Classes Update

Next week is my last week of official teaching and then I have two weeks of oral exams. My classes range from 29 to 42 students so it would be an astronomical feat to accomplish in one week. I will, as I have previously done, listen to each student individually. I have tasked my English students with preparing any topic of their choice and I will ask them a follow-up question they will have to answer on the spot. I am hoping they will entertain me since listening to approximately 280 students is an insurmountable task! My listening and speaking students will be given a set of questions related to topics from their textbook. I don’t have as much faith in their ability to not prepare a well-rehearsed speech.

Anyway, I’d like to recap on some of my more successful slash interesting lessons I managed to put together.

First, I continued the artists question and answer activity, but added numerous new artists. Each group of students was assigned an artist (I had instructed the students that they were taking on the role of the artist and they must speak in the first person). I provided them with a painting, painters’ biography, and a standard interpretation of the painting. (I even went as far as to translate very specific art terminology into chinese and provide phonetics for unfamiliar words). I gave each group 10-15 minutes to study the material I gave them, discuss the painting, and ask me any questions. I then hung the paintings on the blackboard and instructed the students to take a look. Then each group introduced themselves, their classmates then asked the artists questions, and then finally the students introduced their interpretation of the painting. Many students had very strong opinions about some of the paintings, particularly Pollock’s “No. 8.” They seemed fixated on its ugliness and the painting’s price tag, but regardless they were asking and answering many questions, so I can’t complain that they don’t have an eye for Western art.

I did a similar activity with musicians and replaced pictures with song lyrics. I asked each group to introduce their musician, read a verse or two, listen to the song, answer questions, and then share their interpretation of the song’s lyrics. I chose music from many genres, introducing them to various themes and many new musicians, singers, songwriters, and bands.

And yet another activity I did which sprang from the previous two, and was altered even further was this past week’s lesson on American food. I provided pairs with a picture or two of foods invented or created in America. The only instructions they were given were to discuss, ask and answer each other’s questions, and then report “their findings” to another group. Finally, I gave them a brief introduction to each food or beverage item.

Second, this activity was for my listening and speaking students and I was astonished at how much conversation they were able to have with such a simple, and preparation-free activity. I first instructed students to take out a piece of paper and write 3-5 questions at the top. The only rules were: a) open-ended or “yes/no + why” -type questions, b) They must be questions anybody in the world could answer, c) They must be questions to which students don’t already know their classmates’ answers. I went around and monitored the students as they wrote. I asked early finishers to consider appropriate sentence stress and intonation for their questions and practice quietly. After step 1 was completed, I prompted students to tell me the first questions you normally ask someone upon meeting them in addition to eliciting were you meet someone a second time and recognize them but have since forgotten their name. Finally, I briefly drilled apologetic intonation and encouraged a sincere facial expression, too. Next, I asked students to write the names of all their classmates, leaving space between them, down the left-hand side of their paper. For some classes, I went around the room, asking each student to introduce themselves and then wrote the students’ name on the board. Students now got up, moved around the room and mingled, asking each other their questions. They asked one person one question, then moved on. If they somehow managed to speak to everyone very quickly while the rest of the class were nowhere near finishing, they proceeded to interview their classmates with another of their questions. Finally, I conducted feedback with the whole class, asking a few people what interesting information they found out about each other. I also addressed any points of good language and corrected inappropriate use.

My listening and speaking students proved to be difficult this term as either they were bored or complained of not having enough speaking opportunities. Last term I mainly focused on listening, but this term I gave equal weight to listening and speaking. Every other week was speaking class in their classroom. We mainly focused on discussion as these classes are too large for individual or group presentations. We also played various conversational games such as Who Am I? (this consists of writing a person, place, or thing on the blackboard and one student, who stand with their back to the board, must ask yes/no questions to guess the object). We also did Who Am I? in groups and it proved rather effective. Lastly, I wanted them to review their textbooks’ vocabulary so I created my own taboo cards. For those unfamiliar with taboo, there is a card with 6 words, one being the word you must elicit your teammate to say, but you cannot use the other 5 words to elicit the first word. My students found numerous other ways to get their group mates to guess the vocabulary word: explanations, example sentences, descriptions, and gestures. I was rather impressed that they didn’t break down and use Chinese for this activity.

As for our last week of class, I have instructed my English students to prepare a very brief introduction to their hometown. A few things they like, something they don’t like, a unique feature, food, any famous people from their hometown etc. I will also introduce them to Wayne. I am sure they will be excited by some of the pictures I plan to show them!

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