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    #1

    A bit short on ideas.

    I'm teaching my postgraduate in China.

    They are non-English majors, so not especially interested from learning the language from the get-go.

    This being said, I've managed to keep them interested so far, which I think is due to the fact that I've refrain from teaching the same kind of thing too often (avoiding repetition/boredom).

    It's a Listening and Speaking class and I'm pretty much free from teaching anything I want.

    I don't have extensive education in teaching (TEFL certificate) but I enjoy my job and I consider myself efficient at what I do.

    My philosophy:

    Get them to do as much as listening and speaking as possible (practice makes perfect).

    In other words, I don't teach a huge quantity of new words and expressions, I rather focus on practicing their listening and their speaking.

    I have no text book so I'm on my own to plan my lessons.

    I follow my judgment but I'm open to other input from other teachers.

    Before you repy please keep in mind:

    *Big classes (40ish to 50)
    *Being non-english majors, the level of English from student to another varies drastically. I have almost bilingual students while some of them can hardly say their names.
    *Being non-english majors, providing some entertainment is mandatory.
    I would never be able to get away with teaching dry grammar because:
    *The difference in level varies too much from one individual to another. Some would be bored to tears if I go whatever basic stuff my poor students need.
    *The class is a front:
    Postgraduates in China are required to take English classes even if it's not related to their majors. The school told me nobody can fail my class.

    So it's sort of a way for the school to bypass this regulation set by the Ministry of Education which apparently the school doesn't adhere to.

    What I've done so far:
    1. Game about idioms.
    2. Watch a movie (with movie related questions)
    3. Role-playing
    4. Tongue twisters
    5. Listen to songs (fill in the blanks)
    6. Audio stories (True or false about the stories)
    7. Audio stories with crosswords.
    8. Mime gesture game (students have to guess what a customer wants in a hotel)
    9. Riddle contest
    10. Enigmas

    That's all I can think of at that moment.

    Most successful:
    Mime gesture game.

    Least successful:
    Tongue twisters:
    They got tired of this after 10 minutes or so I think.

    role playing:
    I think Chinese students require a lot of direction, they require teachers to tell them what to do at all times.

    It's hard for them to take initiative and create things on their own. From my personal experience at least, and from what the students have told me.

    I've read on the internet, browsing for days but the suggestions are not to my liking.

    Having discussions in groups is something I've considered, but I'm about 90% that they'll end up either:
    a. Not doing anything
    b. Speaking in Chinese

    It's a really strong gut feeling but I'd be inclined to try it out if I got some positive feedback from people who have tried it.

    I thought of having a debate but the difference in level is so dramatic, I would get a student saying:

    "Hum... I... you... dis.. disagree.. what.. with.." and the other students going:

    "Your argumentation is preposterous! Give me one tangible fact that..."

    I find there's a huge quantity of TEFL websites but:
    -The relevancy of activities vary greatly. Some of them are poorly explained and provide limited instructions.
    -A lot don't provide any context or level proficiency of the students.

    In other words, it's a big mess out there. It's hard to find any websites (without tons of ads) with well planned and explained lesson ideas.

    I got tired of browsing through such chaos and decided to post here.

    I am most interested in any input, suggestions you might have.

    Learning never stops and I'm always looking forward for some new activities and lessons.

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    #2

    Re: A bit short on ideas.

    Hi Noego

    I also teach English in a Chinese context, and the Communicative Approach coupled with the Lexical Approach works wonders.

    I. Investment
    Invest the students in the topic by having them talk about what they already know about the topic in pairs or in small groups. This could be a question, a series of questions, pictures, whathaveyou. The purpose is two-fold:

    (i) the students have a chance to warm-up their English while getting to know their classmates.
    Rapport gets people talking more. Isn't it always the case that in, say, a meeting or a lecture, people are afraid to ask questions, to speak out, as they don't know what the people in the room know and how they will react? This is why pairwork and groupwork is important. Get the students to switch pairs/groups now and then so they can find out what the other people in the room think. It'll have them confident to want to speak more).
    ii) the teacher has a chance to monitor the students' existing language base. The reason here is not to assess their level--rather, it is to give the teacher a chance to see the common mistakes shared by the group as a whole.
    Monitor
    While they are talking, monitor what they are doing. Walk around, interact with them, add in new language, correct their mistakes, and above all write down the common errors shared by the class. Why? You need to be able to show learners the gaps (errors;mistakes) in their ability. With 40+ students it will be difficult to remember their common errors, so writing them down helps.

    Motivation
    Do this and you will gain a very attentive crowd, because they want to know how to improve, but first they need to know where they need to improve. That motivates learners. No need to entertain or edutain. Motivation is support: monitoring followed by constructive feedback. That the BIG secret. Try is out and watch how your students change their opinion and attitude about English class.

