Handbook One

'From Competence to Performance':

English-Teaching Methodology

for 'The New Curriculum' in China

 

 

 

 

The principle purpose of education is to improve the quality of learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colleagues from

China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research

In Foreign Languages Teaching,

Guyuan Teachers College,

Ningxia 756000

August 2005.


Preface: Background to Education in China

Introduction:

            Central Ideas and Organisation of the Handbook.

            Action Research and Action Planning;

            How do Teachers Teach and Students Learn?

 

Part One:

The New Curriculum for the Teaching of English in 2005:

             New Learning and Teaching Approaches;

             Evaluation;

             Challenges for Teachers;

             Curriculum Targets;

             Use of Textbooks;

             Task-Based Learning;

             Last Word.

 

Part Two:

Classroom management: creating a good environment for learning:

Motivation:

             Your own Teachers at School;

             Enthusiasm;

             Mystery and Anticipation;

             Using your Students' Strengths for the Benefit of all;

             Managing behaviour.

 

Managing Facilities Educationally:

             Arrangement of Furniture; Sitting in Rows; Creating Space; Pair-work/ Group Work; Debates; Role-Play; Circle Work;

             Wall-displays;

             Blackboard: Why use it? Who writes on it? How to write on it.

             O.H.P.s;

             Pictures;

             Tape-recorder.

 

Organisation of a lesson:

             Beginnings: punctuality; outline of lesson; review; humour/encouragement.

             Endings: strategies; humour/encouragement; previewing; your evaluation.

             Managing oral work: asking questions - teachers' questions and students' questions; pair and group work/encouraging discussion-skills;

             Managing Listening Comprehension:

-              With a Tape: Before, During, After.

-              Without a Tape.

             Summary;

             An Evaluation by Ma Hui;

             Wang Rui's Action Plan on Oral Work;

             Cao Hongmei's Action Plan on Motivation.

 

Part Three:

Lesson planning:

             Teacher-centred or Student-Centred Learning;

             Some Activities;

             Setting out a lesson plan;

             A Lesson Plan;

             One Teacher's (Ma Jie) Action Plan to improve Lesson Planning;

             Ma Jie's evaluation;

             Living with Uncertainty;

             Summary.

 

Part Four:

Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment of Students' Learning:

             New Curriculum Standards.

             What distinguishes the three forms of judgement?

             Monitoring: when, how and why; marking homework: three examples; what have we learnt? monitoring with learning-partners.

             Evaluation: Formative, Summative and Ipsative; Commenting on a Student's Work.

 

Li Xiaoyu's Action Plan about Monitoring and Evaluation

 

Part Five:

Teaching or Using the Textbook?

             Planning Ahead yet remaining flexible;

             Living with Uncertainty;

             Relevance and Appropriateness: Language in Context;

             Specific Questions;

             General Questions;

             Cultural Implications when Teaching the Text;

             Cultural Use of Language;

             Critical Thinking in Using the Textbook;

             A Single Lesson Plan/Description;

             Chen Hongmei's Action Plan about Using the Textbook.

 

Part Six:

Tips for teaching traditional English tasks communicatively within the Chinese examination system:

             Cloze-Procedure;

             Listening Comprehension;

             Dictation.

 

Part Seven: Becoming a Teacher-Researcher

 

Useful Web-page Addresses

 

Glossary


 

Preface:

 

China is a developing country and it doesn't just need teachers, it needs great teachers. It needs the kind of teacher you can be. It needs teachers who will study hard, think carefully, act carefully and be able to meet the demands of the future with their students. Teaching is one of the most important ways to enable a country to develop and therefore the job you are about to do is one of the most important in China today.

 

The Chinese government has made a great commitment to education, especially in rural  provinces like Ningxia. This is particularly the case as far as English teaching is concerned. English has become one of the main subjects in schools, teaching colleges and universities. This is because English is a world-language, and the study of it can help your country's development. In order to achieve this, your government is committed to developing more communicative methods in the classroom and therefore needs new methodologies to suit its purpose more efficiently. Already, 'Listening' is examined. Soon it is likely that other areas will be developed in this way, like Oral English for example. You need to be prepared for teaching these changes. By teaching English communicatively, you have a special role to play in the future of your country, so whether you are going to teach in a tiny country village or a big city, just remember to be proud of yourself and what you are doing.

