Thursday, April 2, 2009

Random thoughts about teaching

I've complained a lot about teaching and my students but the truth is, I'm in a very good situation in my current school. I have the same students five students, 5 days a week, 2 hours a day; they all get along really well together; they all have a really high level of English (today's vocabulary word is satisfactorily); my director really cares about the students and teachers for the matter(she gives birthday and holiday bonuses) and I basically have free range in terms of how to teach, what to teach etc.

Initially (also a vocabulary word for today) it was overwhelming, I mean how do I know what to teach and when? So at the start I would just follow the book which resulted in boring lessons and bored students. But lately I've been skipping around and not focusing on certain parts of the book, and seeing as how I'm the one making up the tests, grading and assigning homework; I really have the freedom to teach what I want... and cover topics I think are most interesting.

Yesterday for instance my schedule from my director called for a grammar lesson teaching Emphatic Structure and Inversion.
Don't know what either are? .......I didn't either until yesterday.
(for the record Emphatic structure is when we want to emphasis a certain part of a sentence by changing the subject and tense:
Ex. Ann put up the Christmas decorations.....IT WAS ANN WHO put up the Christmas decorations.)
Fun stuff.

Anyway I decided to teach a lesson about April Fool's Pranks instead, including playing one on my students. But my clever students beat me to the punch. They shut off all the lights in the classroom and hid in the back. I played along "Oh where is everyone?" I guess I'll just go home" They ate it up. It was pretty funny seeing as how their only 11 and there's not much room for pranks in their rigid Chinese schools. I then gave them handouts about different pranks, including ones I did when I was younger. They seemed to really enjoy it. Then I had them write a story about one of the pranks we talked about....I think it went pretty well.
The biggest problem I've been having has been discipline but I've got a system down ...

1. they each get points for answering questions, behaving properly etc. If they misbehave or speak Chinese I take away a point. If they have over a certain number of points, they get 2 extra points on their next test. In the beginning the kids said they didn't care about the points but now they all try their best to answer questions.

2. If they don't do their homework or do something really bad, the either have to do their HW during 10 minute playtime, OR they have to stand outside for 5 minutes while everyone else plays

3. If they're still misbehaving they have to go to the office for playtime (this is really bad because any trip to the office means a call home from the director)
Since I've become tougher I've found they enjoy their work more, and are more congenial knowing there are some set rules. I'm constantly impressed with their intelligence but the only problem is that they don't seem to realize how lucky they are.

For example recently I had to teach the same vocabulary words to my 11 year old students, and my 20 year old university TOEFL students. And to be honest, I think my 11 year old students' English level is higher than the TOEFL students. I do hope what I'm teaching them will help them get into good schools, get good jobs and be successful......its hard to demonstrate this to an 11 year old though. Ah well I'll try it again today. If you're interested here's the most recent test I made up for my 11 year olds.....good luck!

Change the following sentences using the EMPHATIC Structure. 2 points each.
Emphasize the word in bold. Example: Ann put up the Christmas decorations.
It was Ann who put up the Christmas decorations.
1. Are you going to wear this dress at the party?


2. The band recorded the song “Happy Days”.


3. Jeff looks after the children when Jessica is at work.


4. John told the secret about his friend.


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