I have never really given much thought to how a teacher can teach his student. Though I was taught differently when I went to the US in third and fourth grade, after I came back to Taiwan, I just went right back to the traditional language teaching. Sure, language (English) classes were quite boring, especially in senior high, but I thought it was normal for the teachers to teach that way. It wasn’t until I came to this class that I realize that the method the teachers were using was called “Grammar Translation Method.” Having been in America for almost two years, I agree with language acquisition. In an environment without people who can speak your mother tongue, you have to force yourself to speak the language you’re learning in order to fulfill your needs. When I was an assistant counselor at YMCA English Camp, I realized that the goal of the camp was to create an environment where the students had to use English as their first language. We were supposed to speak all English, even when talking to other counselors. I loved the atmosphere. If I were an English teacher, I would try my best to increase my students’ exposure to the language. As an active person, I enjoy learning while having fun. Therefore, I would like to add more activities while learning, making it fun for my students.
If I were a student who only wanted to get high scores on my English written and reading tests, I believe the grammar translation method would work pretty well for me. However, I believe learning a language should not only concern its writing, but also its speaking and listening. I’m someone who would like to learn all aspects of a language. I would like to learn by using more than just the grammar translation method. After learning more methods, I believe I would know what kind of teaching method I want to look for the next time I learn a new language.
After reading chapter one and two (and the discussions in class), I learned that there are different reasons for learning. One is ESP, and the other is EAP. There are also different contexts for learning, such as EFL, ESL, and ESOL. I realized that there is a big problem with students in Taiwan, one that we aren't conscious about: we never really know the reason for learning. When students are asked of the reason they are studying so hard for a subject, the answer you often hear is that the subject was arranged for them. For English, if my students know their purposes of learning English, I would know what kind of method to use when I teach (since with different conditions come different teaching skills). That way, I believe my students can understand me easier because they know what I'm trying to give them.
People of different ages learn differently. I would like to teach children if I were an English teacher. I love to think of fun activities for them. This summer, I dealt with children aged ten to twelve. Though they were in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, they don't appear to be as mature as their age should be. Therefore, I had to come up with an awarding system (they loved compliments!). Somtimes, I had problem working with them. After knowing more about children's characteristics, I believe I will be able to do a better job next time. When Professor Cheng was giving the example of "plan" and "plain," I couldn't help but nod. There are so many teachers in Taiwan that cannot recognize the different pronounciation between these two words. Students learn from teachers. Consequently, students being taught by those teachers cannot tell the difference between those two words. As a language teacher, I believe that it's important for us to learn how to pronounce words correctly. Even the smallest difference matters.
I was surprised when I read about the "plateau effect" on page 18. From third to nineth grade, I had the feeling that my English improved a lot. However, after high school started, I had the feeling that I was "stuck" somehow. Yes, I did memorize new words, but I couldn't seem to use them. I thought it was just me until I read it in the book. As a college student, two of my textbooks are in English (this subject and International Relations). Hopefully, by learning something professional in English, I can see myself improve.
When we were on stage doing our demo for Goldilocks, I was a bit nervous. I think it was good that we had a narrator and two actors. Before the demo, we thought that all three of us had to be the three bears. However, I remember that small kids actually like it when one person has to act more than one character (the different characteristics and how the actor might mix up seem to amuse them). After doing our demo, personally, I think it was quite fun for the students to act the play out themselves. It was after our discussion that it began to dawn on me that we might have made it a little bit too hard for non-native speakers. I realized that I shouldn't have just read the whole script, word to word. I forgot the fact that children's attention span is much shorter. If I just kept on reading (especially when they probably don't understand everything), no matter how I change my intonation, the kids would lose their interest (frankly, I would probably be the same). Also, we believed that the demos we did were more like a play instead of a lesson. We did not teach the kids any vocabulary. I think it's nice to have a translator in class. However, I think the translator also needs to have good English pronounciation. Also, it's crucial that the translator and the main teacher prepare the lecture beforehand. It's important to keep the class on schedule. Finally, I think it's good that some of the groups asked the students to participate and ask the students questions. It's easier for the teachers to know if they got their messages across.