 

As you already know, you now have a New Curriculum (NC) for the teaching of English. This will require different skills from teachers. Facilitation, rather than rote-learning, negotiation rather than drilling. The new English teacher will have to become a creative planner and respond more closely to children's learning needs, rather than always saying what those needs are. Your teaching is expected to help students 'move from competence to performance', a phrase you are going to hear a lot about in your methodology classes from now on. This Handbook will be teaching you what the phrase, 'from competence to performance' really means as a teacher of the New Curriculum in English.

 

Teaching is a difficult job. It requires strong and gifted people with vision. It requires people to care about students, to care about English, to care about the future of the country. Your country. It requires you, in other words. If you have already got this far, you have done very well already. Now your job is to continue with that wonderful effort and make the most of your opportunities for you and your family, for your students - and, of course, for China.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 


Introduction:

 

Central Ideas in this Handbook:

1) The traditions of learning in China and the West:

China has always cared about education, and from Kong-zi has seen it as a way of helping the population to increase their knowledge and understanding. Teachers have always been respected because of their knowledge, and these days that knowledge is very important as it will help China in its development programme.

 

Learning in China has traditionally been quite different from some methodologies in the West. Most methodologies concentrate on understanding, but use different ways of getting there. This Handbook will be showing you one way of teaching, drawn from many different approaches and ranges of experience, all of which have a long research history (see more about that in the section on Action Research). This Handbook will help you to understand more about the New Curriculum and how to put it into practice in the classroom.

 

2) Knowledge as object or knowledge as experience:

There are different views of knowledge in the world, and they can very roughly be grouped into two - first, knowledge as an object, in other words knowledge about something. We call this Knowledge as Object. Secondly there is the knowledge gained by individuals and groups through experience and during the processes of learning and teaching. We call this Knowledge as Experience.

 

Knowledge as Object: Using this system a teacher goes into the classroom with 'the knowledge' and crams it into the students, who simply sit passively receiving it. Such teachers favour memorisation techniques, dictation, rote-learning, recitation, cloze-procedure and highly structured, pre-designed texts which allow little flexibility in teaching and learning styles. Teachers using this system often complain that they want to be more flexible, but the textbooks don't allow it. In this view of knowledge, the teacher knows everything, the students know nothing. There is no enquiry-learning in the classroom. This view of knowledge demands a teacher-centred approach.

 

Knowledge as Experience: In this system, students and teacher use their own learning approaches and experience to help in the processes of learning in the classroom. Such a view of knowledge is characterised by flexibility, a diversity of methods by the teacher and an openness on her/his part to questions from the students, as well as students' creativity and suggestions. This type of knowledge demands student-centred methods in the classroom. Under the New Curriculum, students will now also be expected to use critical thinking in their acquisition of the language, rather than the traditional passive acceptance of what the teacher says and does. This means that the teacher will have to be more aware of individuals within the classroom and pay more attention to classroom management (see Parts Two and Five for details). New teachers will therefore be expected to use facilitation techniques in the classroom.

 

In summary, the New Curriculum asks students to move from competence to performance, in other words, students need to move from knowing what to knowing how.

 

Teachers as facilitators:

This is perceived as the new role for teachers by the New Curriculum. A facilitator is someone who guides students to learn rather than telling them what to learn and how to learn it. It requires a great deal more flexibility on the part of students and teachers, but ultimately enables students to learn more deeply and to take more responsibility for their own learning. In a facilitated classroom, students are active, ask questions, work with enthusiasm and have self-confidence. The New Curriculum requires such qualities in its students and this Handbook will give you some guidance on how to achieve these goals.

