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|emmafoers 71 posts||
'Nihow' to all,
Fancy helping to improve the i-to-i China Internship teaching experience?
My name is Emma and I work on the i-to-i team as an Online tutor. The China Internship team are constantly trying to improve the intern experience and have asked me to create some new materials to aid new teachers in their first few weeks. So I thought who better to ask than the interns themselves!!! So, in terms of teaching, my questions to you are:
Any feedback, good or bad would be much appreciated. If you didn't feel comfortable and felt stressed here is your chance to let us know and you will be helping future interns.
I hope you are all enjoying the teaching and are settled in China. Also if you have any teaching questions give me a bell and I'll do my best to help :-) x
|Rozel09 31 posts||
So far, I am loving teaching. I’ve been given grades 3 and 6 (8 and 12 years old) The students are fun, but some can be quite cheeky and chatty in class. Many are very keen to learn – and can get over enthusiastic when playing games (which ends up being very noisy!) The classes are organised in rows, so it’s hard to rearrange seating for different activities. Their Chinese teachers divide the class into teams of 3 or 4, and keep track of points on the board for questions answered etc. You can also take points away for those being naughty or too loud. Some teachers also give rewards for the winning team at the end of the lesson, which is nice. You need to check this is ok with whoever’s class it is who is teaching, as some don’t like you to hand things out.
My first lessons were spent introducing myself and showing pictures of my family, pets and home town. I found out about what they like, their hobbies. Didn’t spend too much time on names as I teach about 800 different students a week in classes of 40-45, so apart from a few that stand out it’s too difficult to learn them all. I’ve also been given textbooks and vocabulary lists to look at to help me design my lesson plans, which is great. My role is to revise what they have been taught and to make it fun.
Popular (and easy) games to play have included the category game – split the class into teams and divide the board accordingly. Students go up one by one to write a word to fit the category, and the winning team has the most. This game can get loud, so just need to keep a close eye on it! For less able groups I give discussion time on the category before starting. Good way to find out what they know.
Blindfold games (eyemask from plane is very useful!) I used it for ‘guess who’ games for my first lesson, asking q’s about each other. I’ve also used it to guess objects and it’s good when teaching directions as well.
Pictionary has been a hit this week, and good for eliciting vocab from the class. Again, played in teams (extra points for the best pictures!)
I think a games directory would be a great resource to put together for new teachers – particularly games that need little or no resources, and can be adapted for big classes! I’ve been using the ones on esl-kids.com and have passed them onto the girls I am teaching with, which we have all been referring to for ideas (I’d saved them off the site so I could access them offline..) primaryresouces.com has lots of ready-made powerpoints you can download for different topics – I used a template for ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ to play in my class to recap what we had learnt. They kept on playing after the lesson ended!
I’d advise people to take out photos/video clips/music saved onto a USB to show the students things in class – they love seeing them and provide a good discussion point. I showed clips from when it snowed last year as well as some summer ones, which were great for my seasons and weather lesson this week. I also took out some alphabet flashcards, which although are too basic for my classes, are still useful for sticking up on the board and getting them to think of words starting with that letter – or getting students to pick one (they love getting to choose stuff...’let me try!’) I also got them to make up sentences with words starting with the same letter. Good lesson warm-up activity.
The i-to-i online course was a good basis, and it’s hard to cover everything when there are just so many differences between teaching experiences here. I have been looking at the modules for advice when stuck for what to do – for example, increasing STT , so it’s worth downloading the PDFs for each module so you can look at them again. Not had any real difficulties (yet) but I just need to keep thinking of activities to fit the topics, and keeping them varied so they don’t get bored! Any advice on monitoring and keeping in check large classes would also be very useful right now!
|RichH84 12 posts||
I think it would be a good idea to add real life lessons in rather (or both) the online course or the warming period before interns are shipped to their placements. Even though there was some lesson videos on the online course, it wasn't really an accurate representation of the challenges that might arise when new teachers walk into a classroom for the first time e.g. sleeping students, lack of respect/discipline, mainly when students can't or don't want to participate in activities. I would have prefered several accounts delivered to us via a projector during the introduction when we arrived in China to give us a realistic idea of what we are getting into, for instance show a lesson that went wrong and how to deal with that, then show a lesson that went really well and explain why it went well, good body language to use, bad habits to drop etc. I would have really benefited from seeing teacher progression from week one (maybe a short 5 minute video of someone looking like they are about to cry) to week 12 (showing an in-control, organised teacher having fun with the students in a structured learning enviroment) just to notify new teachers that its highly unlikely that your first day will be a teaching spectacle to behold, but progression is pretty much assured and to look forward to this process.