Since I'm learning Spanish, I find some learning strategies quite uesful. Spanish is a complete new language to me. Since its grammar structure is very different from English, I find it a bit confusing. After learning the direct strategy, I find "mental linkages" very appealing. When I memorized new words in English, I tend to relate the word to a person I know. That way, it's easier for me remember the word. I believe I will do the same for Spanish (except that it's still much harder). Our Spanish teacher always asks us to preview beforehand. I used to think previewing isn't really important. I do realize now that since Spanish is spoken really fast, in order to understand and keep up with the pace, it's crucial that we have read it at least one time. Also, after teaching us sentences in class, the teachers would ask us to find a partner and read it out. This is very useful to me because not only did I listen to the teacher (input), I also spoke the language out loud (output). Since we have pop quizzes, it's also important that I find ways to lower my nervousness. I think the best solution is to "spend time" with Spanish every single day.
Today we talked about ideal teachers and how teachers should manage the classroom. When I was in junior high, I participated in many contests, such as speech, storytelling, recitation, and spelling contests. Whenever I got a prize, I could tell that my teacher was happy about it. However, there was this one time when I chatted on the cell phone with someone during RECESS. Someone in my class told her about it and she scolded me. I felt pretty upset about it. I felt even worse when there's this girl whose cell phone rang during class and my homeroom teacher just said, "Remember to turn it off next time." I was like, so confused and mad about the incident. Unfairness was something I could not stand. That was why on Friday, I said fairness was an important factor of being a good teacher. Also, a teacher should not judge a student by his grades. I think it's a common problem in Taiwan. It's becoming a trend that a teacher can also be a friend. I think it's crucial that the teacher show his care for his students. Students learn better when they like the teacher and enjoy the classes. As a teacher, I think a lot can be learned from students, the way they act, why they did something, how come they're not happy... things like that. Some students, I believe, may even have experiences that a teacher has not yet experienced. I'm not saying that the teacher should chat with the students all the time, but I think it's very crucial to create a bond between the students and the teacher.
I was a little amazed when I read about the different seating arrangements. I have seen the five different arrangements, but I had never known the "secrets" behind them. In high school, we only used the "solowork (or orderly rows)" arrangement. I think it was very boring. Even as a high school student, I like sitting in separate tables. Another bad thing was since we were just learning English for the college entrance exam, we just listened to the teacher all the time. There was no time for us students to talk and interact with each other in English. There's truly a lot to think about when it comes to managing the classroom.
I think everyone who demonstrated how to teach English did a good job. Of all the people, however, I liked Sam's best. By using powerpoint, everything he said was very clear and easy to understand. Also, he interacted with the students by asking us questions and giving us compliments when we answered something correct. When other people taught (by using the whiteboard), I think it was easy for children to lose their interest. Besides, their voices was a little inaudible, so I couldn't really concentrate (my fault > <) on what they were saying. I also think it would be better if teachers smiled more often.
Though I really liked Sam's way of teaching, as a lazy person myself, I probably won't spend so much time on preparing the powerpoint. I will probably use powerpoint in class once a week or something. It will probably give my students a suprise. Other times, I prefer writing on the whiteboard myself. If I could teach in the future, I don't want to be a teacher in junior or senior high. I'd like to teach at a place where I can talk to my students and play games with them. When I was in first grade, I went to a cram school for English. However, it wasn't a serious class. The foreign teachers would come up with different activities for us to participate in. That's why I didn't refuse to go to cram school. I hope to become that kind of teacher.
Today, we had to prepare a reading text for students to learn. Our group's choice was the text I brought, from the prologue of Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. At first, we didn't quite grasp what to do. We wanted to teach writing, but writing is a lot of work. We can't expect the students to be able to write after reading the text. Also, as Professor Cheng had pointed out, we didn't make much use of the text. Therefore, after much discussion and Professor Cheng's advice, we decided to have the students act out the text.