 

The purpose of this Handbook:

This Handbook is about teaching and learning, and specifically teaching and learning English in a communicative way for the New Curriculum. It is more than knowledge about English. It's more than you knowing about grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and intonation, spelling, speaking and listening, reading and writing. It's about knowing how to communicate your understanding together with others in order that they understand the language and enjoy learning it well. Let's face it, if you don't enjoy learning, you don't learn much yourself, so try to remember that when you're teaching. Your students want to enjoy their English lessons with you and it's your job to help them do so.

 

Who is this Handbook for?

Its primary focus is on student-teachers of English, but it will have relevant aspects for in-service teachers as well. It focuses specifically on preparing for the New Curriculum, so although it is primarily for English teachers adopting communicative methods, many of the processes recommended in this Handbook are relevant to all teachers. This is because it deals with classroom management, lesson planning, using the textbooks (as opposed to teaching them) and evaluation-processes.

 

The Methodology used in this Handbook:

This Handbook relies for its processes on an educational methodology called Action Research. Put simply, Action Research enables individual teachers to ask questions like: How can I improve this process of teaching here? And then try to answer it through your actions.

 

In other words you as the teacher are also moving from knowing what to knowing how.

 

You ask this question about your teaching in your classroom in order to help students learn more effectively. It is particularly effective in improving communicative methods in the classroom and in implementing the New Curriculum (see www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira.shtml for details). You will find that there are many occasions when there isn't a set answer to a question you might have in your teaching. Instead there might be a range of solutions, or different ways of finding those solutions. As you become more experienced and confident, you will be able to make better choices in your actions, based on greater insight.

 

The Organisation of this Handbook:

First you will read about the process called Action Research. We have placed this first because we want you to think about it whilst studying the other parts of the book. Action Research is a way of thinking and acting in teaching, so you need to bear it in mind all the time.

 

After that the Handbook is divided into seven parts:

 

1)        The New Curriculum

2)        Classroom Management,

3)        Lesson Planning

4)        Monitoring and Evaluation of students' learning;

5)        Teaching or Using the Textbook: Lesson and Action Plans for 'Go For It'.

6)        Specific tips about teaching English in the current examination system.

7)        Becoming Teacher-Researchers.

 

As you work through the Handbook you will find some expressions which you might find difficult. In order to make some ideas more clear, you will find some words and phrases are underlined, and that means that they are listed at the back of the Handbook in a Glossary (word list). We hope it's helpful.

 

The Handbook finishes with a list of helpful web-page addresses for teaching, which you should find useful. It is not a comprehensive list, but might give you a chance to see some more detail about the areas in this Handbook that interest you.

 

Now, let's take a look at Action Research (AR) and Action Planning (AP).

 

Action Research and Action Planning:

We imagine you care about teaching well. We believe everyone who teaches in the classroom wants to be a success. We presume you care about your students doing well in examinations and enjoying the processes of learning in the classroom with you. We also imagine Action Research and Action Planning can help you in your job.

 

Action Research is a way of researching your methodology - to find out how you can improve the way you are teaching. Action Planning is the tool through which you can focus on problems in your teaching and solve them. It starts with a question: How can I improve this process of education here? It never ends, because there is always something to improve. Once you have solved one problem, then you can go onto the next. The great advantage of using this method is that it helps you to focus on practical ways of solving problems in your teaching.

 

Action Planning is a collaborative activity. It works best if you have someone with whom to discuss your ideas. So, if you can, find someone to be your learning-partner, someone you trust, someone who will help you discuss and go through the situations you want to improve. Using the following plan will help you. It is used in many countries in the world to improve teaching. It's used in Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, America, Britain, Germany, France - and it's also used in Guyuan Teachers College by many staff in the English department at our Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching (CECEARFLT). We are hoping that it will become more widespread throughout China as it offers an effective way of improving practice.

 

Here's the Action Plan with some comments about how to fill in each section. You will need to write down the questions for yourself and then write down the answers after talking them through with your learning-partner. Don't try to write them without discussion. It always helps to make your own learning more clear if you discuss it with others. And try doing this in English, as it will be good practice for your teaching later on!

 

What do I want to improve in my teaching?