Chinese Students: being individuals it's nigh on impossible to pigeon-hole any section of students in a few sentences, but one thing I can say is that giving them freedom to do what they want (in a talk amongst yourselves and present the answer in 10 minutes type of exercise) is problematic because they are too used to having information thrown at them with no real opportunity to work things out by themselves. I had a big problem with this in one class so I just sat them down and said we are doing a spelling test, the class had never looked more content. This is obvioulsy a cultural thing so trying to get them out of that safety zone of dictation and into a more free-thinking based level of learning is something I'm slowly trying to knead into them. This won't be the same for everyone as I am teaching in a private school which is known for these types of problems.
|emmafoers 71 posts||
Hi Rozel and Rich,
Thanks so much - some great ideas and tips - this really helps me to get the ball rolling! The more info I can get from you guys, the more I can get a sense of 'the norm' (or as much as I can!). Yes, it's a tough task as the schools can vary so much, but the more information we can obtain will surely help future interns :-)
Rozel, thanks for including about the classroom layout! This makes such a big difference to activities doesn't it? The chinese's points system for behaviour sounds ideal - this is what I would suggest for such big groups (it really works to keep kids motivated and in check!) Rich does your school do this too? And what is your class layout like? Also do you have IWB boards (Interactive White Boards?).
Yes, esl-base.com has lots of games. Try http://www.teachenglishinasia.net/efl-esl-games/efl-esl-speaking-games?page=1 , http://www.esl-galaxy.com/speaking.html and http://www.english-4kids.com/games.html also.
Do your schools want you to just do conversation? A good reading website for kids is http://www.extrareading.com/free1.htm - even if you just introduce your students to it for homework/optional homework (reading is the best way to learn a language!)
Re monitoring - for speaking activities you can put students into groups and select a stronger student to monitor and keep notes. You can then use these notes either during/after class to see their progression. If they have to produce something to you, then they will be more likely to focus on the given task. Also you could assign group leaders, whose task it is to keep their group members in check (you don't need to be the only one in the class to enforce good behaviour!). But all in all, I have always found the points system to be the best way to keep students in check - so utilise this at all times. They need an incentive/consequence however or it won't work. Incentives for the winners include: A get out of homework pass for one day/week, a certificate of good behaviour to take home to their parents, a video lesson on their chosen film (obviously with a worksheet so they are still learning), a lesson on their favourite popstar (s), sweets, they get to finish class early one day (check this is ok with the school), a slightly longer break (again check with the school)....the list is endless...you'll need to find out what floats your children's boats!!!
Hope this helps!!! Keep the teaching experiences coming :-)
|RichH84 12 posts||
The classroom layout in NIT is rows (or columns depending on your point of view) and even though we have been told we can alter this it does need to be placed back at the end of the lesson so we do not bother moving desks, we just move people. We do use a white board religiously; although nearly all classooms are kitted out with a projector and screen and computer, this takes valuable time setting up, so we only use this if there is no class preceding us, which is rare. We do not use a point system (apart from the odd competition now and again) as our students are 18-21 so gaining points is not high on their list of things to do.
|Martha 9 posts||
I'm teaching in a private boarding school which is split into primary school, junior school and senior school. There are 4000 pupils here so its pretty big. I'm teaching grades 2,3,4 and 5 in the primary school with the ages ranging from 7-11. I am really enjoying my teaching experience so far but there are definitely some things that would have made the experience a lot easier:
1) I think if people had a bit more information before the internship starts then it would give people a chance to get more organised. For example, I would have arranged to visit a primary school in advance to sit in on a few lessons to get some ideas of how to work with this age group, but as I could have been teaching anyone from very young children to adults it seemed pointless trying to get any prior experience. It would have also been great to bring age-specific resources and prepare materials for their level of English.