    Feedback
    So everytime you give the students a task/an activity, get them to focus on the task (i.e., use these words/phrases on the board) and monitor what they are doing. Then show them how they did as a class by giving them feedback on their common good uses and common bad used. Use the board to do this as Chinese are visual learners.

    II. Input
    Give the students an example of real English in use using the same topic they just discussed. This could be an article (from a magazine or a newspaper), a blog online, an audio, or a video. The purpose is to give the students opportunity to see how (modern) native speakers use the language. After all, the investment had them showing you and them what they can do; now it's time to show them what other speakers do.

    Lexis Activities
    Lexis refers to single words, phrases, and event sentences. During this part of the lesson, give the students opportunity to practice the new words and phrases so that they "own" the language (i.e., are able to produce it spontaneously, without the help of a sheet or the book). This part of the lesson should house a minimum of three activities. If you are using an audio, do pre-listening, listening for a short time, and post-listening activities. The same holds true for video and reading based activities. The goal is to get the students to "own" the new lexis. Note! Chinese can read and write English quite well; they've been trained to do so, but when it comes to 'speaking it', they have a hard time. So don't worry about selecting materials the vocab of which they may already know. They can read it, sure, but can they 'speak it'? And spontaneously.

    Monitor every activity
    Feedback on every activity

    III. Role Play or Discussions or Debates
    The final part is getting the students to use what they have just learned. During the input stage the students had a sheet or book as a crutch, but during this the final stage the students have nothing. Just the lexis on the board that they have been using in the lesson. Focus them on those lexis as that is what they should be using in the role play, dicussion or debate.


    Monitor every activity
    Feedback on every activity

    Feedback on the lesson as a whole (i.e., show the students what they did well and what they still need to work on)


    With this kind of approach, all you need is a topic. You can use the same activities as you are using now but with more focus. Each activity should have the students focused on a set bundle of lexis. By the end of the lesson, they should be able to produce at least 8 "chunks". But of course you will have given them more than that, at least 40, if you consider that each new lexis has an antonym, a synonym, an idiom, and sits inside a fixed phrase and inside functional language.

    Try it out and see how easy, productive, and "meaningful" teaching 50+ students can be.

    All the best,

    Last edited by Soup; 30-Apr-2008 at 11:38.

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    #3

    Re: A bit short on ideas.

    Hello Soup,

    First and foremost, thank you for your reply.

    Allow me to inquire further about your suggestions.

    I. Investment
    Invest the students in the topic by having them talk about what they already know about the topic in pairs or in small groups. This could be a question, a series of questions, pictures, whathaveyou. The purpose is two-fold:
    (i) the students have a chance to warm-up their English while getting to know their classmates.
    Ok.

    Here’s the thing.

    This is completely new to me.

    What kind of topic would you have in mind?

    I teach two hours classes, so the way I see it:

    a. I either have to find something fascinating for them to talk about.
    b. Talk about two different topics (one for each hour).

    As far as I know, the students have been together for quite a while, although they might not know each other that well. At least not each and everyone of them.

    I’ve tried switching people around for team-based games to makes things a bit more fair.

    It seems to me like a good idea to put people in different teams so that they can get to know each other more.

    You might be right about not asking questions/talking in class, although students (not my students) have repeatedly told me during my two years stay in China, that it wasn’t their custom to ask questions in class.

    This being said, it might be possible to switch things around by making them more comfortable.

    In other words, I will definitely try this in my next class.

    I agree about the monitoring, I will definitely do this as well. I think the students will also feel more confident if they see I’m taking notes, monitoring what they’re doing.
    Anyways, I have my doubts about whether or not this will motivate them but I will give it a try. I have nothing to lose.

    Would you mind clarifying what you mean by the whole using topic/sentences beforehand?

    Do you mean that I give them a topic and give them some sentence structures to use related to that topic?

    So you mean, I give them some “real” material once they’re finished discussing the topic in team?

    More examples would be appreciated here, as this is still rather nebulous in my mind.



    Ok, I’ve read everything.

    You know what would really help? If you could give me a real example, by sharing one of your lessons.

    That would really open my eyes and allow me to synthesize the theory with practice.

    Looking forward to reading you again.

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    #4

    Re: A bit short on ideas.

    Hi Noego

    Here's an example.

    Topic: An interview

    Language: The language of convincing and embellishment (note, these aspects of language don't only apply to being successful in a job or school interview. They could also apply to, say, selecting a mate (e.g., dating/marriage, and this could be your second topic, or what's known as the extended topic.)

    Introduction: Use the info above to explain to the students the rationale, or reasons behind today's topic.


    Investment: [Get the students thinking about the topic as well as using the English they already know about the topic]. For example, you could choose one or two, no more, of these activities to lead in to the main part of the lesson:
    (A) Give the students a picture of someone in a job interview and in small groups or pairs have them predict what the person/people are saying. You could also give them a bundle of phrases to use to describe the picture, but make sure these are words they are familiar with or can ask the members in their groups. You don't want to pre-teach vocab at this stage.