You should pick just one area of your teaching that concerns you, and not too big a one either. So don't choose Classroom Management because that's a huge area with lots of different aspects. You could pick instead one aspect you'd like to improve, like your blackboard skills, or how to organise the furniture. So, one response to the question might be the question: How can I improve my blackboard skills? (For some tips on this, go to the sections on Blackboard Skills and Tips for Teaching English later on in the Handbook.)

 

Why am I concerned about it?

This question is important because it helps you understand what it is that matters to you about your chosen question - How can I improve my blackboard-skills? Knowing why something matters to us can help us to be clearer about what we can do to improve it. Do you want to improve your blackboard skills in order to make your main teaching points clearer? Do you want students who learn better through reading to have a chance to back up their learning from what you have been saying? Do you want to give the students something to copy so that they will be able to learn the main points better? Do you want to organise their learning more effectively? Do you want students to have a better chance of understanding the lesson so that they will learn more and become more confident in their use and comprehension of English? Whatever the reasons, knowing them will help you structure your blackboard skills more effectively.

 

How might I improve it?

You might read books with examples of blackboard drawings. You might ask your classmates and teachers what they think? You might practice writing and drawing on the blackboard during the break. You might study the way different teachers do it and work out which methods would work best for you. You might practice designing blackboards for different grammar points and asking your classmates and teachers for feedback.

Who can help me and how?

Perhaps your learning-partner could help you by listening to your questions and clarifying your solutions. Your teachers/colleagues could give you some tips on how to tackle the problems you face. They could tell you which parts of your blackboard skills are unclear and need improvement.

 

How will I know that it has improved?

There are lots of ways you can tell if your blackboard skills have improved. Your students' learning will be clearer and they will understand more. Perhaps their test results will improve. They won't ask so often what you mean by what you are writing on the board. You will feel more confident about your blackboard skills. Your students will be more focused on what you are doing. They will be able to read your writing more easily. They will feel more confident about your abilities as a teacher.

 

So, there are five questions you should try to ask yourself when you are teaching and planning to teach (see Section on Lesson Planning). The above gives you some idea about how to think about being in the classroom. If you can try to bear this in mind throughout the reading of this Handbook, and then in your teaching itself, you will find it very helpful. The method of Action Research really does help individuals to improve what they are doing and it can give you confidence in your teaching. And if you are confident in yourself, your students will be confident in you and themselves as well.

 

How Do Students Learn and Teachers Teach?

Differently! Every person learns differently, and a good teacher learns how to accommodate their teaching style to suit the range of learners in the classroom. Some students learn by reading, some by thinking. Others learn by writing or through actions. Some students learn through looking. Before you read on, consider how you learn, and then see how the different pieces of advice given later in this Handbook seem to apply to your particular style or not. Not only do students have different learning styles, but teachers have preferred teaching styles which are related to how they learn. Try to bear that in mind as you read through the Handbook.

 

Just try to remember this, too.

 

One of the biggest problems for Chinese teachers is managing communicative methods within an examination system, which still determines processes as well as outcomes. The new course-books, like 'Go For It', are imaginatively constructed and expect a lot more creativity from teachers and students than some of the old textbooks. A clever teacher will adapt any/all of the methods discussed in this Handbook to what is truly practical within her/his classroom. Try to remember, the New Curriculum asks you to 'use the textbook, not teach the textbook'. We'll come back to that later. The fifth part of this Handbook will help you specifically in this aspect of the New Curriculum.

 

Now we're going to take a look at the important aspects of the New Curriculum in Part One, as everything you do in teaching will be determined by what it is the students are expected to be able to do. What they are able to do will depend on your flexibility, initiative, creativity, insight, knowledge and interpersonal skills.

 

Ready? Then, here you go. Good luck!


Part One: The New Curriculum

 

The principle aim of the New Curriculum for the teaching of English is to help the students 'move from competence to performance' (Chen, 2002)[1]. What does this mean?