2) I think it should be written into the contracts that the first week of the internship should be a 'shadow week'. Although arriving on the Sunday evening and then being thrown into classes first thing Monday morning was a very exhilarating experience it's not really a great way to start the teaching process. I really feel a shadow week is very important in order for the interns to get settled, to get to know the level of their pupils, to see how other teachers are teaching their lessons, and to familiarise themselves with the way the school works and it's codes of conduct. It would also give the interns a chance to prepare their lessons.
3) I think the induction week in Beijing really needs to be reviewed and improved. I think the main purpose of the week should be focused on preparing the interns for teaching. We only really had a 4 hour talk which, although very imformative, wasn't enough. I would suggest that instead of the interns doing the weekend TEFL course in the UK, interns should do this course as part of their week induction with a specific focus on teaching in China, so that it will be fresh in their minds. I also think Rich's idea of showing a poor classroom experience and a good classroom experience would be very useful. At present the videos we were shown as part of the online course just show tutors teaching English to a group of 6-10 adults. This is completely irrelevant to me as I am teaching classes of 50 children. Therefore I had no realisation of what this would be like. It would also be great to have presentations from past interns to hear some of their stories and to have a chance to ask some questions to 'those in the know'.
4) I think that on completion of the online course participants should receive a textbook on everything that has been covered and should also be encouraged to download specific materials from the course. As the internship needs to have a deadline for completing the online part of the TEFL course it is easy to rush through the assignments without really absorbing it all. Therefore I think that having access to the course materials afterwards is very important.
5) Interns should write a detailed report on their time in their school which should be passed to any future interns. This would really help interns to get to grips with their school, to help them with their orientation and it would also be really useful for interns who are maybe taking over from a previous intern to see what worked well and what didn't work well when teaching in their school.
Now to answer some of your questions and to give you more info about my school set up:
- My school doesn't use interactive white boards. It has blackboards and projector screens. The primary school mostly uses interactive discs which are projected on to the screen and used for teaching. They also use their laptops for powerpoint shows. I would definitlely recommend interns to take their latops with them in case their school is not able to povide them or at least take a USB stick like Rozel said.
- The chairs and desks are organised in rows, sometimes single-file and sometimes double-file. As I have 50 per class it is a very tight squeeze therefore there still wouldn't be enough room for really active games, e.g. circle games, even if we did move the desks. There's also not enough time to move the class to another space for active games, e.g. gymnasium, as the school is very big and it would take up too much time to get there and back.
- The school want me to focus mostly on making English fun and to focus on oral English. However, I know this isn't true of all schools.
- My school doesn't use a points system to discipline the class but one of my teachers hands out little paper tokens to students who do well during the class. Then at the end of the week he collects them in, counts them, and the top students get a prize such as sweets. I am vey lucky in that I always have a teacher in my class. The head of my department has told the teachers to watch my classes to learn from my teaching methods. They don't seem to be able to grasp the fact that I've only been doing this for 4 weeks! I think this is very rare to have teachers sit in on intern's classes but it helps me a lot in terms of discipline as I think it makes them a bit better behaved. I think most people came to China hearing that the Chinese are very obedient and that they are excellent students to teach. But at the end of the day they are children! Therefore interns need to be prepared to control their classes which can be very hard with such big class sizes. I think one thing that really helps with kids' attention spans is to break up a class by doing a song or chant. The Chinese love repeating things and drilling and my young kids love to sing. This helps to energise them and to re-focus them.
- I am given a textbook to work from which is great as it provides me with a target language focus for the class but I can be creative in how I teach this. However, I have also been asked to create an 'English Activity' 18 week course for the top students from grade 3-5. This involves 2 classes a week for 30 of the top students to prepare them for public speaking competitions. I have found this particularly difficult as I am teaching students ranging from grade 2 to grade 5 in the same class. I know other interns have been asked to design similar courses or to run an Englsih corner. Therefore it would be great to get some training or access to resources to help design and teach these kinds of classes.
- I do not have acces to things like card, paper, dice etc and the school doesn't have a budget for such things. The children work from text books which they also write in and the higher grades have jotters aswell. Therefore if I want to do any activities using other resources I need to buy them myself or think of a way to use no resources.