I never knew it was so much work to prepare for a class. Yesterday, we had four people in a group to discuss what the lesson will be like. Someday, when we are REAL teachers, it's more likely that we'll have to prepare the lesson by ourselves. Let's say we have three classes every day. If we take too much time to prepare for one class, think about how much time we will need to prepare for all the classes. I think preparing for a class takes experience. Through experience, I believe we will be able to do it faster and more efficiently. Another thing we should be aware of is multiple intelligence. I think it's easy for us to forget that people learn differently. We may focus on visual and verbal intelligences, but forget about kinaesthetic intelligence. This is something we should keep in mind.
The book I used was called "Hot Topics." There are many different topics in the book and I think they're all very interesting. The one I chose was about online dating. Below is the sequence I would use for teaching this topic:
*Get students engaged by asking them about meeting people online then pass down the articles.
1. Have the students skim 2 readings and make predictions (pick numbers randomly and ask them to answer)
2. Have two students in a group and let them work on the vocabulary
3. Have students write sentences using two- and three-word verbs
4. Pick students randomly and let them read out the sentences
5. Put two students in a group and let one person be the interviewer and the other be the interviewee. They can share their experiences and then switch turns.
6. Have several pairs share their experiences with the class.
(7. Homework: write a short paragraph about one's opinion on the topic)
By using pairwork, students can interact with each other. Though they may not have the ability to do the whole discussion in English, they can understand what's going on and help each other. This way, scaffolding is not always done by the teacher. Also, when they DO use English, they are using it in a real way since they are trying to accomplish something. To make the usage of the passage even more completely, I can ask students how they would persuade people to accept and respect others' viewpoint. By doing this, they are not only learning English, but also learning experiences they might need in the real world.
Today we learned about how to plan a lesson. In planning a lesson, there are some important features. The first thing we should know is what our target is. If we want our students to progress, we need to keep a list of what our students have learned so that the lessons would not repeat. Also, I think it' very important to prepare an extra exercise in advance in case the class ends sooner than planned. When I was the assistant councelor at YMCA, we had to face this kind of problem quite often. Usually, the foreign teachers finished the class earlier and so we had extra time to do things. However, without preparing any activity beforehand, we kind of panic and could not come up with something fun for our students. After a few times though, we would review what they learned that day and play a little game so that they can earn tokens (it's a little reward).
We also discussed how to make junior high textbooks more interesting. In my opinion, I believe every teacher has the potential to come up with a creative lesson. It's the reality that makes it hard (and a little impossible) for teachers to teach that way. They have the pressure of helping students receive higher grades and get into good senior high schools. Perhaps only English cram schools for kids in elementary schools can teach that way.
I really liked the way Sam and Renee done their teaching. I think it was very attractive for kids. How many times do you see a teacher walk in wearing Christmas hats? I also like the auction. I think with more people, it will be more interesting (but due to the number of people in our class) because kids will really be competing with each other to get something they want. As for writing a letter to Santa, I think IF the teachers have time, they can actually send the letters to the kids' parents (it's just a thought that suddenly occurred to me).
Lily, Veronica and Zhuan Xin... their lesson plan is amazing! It's so fully detailed! However, as a true teacher in the future, I think there might not be enough time to do all this. But it's good nevertheless. I enjoy the trailer a lot (it makes me want to watch it again). For the X FILE, in my opinion, some words might be hard for 10th grade students. If there was time for the "Raoul's Journey," I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun. It's sounds so appealing to me!
As for Paulus and Mandy, I think it's more similar to the real classes in Taiwan. The way Mandy explained the grammar was very clear. However, I didn't quite understand it because I never learned English that way (so it's my own problem) =P. The way they taught it seems more practical for classes at school. As for the other groups, I think it's more possible to be taught at cram schools. It's sad but true in Taiwan.
This Friday, it's going to be our turn. I hope we can do well!