    (B) In pairs/small groups students discuss some of the questions that Chinese companies ask a prospective employee during a job interview. You could start if by giving them an example(s) from your culture.


    (C) In pairs/small groups students list the top three questions asked in an interview. You could start of by giving an example of your first job interview.


    (D) Write the word "interview" on the board and have the students in pairs/small groups brainstorm everything they know about that topic.
    Clarification: Have the students switch pairs/groups and compare their findings. This increases student interaction/communication and serves to reduce the amount of teacher talk time at the board. The whole point of an oral English course is to get the students using English quickly and as much as possible. Optimal: students speak 70% of the class time, teacher 30%. The teacher's percentage comes during the feedback sessions, which can be as little as 5 minutes and as much as 15 minutes.

    Feedback: The teacher having monitored the pair/group findings, highlights and clarifies these at the board by focusing on good and bad uses of language. This helps the students see the "gaps" (errors) in their present language ability. The teacher needs to focus on vocab associated with the topic at hand. Going outside the topic (i.e., focusing on 'cosmetic errors' such as *I goed to the store") is an inefficient use of class time. Correct these errors during monitoring, and leave the feedback stage for students' common errors. !Focus them on a particular bundle of related language. The brain houses language this way.


    Input: [Give the students an example of real English in use. Let them see/hear the kind of language that native speakers use to talk about the topic, interviews.] You could choose one of the following:
    (A) A reading

    (B) An Audio

    (C) A Video
    Example activities: [A minimum of three activities to help the students "own" the new lexis:


    First activity [choose one]
    1. Ss1 reads a paragraph, Ss2 listens and then retells. Then they switch roles: Ss2 reads the next paragraph, Ss1 listens and retells. This is best done back-to-back (a listening exercise). The teacher walks around monitoring for "gaps" (errors) in the student's retelling.


    2. The teacher play the first part of an audio and has the students focus on (note down) all the words/phases associated with the topic. The idea here is to get the students to recognize words, then the larger phrases and sentences those words are housed in. Then the teacher plays the second part, and so on.


    3. Ask the students to find the kind of language the speakers use to convince and embellish, and then have them add to it using what they already know.


    Second activity [choose one]
    1. Blank out phrases (chunks) inside the text. Ss1 reads, Ss2 tries to fill in the blanks. Note, at this point, the teacher should have the topic vocab on the board for the students to draw on and use. The purpose during the input stage is to help, guide students towards 'owning' the new vocab. It's not a test, so try to lead them to success.


    2. Give the students the topic vocabulary and have them retell the article/audio. Have them switch groups and compare.

    Third activity [choose one]
    1. The teacher asks comprehension questions related to the text. Note, the purpose here isn't to see whether the students understand the text, bur rather whether they can use the topic vocabulary in answering the questions. Tell them this as it will help them focus that much more.


    2. The students make up their own comprehension questions and ask these to their classmates by mixing and mingling around the room. The point again is to form questions that have their classmates having to use/draw on the topic vocabulary.
    Leading out: [Have the students use the topic lexis "without a net (i.e., a sheet to draw on). It's OK, and preferable, though, to keep the topic lexis on the board at all times during the lesson as the board is their note book.


    Activities: [Choose one]
    (A) Role play

    (B) Discussion

    (C) Debate
    Example Role play:
    Part 1: [getting ready]
    A is applying for a scholarship or enterance into a university and doesn't have the best grades or criteria to be a successful candidate. In groups, students brainstorm how to use the language of convincing and embellishment to help the student through the interview.

    Part 2: [practice]
    Ss1 is the interviewee, Ss2 and Ss3 are the interviewers. Ss1 must convince them s/he deserves the scholarship or enterance to the univeristy. (The same could be done with a job interview, a date, etc.)

    Part 3: [Extending the role play]
    Add emotion into the mix now, as research tells us that that helps the brain to solidify new language. Ss2 and Ss3 are still the interviewers, but Ss1 is changes role and becomes their surpervisor, the one who makes the final decision. Ss2 and Ss3 must convince their suprvisor either to accept or reject the candidates application. They must use language of convincing and embellishment.

    That's the lesson, and it should take up to two hours, possibly even more because of all the feedback sessions after each activity.

    Last edited by Soup; 01-May-2008 at 07:30.

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    #5

    Re: A bit short on ideas.

    Ok, will try it out. Probably on Monday. If not, I'll try it next week.

    It's really cool of you of doing all of this, thank you.

    NoEgo

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    #6

    Re: A bit short on ideas.

    You're most welcome, and it's great to see your enthusiasm for teaching!


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    #7

    Re: A bit short on ideas.

    I've just came back and I experimented a bit with your suggestions.

    I would evaluate the results as satisfactory.

    It was a good idea to switch partners though, they tend to participate more when they're not with their friends.

    I'll experiment more during the week and keep you informed.

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