 

Well, 'competence' is about what the students know in their minds, their theoretical knowledge, in other words. 'Performance' refers to what it is that the students can do with that theoretical knowledge. 'Performance' refers to what is practical, useful, creative and imaginative. Your job as a teacher is to find ways to help the students' knowledge become active, practical, flexible and responsive, rather than inactive, theoretical, inflexible and imitative. Students need to learn how they can control their own knowledge, use it differently in different situations, and be able to make their own decisions about how they learn. This is a big challenge for you as a teacher.

 

Under the New Curriculum English will be seen not only as a tool for communication, but also for thinking, learning and social participation. It also takes into account the students' feelings about learning, rather than judging them purely as learning machines. This is reflected in the nine-level attainment-target system, which your teachers have copies of. You should study these attainment-targets, as they focus on achievements and what students can do, rather than placing impossible challenges for teachers and students.

 

New Teaching and Learning Approaches with the New Curriculum:

Under the New Curriculum, there are new teaching and learning approaches necessary. These are a big challenge, as they will be:

             Student-centred[2] as opposed to teacher-centred

             Participatory - as opposed to passive

             Experiential[3] as opposed to rote

             Flexible as opposed to pre-determined

 

They will encourage:

             Deductive  and  inductive reasoning;

             Critical thinking

             Interpersonal skills

             Learning how to learn (learning skills) rather than just cramming

             Co-operative learning

             Use-value - in other words, the knowledge the students gain will be expected to help them practically, rather than remain theoretical knowledge that they can't use.

             Participation

             Negotiation

             Self-discovery

 

Evaluation:

The New Curriculum will also encourage varied forms of evaluation:

             Self- and peer-evaluation;

             Summative and formative;

             Judgements on language performance rather than passive knowledge. This suggests a much greater emphasis on speaking as well as the other skills of listening, reading and writing. The phrase you're going to read again and again in this Handbook (see the title page, for example) is: students must move from competence to performance.


 

What challenges are there for future teachers?

Let's look specifically now at the kinds of challenges you will face in implemeting the New Curriuclum. The initial challenge for new teachers will be to understand the New Curriculum, especially the new standards. You will have to update your views on language and language education and adopt new approaches to language teaching, including the task-based teaching approach and its practice.

 

You will have to improve your own professional competence in language proficiency, cross-cultural competence, pedagogical competence, and the adoption of new learning strategies in your methods. As well as that you will have to change the teacher's role from that of knowledge-distributor to facilitator, organiser, participant and advisor, 'using the textbook rather than teaching the textbook.' (See Part Five on tips for using New Curriculum texts.)

 

How can pre-service training prepare students for the challenges?

You and your colleagues will need to incorporate the introduction of the New Curriculum into your syllabus and course designs. In addition, you will need to convince the students of the need for change and make them believe they CAN do it.

 

The implementation of the new curriculum needs contributions from, and co-operation among, many groups of people including: teachers, teacher trainers, educational administrators, educational researchers, community, parents and employers.

 

What's new?

The new rationale: The aims of learning a foreign language are not to be limited to mastery of knowledge and skills in the foreign language. Like other school subjects such as Maths, Music, Art and Physical Education, foreign languages are part of the overall development of all students. Through learning a foreign language, students can enrich their experience of life, broaden their world vision, and enhance their thinking skills. Language learning is most effective when students' interest, motivation an attitudes are taken into consideration. New learning strategies should be incorporated into the language curriculum, so that students can become autonomous learners, which is fundamental for lifelong learning. Evaluation should be summative and formative and designed and administered to encourage the learners rather than frustrate them. It should be carried out in terms of what students can do rather than what they cannot do.

 

 

New Curriculum Targets:

             Language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing (critical thinking skills and interpersonal skills emphasised for senior high school);

             Language knowledge: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, function and topics;

             Motivation, interest, confidence, co-operation, patriotism and world vision;

             Learning strategies: cognitive, planning, communicative and resourcing strategies;

             Cultural awareness: cultural knowledge, cross-cultural competence.

 

New methods of target specification:

Students can:

             understand and follow instructions;

             identify the change in meaning in intonation;

             provide personal information and describe personal experience;

             comprehend simple stories and grasp the gist.

