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Angel's Growth =)
Zhuan Xin's Page
I am now a part-time English teacher at Giraffe. My students are kids around six years old who have just started learning English for around two months. In classes, I often face problems of how to attract their interests. I need to come up with lots of different games and activities to do every time. In the begining of today's course, Professor Cheng let us do an activity called "Find Someone Who." This was a really fun and lively activity. It gave us the chances to talk with our classmates and just feel free. This would be a good warm-up in English learning classes. I'll keep this activity in mind. Hope that one day I'll get the chance to use it, though my students now are not yet capable of doing this activity.
Talking about my own experiences of learning English, I actually started quite late, compared with other kids in Taipei. I began going to real English classes when I was ten years old. I was kind of frightened at first for my classmates had already learned English for two years while I was just a beginner. I went to KOJEN, and the learning experiences there were wonderful. I remembered that we were always having all kinds of games, activities, and songs. I had a lot of fun and at the same time improved a lot in English. During junior high school, I left KOJEN, and I never went to other cram schools afterwards. I already had deep interests in English and need no one to push me to study English. I think the happy experiences I had in KOJEN made a great influence on my English learning journey. Setting up a kid's confidence and interests at a young age is really an important thing.
While teaching kids English at Giraffe, I often tried to create different games for the kids, because I was afraid that they may get tired of always playing similar games. However, I found the kids were impatient in learning new games, and they sometimes even refuse to play those new games. So I asked some other English teachers for help. Then I learned that theproblem is that it is not really easy for kids to learn new rules and ew games. They are often satisfied with the old games they play every week. It is not neccessary to provide them with new games unless they really complained about getting bored. After that experience, I went and picked up the old games. And the kids are really happy with that.
In today's class, each group of us did our version of teaching kids the story of "Goddilocks and the three bears." Every group of us did mostly the same things. We simply acted out the story for the students, and asked them a few questions about the story. However, we forgot that our students were very young and are just beginners in learning English. The first problem is that they may not understand the English and thus have no idea at all of what we are acting. Second, kids get distracted very easily. It is hard for the kids to watch a show with full attention, even if the show is fun. From Professor Cheng's demo, I learned that a good teacher should let her young students participate in the story as much as possible. For example, the teacher can make the students stand up and do some actions together. Always let the kids have something to do, don't just let them sit there and listen passively.
I remember that once in my class, when I was teaching the new word, "elevator," I asked the kids whether they have an elevator at home or not. And the kids were super excited in telling me that they have a very big elevator, and they live in the sixth floor, or things like that. I really agree that it is very important to let the kids feel that they are "in" this class, so they will have the interests in what the teacher is teaching.
Today, in class, we carried out an experiment about the percentage of "teacher talk" versus "students talk." And the result is quite shocking to me. I know that as a teacher, I certainly do talk more than the kids do in my classes. But I'd never really thought that I talk so much more than the kids do. So after the class on Friday morning, I imediately decided to design a little activity for my young students in Girraffe that afternoon. I gave each kid a little sheet of paper, on which I wrote down a name. I told them to look at the name , secretly remerber it, and don't let others see it. The game went like that all the students need to talk to each other, in order to get the other people's names. The more names you get, the more points you win. I gave them a couple sentences to practice during the game, including "how are you," "what is your name," and "nice to meet you." I found the kids were very excited because I told them the names on your sheets are secrets that can't be seen by others. The kids were really fascinated by these "secrets." But the result of practicing English was not quite a success, for they didn't really practice the conversation that I ordered. They just had fun running around the classroom and asking others to let them see the papers. I guess the problem might be that, as beginners, they are not capable of using the target language fluently, even if they did learn the conversation before and I did teach them what to say before the game started. Or perhaps next time, I should reduce the conversation into only two sentences, so the task will be easier. But anyway, at least they did have great fun.
About two weeks ago, Professor Cheng brought his little friend, Tiger Woods, to the class. Having a little puppet, who can speak English, is a very good idea. The puppet can be the second English speaker in the classroom, so the teacher can have conversations with someone else rather than always talking to herself. And kids love to have something fun in class, a cute puppet can definitely arouse their interests. Therefore, I brought a toy bear to the class on Wednesday. The kids were very excited in seeing a new guy appear in the classroom. I introduced the bear and asked them to give the bear a name. They were very happy about having the authority to give the bear a name. And after a hot discussion of about five minutes, we decided to call the bear "Bruce Lee." Yes, the same name as the famous action star has. In the following class, I had conversation with Bruce Lee while I was teaching the new sentence lesson. And the kids seemed to enjoy watching me talk to Bruce Lee. During the break time, they all asked to play with Bruce Lee. So I think Bruce Lee was quite a good companion for them.