From hearing about other interns' experiences I realise that the China Internship Programme really varies according to age group, level of English, location, class sizes, hours of teaching, course material, etc. Therefore it is impossible to train and prepare everyone specifically for the experience they will have. Part of the fun of the internship is having an open-mind and seeing where you end up. However, I also really think that interns should be given as much training as possible not only to improve the quality of their experience but also so that the school and the students get the best out of the teachers. I hope my info and suggestions are useful. Feel free to ask any more questions! x
|Martha 9 posts||
Wooft! Didn't realise I'd written so much. It's a bloody essay!
|Rozel09 31 posts||
Martha, I logged in especially to read it! haha. I agree with the points about having some videos of different lessons! I found a few on youtube before I left, but not of classes like I'm teaching... Feedback from previous interns would be really great - particularly before we leave for China. I got to speak to a few of those helping out in Beijing, and that put some of my worries to rest. It would be nice to know more. I appreciate that it's a fairly new programme, but there are so many people out in the TEFL world whose experiences could be learnt from! It's difficult to know where to look for information.
Behaviour management is hard enough to do when the kids speak your language. Here, it can be tough! Those who are naughty really just don't respond to what you say. I've had to get very cross and strict on occasion and that has worked - but I think for some people who haven't dealt with children before that would be really difficult.
I think having a day to orient yourself to the school would be enough - that's what we were given here and it was great to be shown around the school, introduced to the teachers and given time to plan. It's also useful to sit in on a Chinese English lesson if possible - you get an idea of the style the children are used to (and the commands they respond to!) if they aren't taught English, then any lesson would be interesting to see how they behave for their chinese teachers. I was told that the children find us foreigners 'exciting' and that's why they get so noisy and enthusiastic. On the whole, I really love teaching here, even my naughtiest class ;-)
|Martha 9 posts||
Thought of another thing to add to my essay! Our school has one classroom monitor per class which is generally the best student. This monitor makes sure all the students are in the classroom for the start of the lesson and also gets the students to drill vocab for the first 5mins. The monitor has other duties including making sure everyone takes part in the eye exercises and checking everyone has their books. This monitor system appears to work but I would be warey of giving them anymore power than they already have as I have heard reports of monitors using physical punishment to discipline fellow classmates. Also I don't think it is very good for the mentors to be superior to their peers with extra privileges. But I do think that team leaders would be a good idea to help with discipline. i.e. use the points system and the head of each team takes responsibility for the group in terms of stirring group moral, counting the points, encouraging the others to behave, etc. x
|emmafoers 71 posts||
Wow thanks for the info. I will do my best to incorporate all I can into the pack we will be giving to future interns - your comments are much appreciated! It's also really interesting for me to learn about what teaching is like in China! Some schools have a classroom monitors that deal out physical punishment?! I think in theory the idea of a monitor is good - but I would be inclined to choose a different person each lesson (those who have shown improvement, expressed good behaviour etc). I have found that giving responsibility to naughty children can help them to improve their behaviour.
Martha - could you give me details on what course you designed? What guidelines were you given - if any? (age group, topics, maybe grammar points were you asked to cover?)
Thanks again for your comments guys!!!
|kittyzhao627 2 posts||
Hi everybody! My name is Kitty and I am seriously considering joining the 4.5 months program to teach in China. One question though, I hope some of you can help me. Has any of you ever met a Chinese person who has lived abroad and speaks fluent English teach at the school you work in? I am doing the online TEFL course and wish to return to China to teach after living in Ireland for nine years. I'm just not sure if I would be accepted as an English teacher and receive the same benefits as native English speakers. I would really appreciate some insights from you guys. Thanks a lot!
|honor 115 posts||
That's great that you want to head back to China to teach - due to the level of demand for English teachers there they may consider you as a non-native English speaker. Your best bet is to call your local i-to-i office (check http://www.onlinetefl.com for the number) to chat about whether or not you'd be able to take part in the program.