 

New learning and teaching approaches:

The New Curriculum advocates process-oriented language learning and teaching approaches, such as experiential learning and co-operative learning: students are encouraged to experience the language, learn the language by self-discovery, participate in discussion and negotiation activities. It emphasises the role of positive affective (emotional) states on the part of the students. It advocates the task-based approach to language learning and teaching; learning by doing and by using the language. It incorporates learning strategy development into the classroom instruction.

 

New evaluation system:

The New Curriculum recognises the role the students themselves play in the process of evaluation, e.g., self-assessment. It combines summative assessment with formative assessment. It adopts multiple, flexible evaluation methods and techniques. It emphasises the evaluation of language performance rather than language competence. (See Part Four for details about Evaluation.)


 

Using the Textbook or Teaching the Textbook?

The NC expects teachers to become more flexible in their approach to the use of the textbook in the classroom. Traditionally, teachers have gone through the textbook from beginning to end, following the structure of the books, and making sure that classes cover all the content. This attitude to teaching is going to have to change. The NC requires teachers to use the textbook, rather than teaching the textbook. In other words, the teacher is expected to find new and interesting ways with the students in developing approaches to textbook use inside and outside the classroom. What this means can be found in more detail in Part Five of this Handbook.

 

Task-based learning:

This is a phrase you're going to be reading a lot about in this Handbook, and come across in your everyday teaching work. What is it? Task-based means engaging in activities that aim to do two things:

 

             Fit into the students' overall learning-development in English;

             Help the student to use the language more effectively. In other words, because of the task, the student should be able to learn something of value and use the knowledge as well. It's not enough for the student simply to understand. That's 'competence'. He or she has to be able to use it as well. That's 'performance'. For example, if a student is learning about places in a town, not only does the student have to understand the words, but s/he also be able to use them in realistic ways - in sentences, speaking, through listening or reading, or indeed in normal conversation, in arguments, discussions etc.. (See Part Five for specific examples of task-based learning activities with 'Go For It'.)

 

In other words, all the tasks, which you engage in with your students as they learn English must fulfil the above criteria.

 

Last Word: Get to know the New Curriculum. You need to study it, discuss it, think about it, ask questions about it, and see how you might work it together with the textbooks. Your first priority, then, is to get to know the textbooks and the NC. Read them together. See how they fit together. Ask questions of your teachers. Don't leave this aspect any longer. Begin working on the New Curriculum and the textbooks TODAY!


 

 

 

 

 


Part Two: Classroom Management

This is perhaps the most significant aspect of your teaching as it includes many different areas of activity. Classroom management means the way you organise every task and activity in the learning process. The aim of classroom management is to improve the quality of learning with the students. Everything you do in the classroom, from the organisation of the chairs and desks and strategies for motivating students to the setting of homework and marking it, should be to help the students learn. Good classroom management leads to students who learn effectively and deeply with enthusiasm. Poor classroom management leads to students who don't understand both the task and the reasons for it and gain little pleasure from the learning process. As you will obviously want to be good at classroom management, you need to take notice of all the following ideas and see how you can use them to the best effect in your classroom.

 

Motivation:

Educational motivation is a desire to learn well. As a teacher, of course, you will want your students to want to learn. You might teach in poor country areas where there are few facilities. Managing the motivation of your students is a huge challenge for you to develop in your methodology. Many teachers, when they make Action Plans about their teaching, are concerned about how they can motivate their students. They ask questions like: How can I motivate my students better in their learning so that they will learn more effectively? The following sections you can see as helpful solutions to the problem of motivation in and out of the classroom. If you manage motivation well, you will have solved many of the difficulties of learning in your classroom, so you should give motivation a high status in your methodology. You should think about how your methods will be experienced by your students.

 

Your own teachers at school:

Remember when you were at school. Think of those teachers who made learning fun. How did they do it? Did they make jokes and smile a lot? Did they know your name very quickly, or was every student referred to as 'you'? Did they make you feel confident and capable? Did they prepare their lessons carefully so that they were clear and interesting? Did they help you to feel that you were achieving something worthwhile?

