commented!) post, I figured it would be good to balance things up with at least what I think is an example of good teaching. And it isn’t even Genki English! πŸ˜‰

They’re techniques called “Power Teaching” designed by Chris Biffle. They are similar to what great teachers have been doing for a long time, but Chris has boiled them down to several key techniques that anyone can use. Here’s a fantastic introduction video, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

Chris’ rules:

1) Class – YES. Whenever the teacher claps and says “Class”, the kids clap back and say “YES”. Gets their attention every time.
2) Teach – OK. The teacher teaches something, then claps, then says “Teach”. The kids clap back, say “OK” and teach the item to their partner. Perfect way to learn by teaching.
3.) The scoreboard – keeping a score, but check the sounds he has them make, isn’t that so cool!
4) Micro Lecture. Teacher talking = snoozy students. Split the lesson into tiny, tiny little parts you introduce then do “Teach-OK”
5) Hands and eyes – how to get the kids’ attention for an important point.
6) Comprehension check – as the kids are doing “Teach – OK” wonder around the class to see if they really have understood it or not.

Isn’t that so easy and so amazing?

Fair enough the video is done by the guy who invented the method and these look like a really good class of college kids, so how do real teachers get on with it…

1st grade “Days of the Week”

The most impressive part of this are the videos of teachers using the exact same techniques in other grades. For example have a look at this 1st grade class. You also get the bonus of seeing a cool song for teaching “Days of the Week”.

6th graders.

6th graders giving you a hard time? Not in this class, just look at the attention on their faces!

(Note: you need to be able to speak the kids’ language to teach these rules. For example in Japan “class” means the classroom and most kids would never make the link between the English and Japanese meanings. If you can get the class teacher to help it would be great!)

Are these teachers super fantastic teachers? Well, yes, otherwise they wouldn’t have taken the time to learn these new techniques. But they are things that anybody can learn, I know I’m going to try them out. The other day at the ETJ conference the workshop on discipline was the most popular. I’ve got a post coming up about discipline soon, but if kids all learnt like this then there’d be no discipline problems at all.

Heads up and much gratitude to Joelle for sending me the original links!

What do you think, is there anything you can use here?

Richard Graham

I'm on a mission to make education Genkiβ€”fun, exciting, and full of life! Genki English has now been researched by Harvard University and licensed by the British Council around the world. The results have been magical! Now I'm here to help you teach amazing lessons, with all the materials prepared for you, and to double your teaching income so you can sustainably help many more students in the future!

27 Responses to “Discipline & Power Teaching”

  1. cesar

    Reminds of my days as a US Marine. The drill instructors have always used this technique to teach fresh recruits. For example;
    Drill Instrctor (D.I.): “Eyeballs!”
    Recruits (R): “Click, sir!”
    D.I.: “Do you follow what I am saying?”
    R: “Yes, sir!”
    And so on…

    It really cuts down on misunderstands and gives the students a point of reference to focus thier energy.

    Love it!

  2. Julian-k


    One of my 6th grade teacher’s does basicaly the same thing for keeping control. She has a set ‘clap’ that she does, and the class has to repeat it. So simple, but the second the kids start phasing out, she snaps them back to attention with it. I’ve never once seen it fail. It has to be said, that they are the best class I teach too – iv even done some of the adult GE songs with them with great results

  3. Flossy

    I agree with cesar that it has a slight military feel watching the older students. I then watched the other two videos. Wow!! The attention on the faces of the children was amazing. They seemed to be so keen to use this technique and no one looked bored or uninterested. I like the fact they turn to each other and learn together.

    Of course the people in the clips are very experienced at using this method and that’s great as it shows what is possible! Using this method to reinforce the GE songs should be possible??

    Discipline and ‘chatting’ are factors here for me too. I hate saying shhh and do not shout. I try clicking my fingers in the air and they join me or I just start TPR. It would be great to just say class and have all the faces in the room ready to learn.

    I think it would be a technique I would like to use. Richard when you do try it out could you possibly post a video? as I would very interested to see how YOU use it with GE!!