In the next class on Friday, I delibrately forgot to bring Bruce Lee. And I was surprised to found that the students really asked for Bruce Lee! They didn't just forget him after two days. I was quite satisfied by their admiration for Bruce Lee, so I think I'll let Bruce Lee show up more often once in a while.
Today, I taught my "students" the simple present tense. My target students had learned English for some time and should have basic abilities in having conversations in simple English. I first explained the grammar rules with time line on the board. I also gave them a few easy examples of how the verbs are changed in the past tense. Then I have my students do role-play. The plot was about a stealing case. I gave each students a little piece of paper, on which I wrote down one character, and a sentence describing what the character did the last night. The students had to walk around the classroom, and asked others what they did last night. At the end of the game, the students should had gathered enough clues to find out who are the thieves. The purpose of this game is to let the students practice asking others what they did, and also answering the question.
The result seemed to be that the students had pretty much interests in this activity.
I think I am good at arousing the students's interests for I appear to be as energetic as possible whenever I go into a classroom.
And I am not bad at creating fun activities for my students.
But my weakness is that I don't really know how to explain grammar rules. I reflected upon my own learning experiences, I found that I never really understood those grammar rules my teacher taught me. I just felt that it was natural to speak that way. Therefore, I seldom think about grammar, and that's why I don't know how to explain those rules clearly to my students when they have doubts.
I realized that being a teacher, one really has to pay a lot of attention to everything that happens in class. I just had some personal experience. Once, over half of the kids in my class didn't attend the class, so I wasn't able to play a game which requires more participants. So I said that we will play the game next time when all the others come to class. But after a few days, I invented other games, and forgot about that promise totally. The kids did enjoy the new games a lot. But they still really do remember about the game I promised to play a few weeks ago! And they reminded me of that today. They said, "Teacher Alice always forget things." I was shocked and kind of embarrassed. And I think that next time, I should write down everything I promised them, so I won;t accidentally forget them. Otherwise, the kids may think I am easy to fool or even unreliable.
When you are teaching a new idea, you should give the students some first-hand, simple knowledge of the idea first. Therefore, the students won't feel like they are learning Greek, something that's totally unfamiliar to them. Take today's "teaching reading" for example. Our team choose an article about the Flora expo in Taipei. The article is filled with information about when, where, and how is the Flora expo going to be. When I first read it, I was a little confused because they were too much numbers, place names, and too full of information. But if the teacher can provide some basic introduction before asking the students to read the article, the students may not feel that confused. So our group decided to that at the very beginning of the class, the teacher will let the students watch a short clip of the Flora expo, so as to build "schema."
On the third and the fourth Sundays of December, I attended an “English Teacher Training Course” held by the Giraffe Kids’ English Center. The course I took were about teaching phonics and grammar. After I took these courses, I thought about some questions.
The Muja branch school, which I worked at, has a different teaching system from the other Giraffe branch schools. Normally, the Giraffe system will have the kids start with ABC, and then phonics. By learning phonics and all its rules, the kids will get to distinguish different sounds in English, and then will be able to spell the words according to their sounds. However, at Muja branch, we did it in a different way. We don’t teach the kids phonics at the beginning. We first teach them easy conversations and easy vocabulary. Phonics will be taught later. As I am teaching my students, I found some difficulty. It is hard for the kids to memorize words, for they haven’t learned the rules of phonics before. If I insisted on making them memorize vocabulary, they could only memorize the alphabet sequences by repeating them again and again. But this way of memorizing words is not a smart way. As teachers, we should be expecting our students to memorize words easily. If the kids had learned to distinguish every bit of sounds they hear in a word, they should have been able to spell the words easily. Take the word “bird” for example; they should not memorize it simply by repeating the alphabet order: “b-i-r-d” for many times. I think it may be smarter to let the kids learn phonics first before we make them spell words.
Quite a lot of my friends told me that they think learning English was a very boring and frustrating task. Most of them had started learning English when they were around first grade in elementary schools. They went to kids' English cram school like KOJEN or JOY, but they told me that they don't feel like they learned anything there. They were just going to the cram school and playing games with other kids, but learned no English. When they entered junior high schools, learning English became a totally different thing from which in KOJEN and JOY. Learning English was to get good grades, which will send them into good high schools. Learning English was no fun at all! They were just memorizing more and more vocabulary, and more and more grammar rules. But they said their English ability did improve by memorizing, though their speaking and listening ability did not.
I was quit shocked at hearing them saying these things. In my own experiences, I had great fun back in KOJEN, and I knew I did learn lots of English there. At the same time, my English grades at school were always pretty good. So I've always thought that learning English in kids' English center is not only fun, but also useful. But what my friends told me was not like what I thought.
Perhaps there are still too many troubles in our English teaching system in Taiwan. So many people learned English in Taiwan, but so few people can really communicate with this language, even just by using the simplest sentences and words.
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