 

How might you adapt their methods to suit your situation and your students? Some methods will work for you and some won't, because all students have their own likes and dislikes. Your job is to manage the ways in which your students learn so that they will learn well and want to continue learning. There are no set answers to every situation, but there are ways of working as a teacher which will help you become sensitive to the learning needs of your students, so that they will learn the most they can from you and from each other.

 

Summary:

Throughout the Handbook, you'll see how motivation is a key factor of good teaching according to the New Curriculum. You can motivate children by involving them in the excitement you feel in learning. If you are excited, so will they be. In particular, look at Part Five: 'Using or Teaching the Textbook' for specific details on how you can attract the students' attention through promoting their own energy and enthusiasm to help them learn through the textbook.

 

Your Enthusiasm:

We think the teacher's own enthusiasm about his/her subject is what motivates students the most. If you love your subject, then it's more likely that your students will too. Your enthusiasm will lead you to question what you are doing (using the Action Planning process) in order to find better ways of doing it in the future (see the Evaluation section in Lesson Planning, and the Monitoring and Evaluation section later on in the Handbook). Your enthusiasm should not only be communicated about the subject, but also about your students, about your pleasure in spending time with them because they are worthwhile people. If you show this in the way you act with the class, they will learn to trust you and to expect fairness from you. This in turn will improve their motivation. For further information about how a teacher managed to inspire her students, look at Liu Xia's Action Research enquiry, 'How can I help my students to learn better through respect and encouragement?' and Tao Rui's enquiry about motivation at: www.bath.ac.uk/~moira/shtml

 

Each of the following sections will give you some practical tips on how to set up your classroom in ways, which are likely to help students be highly motivated about their learning with you.

 

Mystery and Anticipation:

In our opinion, the best teachers are those who capture the interest of their students early-on and help the students to maintain their own interest in the future. Capturing interest can be done in many ways. One way is to weave a little mystery into the classroom activities. A teacher who has a secret, which s/he will show the students later, or a teacher who brings in something for the students, but says 'Not now, later. Just wait and see!' will help the students to be focused on the lesson.

 

Imagine the scene: You're in a class of Junior One students and they're learning about place-names. As you walk in the classroom, you are carrying a rolled-up poster under your arm. You smile at the students and lift the poster out towards the children. You don't say anything, but you get their attention. Some will probably ask what it is. You say you can't tell them now, you'll tell them later! (It turns out to be a map with some places on it from your school's town, and pictures of your school.)

 

Imagine the scene: You are with a Junior Three class, and studying the past tense. You bring something out of your bag, wrapped in a bag. You make sure the students can see the object, but you won't tell them what's in it until later. Tell them if they're good, they're going to have fun later. (It turns out that there are pictures of you and your family a long time ago - to illustrate the past. As a result of this presentation, you can ask the children to stick some pictures into their books for homework with some writing using the past tense.)

 

Imagine the scene: You have asked the students to bring something in related to their textbook Unit. Say they shouldn't show it at the beginning, but create a special time during the lesson for the students to show their deskmates, and to use some English to describe it. Their deskmates can ask them questions - in English. Use this as an incentive to study hard at the beginning of the lesson, and as a reward for later!

 

The aim is to capture students' interest and motivate them to learn. English lessons should have some fun in them.

 

Using your Students' Strengths as a Benefit for all:

Students respond well to being given appropriate responsibility. Just as China has an excellent system of monitors in every classroom, it is a good idea to find out which particular learning strengths your students have, and then using them to support your methodology. For example:

 

             Some students will be good at learning vocabulary. You can motivate these students, and others who want to improve their vocabulary, by asking these students to manage small-group work (see section later on group work).

             You can ask gifted illustrators to prepare materials.

             You can ask students to vote for those students, who in the class' opinion, have made the most progress in a particular area of the curriculum that week, or month, or term.

