In Tips For The Classroom Part 4, John Acton, a teacher at Oxford Kingdom in Houjie, looks at education and teaching in China specifically. Through his career at Worlda Education at Guangzhou, he has experience teaching Biology in High School, kindergarten summer camps and students ranging from grades 5-9. He likes to share ideas.
A further five new teaching tips
Introductions are meant to be swift and to the point. That’s my introduction over with.
Try to know your students and their knowledge. In a more technical way I could call this heading, “Acquire relevant knowledge about students”. Students will have their own cultural and generational backgrounds. They will have been influenced by their parenting; their friendships; mass media and so on and so on… If you mention Japan in many classes, some closed responses shall follow, but increasingly you may find good arguments or great positivity to Japanese culture. The beauty of using a controversial or current affairs topic is that it can help develop descriptive terminology. Similarly, a student with a history of poor discipline can be enticed by different approaches. What they have learned, whether correct or totally erroneous can shape how they learn new topics. There isn’t a simple way to note how much every student or a group of students know, but having an idea is a fine way to start your preparations! Your course design for pacing, examples and format – even the objective depends entirely on knowing your students and their ability. With this you can flush away misconceptions and draw up clear guidance routes.
Teamwork. Let’s be fair, teamwork is something we all love when it goes well. When it doesn’t it is hard, but then you find how to develop the strengths within the ranks of a team. Weaknesses become stronger through assistance and collaboration. All major road cycling races have a winner, but the team that gets the winner there, does most of the work. Be they mechanics, support staff or the cycling squad. In a team, all are accountable. Responsibility and pride force the hand of those trying to shirk away. The teamwork is far more social and can heighten understanding. Essentially students have a jigsaw and through their own methods, they can assist each other. I’m a massive believer in questions and answers. For every question a student asks you, try to reply clearly – before launching your own questions. The beauty of the modern world is you’re never more than one metre from a gameshow. Turn “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” into a classroom activity.
Monotony creates boredom.
Varied learning techniques. Variety is the spice of life. Fact. Monotony creates boredom. Monotony creates boredom. If students are forced to sit and listen, expect a disaster of biblical proportions. What I mean is Old Testament, real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! The students must talk. Through talking they can connect. They can apply the words by relating it to their experience. Their learning will become their life and through each oral English lesson they will gain further invaluable experience. I often devise undertakings to promote the key language skills in naturalised forms, e.g. if we’re discussing transport, why not perform a role-play based on travelling to the Sudirman Cup final (or something topical).
Timekeeping skills. Class begins at 11am. You have 40 minutes. Remember to segment the class structure. Tailor all to the students’ needs. From experience energy will be highest early on. Throw in a warm up activity then go straight into an introduction. Now stop and review. Slide in some more content, stop, practice and deliver. Time for a final review? Class is over. Be realistic with timeframes. Nothing great comes from too much review time, and likewise, nothing fantastic can emerge from too much introductory timing. Only yawns. Use timers on Powerpoint presentations, stopwatches, clocks and set clear limits for tasks.
That seed can fast become a network of positivity branching out in the tree of life.
Excellent! Well done! I recommend that you do your homework before the students even receive any homework from you. Grab yourself a thesaurus. Try to introduce new vocabulary, be it single words like fantastic or tremendous – or simple sentences of praise and encouragement. “Try harder next time” can flip to “An admirable effort, but I know you can do better.” Whether the work or task was first-rate, outstanding, exceptional, superb or poor, words are powerful tools to motivate and provide curiosity. The students mind may ignore the praise, they may investigate it further, or they may learn an expression and fire it off at peers in the future. That seed can fast become a network of positivity branching out in the tree of life. Feedback should be seen as a chance to reflect on what you have asked – and not a motivator for incorrect learning. Wisely must the force you use be. Liam, a teacher, I know uses fist bumps, high fives and many other praising moves learnt from the ghettos of Weymouth (U.K.). Try to vary your praising methods. Introduce more internationally noted cultural nods of approval.