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Rosebud

    On the face of it it seems like a really good concept. There are certainly some good pointers there. But I felt that the first two videos had been primed big time and it wasn’t just an initial lesson. I think the third video seemed more natural in that new material was being taught. Two things spring to mind immediately, one: I now have a headache and two: what if you hadn’t understood. I think human nature would mean that the kids would just gabble loudly in order to give the impression that they had understood everything, I see this when I’ve done something similar with my groups. It probably works well with older children learning by rote but when it comes to the application especially maths I would like to see how that turns out. Obviously, there is the comprehension check but it isn’t easy to listen to all the kids to see if they’ve got it.

    This doesn’t mean I’m against it, I just wonder how it works on a day to day basis and what standard the class is compared to a regular class and whether the kids can make the comprehension link.

    Very interesting, I’ll check out the links given definitely.

  5. yorkii

    This is pretty cool. I’d like to see a video of someone using it in a Japanese elementary school class.

    I can see it being worked to keep discipline in an EFL class. Alos, a possible use of the “teach your friend section” could be to explain/translate what words or phrases mean to a partner. For example: “Students, explain what ‘can you swim’ means to a friend”

    or even just on the fly to get kids to ask questions about their partner, find out information or check to see if the child next to them understands how a game you are about to play works.

    any more ideas?

    I’ll give it a go myself and report back any results.

  6. Carol

    I’m VERY impressed with the techniques and am going to give it a try today! I really needed some ideas especially for my one 8th grade class.

    The only thing I noticed in the videos is that for the college class, the people in the back were low key and gestured a lot less (so what’s new with those in the back…) and in the 6th grade class one kid had no partner (ahhhh….)yet the teacher didn’t have the kids change partners to perhaps eleviate this.

    I liked the days of the week song! THe Adams family!! What a small class she had! Lucky teacher….

    Thanks Richard for sharing all this!!

  7. tokugaz

    Thanks for the videos!!Great stuff!!
    Some really good motivation ideas.This use to be an area that i really struggled in or even ignored,thanks to Richard and posts like these i’m improving.
    I also checked out Chris Biffles web site and it has some super reading material
    Plus a simple game for remembering numbers http://homepage.mac.com/chrisbiffle/FileSharing37.html

  8. Joelle

    I’m Joelle! I’m an elementary AET in Japan, I visit 6 elementary schools. I bought the Genki English CDs over a year ago and they’ve helped me a lot.

    Then last week, the Power Teaching videos inspired me! My favorite part is: they don’t scold the children just ‘rehearse’ – I’d love to learn more about it.

    I’m trying to think of ways I can apply Power Teaching principles, when I only see the same class once every 1-2 months.

    I’d be interested to know if any studies have been done about Power Teaching.

    I just finished a 2day conference held for AETs on the JET program in my area. I realized how complaining is like an infectious disease.

    Living and teaching in another country is amazing, I love my job and my life here. But it’s taken awhile to get used to some things~

    From what I have been told, English education in Japan has improved greatly from the boring classes my older colleagues sat through when they were at school kids themselves many years ago.

    With a positive attitude, hard work, and finding ways to work together with our coworkers, we can all contribute to education in Japan improving more in the future. We can do it! Let’s stay positive and bring about good changes.

    I’ve done team-taught demo lessons. They are very difficult, so lets give those teachers the benefit of the doubt, who knows maybe the rest of their class was much better. And I do wonder if they even gave their permission to have their video on this blog anyway..? Something to think about.

  9. tokugaz

    I think the “class teach” idea would be great for learning or reviewing the gestures and English for the GE songs.

  10. Jocelyn Kikuchi

    Hi RG,

    I’m sorry to be out of contact. I’ve browsed one of the particular wtitten blog of yours entitled ” Discipline and Power teaching” that made me burst into laughters. Out of the many workshops I’ve had attended this is the most funny, comical way of teaching but UNIQUE. I felt I was one of the participants doing the shadowing and duplicating the class-teacher uttered words ( the things I hate most when my students reapeat what I have said). ” Don’t repeat after me Please answer me.