Best of luck with it all!
|kittyzhao627 2 posts||
Thanks Honor. I'll get on to them right away.
|emmafoers 71 posts||
Here are some games ideas - i'd appreciate your feedback on how they workout in your classes! Happy game playing! http://www.tefl-chalkboard.com/emmafoers/posts/971-games-games-and-more-games
|SKENT 3 posts||
I'm sorry to say that my 120hour TEFL course was of no use to me whatsoever at my school in China! It's unfortunate and disappointing, the detail of which I will be posting. At this point I have to say that the TEFL course did NOT prepare me for a class of 2-3yr olds.. oh, and one 1yr old. Changing a nappy!?! Taking children 'pee pee'?!? Not my idea of teaching, I was looking forward to using skills I had learnt on the course. I wasn't alone in my experience. As you have probably gathered by my use of the past tense, I have now returned to the UK due to illness in the family. HOWEVER, had I stayed in Beijing I would have been one of those unhappy people asking for a change of placement.
|Zoeholl111 3 posts||
I’ve just had a read over the other posts in this thread and it’s really interesting to learn about everyone else’s experiences of teaching over here in China! I can certainly identify with some of the feelings / issues mentioned, but I also think that all the above comments have made it really clear how much variety there is in the China Internship’s teaching placements.
I live and work in a city called Xingtai, which is in Hebei Province (about 3 hours south of Beijing). My teaching schedule is actually really varied – I’m ‘based’ at a private English language training centre for children, but also work at local primary schools and middle schools. This means that my class sizes range from a miniscule 5 students right up to a monsterous 120 students, and everything in between. The age of the students I teach also varies considerably – from 5 year olds up to 15 year olds. This variety, at the very least, helps to keep things interesting!
Emma – I’ll try to answer each of your original questions in turn (I have a tendency to babble so this should make it a bit easier for you to read / extract useful feedback!)…
What would you have liked more help on and what have you struggled with the most in your lessons?
First let me say that I actually quite enjoyed doing the 120 hour TEFL course, and did think that it provided a decent foundation for embarking upon my first TEFL job abroad (particularly the weekend course). I certainly would have felt a lot more clueless starting teaching without the course behind me! I have found, however, that it is actually quite hard to apply things learnt in theory on the online course (like ‘classroom management’) to my own classroom – I think perhaps more practical / interactive teaching of this kind of thing is necessary. Rich’s idea about video examples of good / bad lessons being added to the online course is a terrific idea, and I think also introducing some interactive training to the Orientation week in Beijing would be a good thing. In addition to this, getting some past interns to share their own experiences with the new interns, perhaps in short video clips (or even inviting some of them to give a talk at the Orientation if they’re around Beijing when the next intake start) would be a really nice way of giving the new interns a realistic and human perspective of what teaching will be like – much more so than just doing an online course!
In terms of what I’ve struggled with most – I sometimes find it quite difficult to keep my large classes engaged and interested for the content of the lesson (especially the ones in lecture theatres where getting them to move around / do group work is pretty much impossible).
How do you find teaching Chinese students?
Before I came to China and even in the Beijing orientation week I was told that Chinese students are “Lots better behaved than English students”, which made me think that I wouldn’t have many behavioural issues to deal with. This is rubbish – some of my students here are just as rude and loud and disinterested as the ones at my old comprehensive school, and similarly some are polite and respectful and keen to learn. It’s a mixed bag! Due to the huge range of ages / class sizes I teach it’s quite hard to generalize on what teaching Chinese students is like – but things that pop out as common to most of my classes is how expert the students are at drilling / repetition (they must get a lot of practice in their other classes!) and how they generally need quite a lot of steering in terms of class discussion topics (any attempts to get them to freely discuss things and come up with original and opinionated arguments have fallen flat).
What activities do you find work well with your students?
The combination of large classes / seats that can’t be rearranged / small classrooms with not much room to play games / lack of resources, means that many of the games and activities which I come across when I’m researching my lessons aren’t really possible in many of my classes. But there are some activities which work well and I use often in my lessons:
-Interviews/dialogues in pairs
-Board relay races
-Picture run game (used to test vocab – hold up two flashcards, say a word, and get the students to run the side of the room that they think the corresponding flashcard is on)
- Guess the picture game (Powerpoint – hide a picture relating to a key vocab item behind some coloured squares on a powerpoint slide, and then click to make the squares disappear one by one, the winner is whoever says the correct word first)
- Make a sentence game – give students some words/pictures and get them to make a grammatically correct sentence from them.
Hope that’s of some help! I can send you some of my powerpoints if you want any actual examples of my lessons in their entirety..