    Well, it’s not bad to perform a little hip-hop act at class after all it will give some awakening energy and stay genki and to avoid students to feel bored and sleepy.
    Thank you for sharing. I am just wondering if anyone based in Japan applied the technique( Power teaching) in class? Looking forward to hearing anything from your experience.
    Honestly, I hardly can’t log-in to the forums until now, but it’s allright. Nice to read all of you from the forums. ‘ MISSED all of you,γ€€γ€€γ€€γ€€

  11. gumby

    Julian K,
    I too, use the clapping. It is a life saver in large 1-2 year classes. It hardly takes any explaining, just clap out a rhythm and wait for them to react. Once you’ve done this a few times, everytime you need their attention, you clap. Very effective!

    I think the gestures are great. I have read a couple of articles on how using gestures to learn math concepts help students learn.

    Joelle, I think though that as an ALT you would have to adapt the lesson. I’m assuming it takes at least one whole class time at least to get the students understanding the method. Also students would have to understand what they were saying before they could teach it in this way. In the examples, the students KNEW the words they were saying. In English that is not always the case.

    It would be interesting to hear how teachers in Japan (or ALTs in their limited time with students) use this method.

  12. richard

    I’ve been using the “Teach – OK” pairs thing whenever I introduce a question or phrase. e.g. teach “He is …” then get the kids to say it in pairs. The thing I like here is that he uses the claps to automate it! The problem is that the way I do it it’s not really “teach”, I think I need a better word for that, or just do it his way where the kids actually teach each other.

    @Rosebud: The comprehension check is an important part, it’s like we do with the pair work games, you just wonder round and if the kids are just mumbling you go back over the material.

    I’m out of Japan from tomorrow so won’t get chance to make any videos with kids. Anyone care to put some on Youtube?

  13. Fantastico

    I teach ESL at university level. I came across these videos on youtube last year. I show the college-philosophy one to my students at the beginning of the term and explain that classes are extremely crowded and if we do it this way we get a chance of maximum practice and understanding. Most agree straight away, those who don’t at first, get the hang of it because it really is fun…

  14. Joelle

    I tried more Power Teaching ideas today… Instead of ‘class-yes’, I tried ‘ichi-kumi – yes’. It worked great. I’d like to change to ‘class-yes’ in the future. But my kids didn’t want to do hip=hop gestures with it… Today I had 5th grade though.

    I tried ‘teach-OK’: I explained an activity, they re-explained it to their partner. They all seemed really happy to do that, but it was all in Japanese. So next time maybe I’ll introduce ‘teach-ok’ …

    If the game is very simple, I introduce it by gestures+English. If it’s complicated I don’t want to waste time they could be enjoying the activity so I just go for Japanese.

  15. Flossy

    I decided to try ‘Class- yes’ today. I did try saying a friendly “I am clapping”- listen and then repeat first, but it was far to complicated and they often missed the cue. I told them what I expected when I said “Class” they must stop listen and then repeat. Of course the first couple of times it didnt work. It then just takes a few children to get the hang of it and it worked so well. Using different voices really helps too. I did not complicate the patterns for the clapping too much either. A couple of the Austrian class teachers asked me about it at coffee time and I told then to read this blog!!

    I do think even just using this first phrase is a start and really gets the children attention very quickly. There was then silence and no one was chatting!!

    I will try the pair work next week. I agree you do have to check responses between the children, however this is normal when they are singing so quite easy in pair work!

    I tried this with children between 6 and 10 years old. I also did it completely in English not German.

  16. Carol

    I’ve tried it in almost all of my junior high classes (6th and 8th graders) and it works REALLY well for the 6th graders. I used it to have them teach “do” becomes “does” for questions using he and she (but in French.)

    The 8th graders were more into having the class gain points while going over a crossword puzzle (to earn a genki passport square for everyone) but I’ve only had one session with them using the class-yes. It worked well enough I’m going to keep trying!

  17. yorkii

    something else I noticed yesterday,

    kids are already lined up in pairs in most classrooms in Japanese primary schools, so you have an even easier time of getting them into pairs.

  18. gamblingbear

    I just tried some of the Power Training in my class (6-8 year olds) last Friday. Overall it worked very well. It takes quite a bit of consistency from the teacher, but the more consistent, I found, the better the results. I had an almost 100% turn-around in my class as far as chatting and discipline goes.

    I’m definitely looking forward to adding things like the scoreboard and teach-okay.

  19. Joelle

    I persisted, my elementary kids in Japan CAN do ‘class-yes’. I got my explanation ‘down’, & they got it within one class.

    They do mis-hear ‘class’ as ‘glass’. But with clapping and points, they caught on and it stops them in the middle of anything. I also noticed they were listening better to each other as well as me!

    2 teachers observed our class today, & one of them came up afterwards to say that she really enjoyed it. Yippee.
    Never give up!

  20. hiam muhammad

    mooooooooooooooore than excellent

  21. Evi

    I’ve been using the power teaching techniques (esl only)for about 2 years and in combination with Genki English the lesson is the most exciting lesson the kids ever had.
    I also work with power teaching with older students 15-16 years old and they started to love english. They also ask me for a good point – if I forget to give it to them – so they can party a little bit.
    Don’t give up if the students think that it’s stupid or for “babies”- be determined.
    It is the best method I’ve ever tried and has the best results!!
    Revolution in Education – Let’s do it!!

  22. Negacoca

    Wow, I want to try that method. I have been having a lot of trouble keeping the attention of one particular class, and I am sure this would get better results. However, I am concerned about the lack of time the students have to think about questions/instructions. The fast-pacedness is great for the energy and attention level, and it seems perfect for extroverted kids, but some kids require a little time to process information in their heads.

  23. Stephen

    I am intrigued by this teaching style. Actually, I have one class tonight that I am going to try it on with a bit of tweaking. I don’t know about the teach OK part, but I think the class -Yes answer thing, the pointing at the good and not so good pictures and eliciting a response, and clapping to get the kids attention between activities might work for me. Well, it doesn’t hurt trying!!!

  24. Shane

    I tried this yesterday after watching the video, and even though it was my first time I noticed a marked improvement in my classes. Teaching this way also helped me structure the lesson more effectively. I tried this on a class of 8 year olds, and a class of 15 year olds, and they both went better than they usually do. You could tell that the students also enjoyed the new method.

  25. Melissa

    I’m really glad to have the opportunity to watch these videos, I’ll definately try these techniques in my next classes and see how they work. I started to try the Genki games suggested by Richard and I could see a notable improvement in my classes.
    My greatest struggle is with the seventh graders, they are so talkative and some of them don’t like to participate in games because they feel they’re childish or ridiculous. So, I’ll appreciate some advice on it.

  26. Richard

    Hi Melissa,

    Glad the ideas are working out!

    With the 7th graders, two things to keep in mind.
    1) Make sure the target English is just the right level, too easy or too hard and you won’t get any response.
    2) Then it’s all how you present the material, if you do it as “hey, hey, fun, fun!” children’s TV style, yep, they’ll just laugh! πŸ™‚ What you need to do is to present it as an alternative to regular boring grammar lessons. That way they’ll snap it up, and they just love anything with computers, we actually get some of the best feedback from this age group!

  27. Carol21463

    I’m actually surprised to find this subject here!

    I started using WBT last year in my tot and pre teen classes and it works like a charm. That yes, I have only used the attention grabbers for now. This takes practice and it takes time to learn, but it’s very effective.

    There are a couple of things about WBT that I don’t like, one being, as one of the above wrote, a bit like marine drills, and I really don’t want my students that controlled. I want their essence to come out, but at the same time I want their attention.

    I have had the parents of the tots totally impressed when at one point I turned and said: “class, class” and the kids turned sharply towards me within seconds answering “yes, yes”. You should’ve seen the parent’s faces! I had a bunch of totally distracted kids talking to their parents, turn into a bunch of kids whose attention was completely on me. After the “yes, yes” I gave the new order, “eyes on me” and then told them to get their stuff together and stand in line.

    Yeah, keep imaging it. Even my boss was in total awe! “How do you do it?” LOL

    It’s quite impressive and funny enough that the kids don’t forget. With the preteens I lagged a bit on using the method, but whenever I needed to get their full attention, a sharp “class, class” was more than enough! And you don’t even have to yell it out!! LOL

    I also used different phrases. “Class, class” was always the first, but for fun, I’d say things like “holy moly” and get a “guacamole” back! or “chicka chicka” and get a “boom boom!” back. They love them!!!

Comments are closed