             One of the most helpful ways of enhancing the quality of learning in a classroom, is to have desk-mates as learning-partners. Whatever the age of your students, it is possible for desk-mates to monitor each others' learning, and to give assistance in classwork and even homework if you want. A learning-partner can check that her/his desk-mate is copying correctly from the board, that s/he is understanding what is happening, that s/he understands the work set by the teacher, and that s/he can encourage the other to ask questions and seek assistance when necessary. This not only helps the student whose work is being checked, but the learning-partner, who has to take some responsibility for the other's studying.

 

Managing Behaviour:

This is one of the most important areas to focus on when you are managing a classroom. Managing behaviour should be concerned with managing learning. Every time you discipline a child in the classroom, it should be an educational action, not one of anger or revenge on that child! You are a teacher, and you are teaching English. The New Curriculum is clear that motivation through appeals to the students' affective domain are crucial in improving learning. Therefore, everything you do, from setting up the classroom furniture, to marking homework (see Part Four) must be educational: it must in some way help the learning of your students.

 

Methodology students often ask about particular situations: What should I do if student X is naughty...'? which is a very difficult question to answer because we don't know student X and we don't know the particular classroom you might be working in. If you have a student who isn't motivated in your lesson, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

 

             Is s/he bored?

             Does s/he find the work too difficult? (Do I need to think about the language I am using in my explanations? Should I use a little more Chinese, or a little more English? Should I be writing more/less on the board? Should I be using more pictures to help some students follow the learning better?)

             Should I make opportunities to find out how much this student can understand? (Perhaps through asking direct questions in class, through checking the homework, or speaking to the student after class.)

             Are my teaching methods suitable for this student?

             Could I present the material in a different way for different students, to help support individuals' particular learning styles?

             Is student X unhappy? (It is difficult for anyone to learn if they have some emotional problems. You might decide to talk to the student after class.)

             Is the student just being difficult in order to look important to his/her classmates?

             Should I be strict or understanding with this student?

             Do I need to ask for help or advice from a more experienced colleague?

             Do I need to consult the parents about this situation?

 

As you can see, this is a very complex area. There is no easy solution. However, if you ask yourself the above questions, this might help you to work with a particular student or group of students more effectively in the future. Quite often, if you organise your classroom in the ways suggested here, you are more likely to encourage students to think that your lessons are well-planned and worthwhile and discourage naughty behaviour.

 

Management of Facilities:

Let's take a look now at different strategies for putting the above into practice in your classrooms. The use of facilities is a key area of classroom management. Let's look at ways of arranging the furniture in your classroom in order to expand the range of tasks you can do with your students.

 

Management of Furniture:

Many teachers beginning their careers find this a difficult challenge, and this is probably for the following reasons:

             There is little space in the classroom to move furniture;

             There is a large number of students;

             Students are reluctant to move, or to try this new arrangement;

             The teacher lacks confidence about this method.

 

Let's look at these problems one by one.

 

             If there is little space, perhaps the teacher can check the classroom first and see whether there is any room for manoeuvre. If there isn't, perhaps groups of four or six students could simply turn to face each other.

             If the teacher is daunted (worried) by the large number of students, s/he should consider that perhaps having so many groups in a classroom is good for creating more ideas and viewpoints. S/he should see it as an educational challenge.

             Students often resist change. This is a natural human behaviour pattern. However, it is not up to the students to determine everything in a classroom. By moving furniture, setting up group/pair work etc., the teacher is simply following an educational pathway. It is his/her professional responsibility to encourage learning in the students, not to fear their reactions and allow them to dictate educational processes.

             The teacher also sets the example in a classroom. If s/he is forceful, but confident and friendly, the students will gradually adapt to the new ways. To develop this confidence is difficult. At first it is simply a bluff! Everyone has to start somewhere.

 

So now, let's look at the way in which the organisation of furniture can make a difference in the classroom.

 

Traditionally, Chinese classrooms are arranged to suit the teacher standing at the front with students in rows listening. However, this isn't always the best way of getting students to learn different things, and therefore this section will give you some ideas about how to get students to work in different ways in order to expand their learning.

 

The first thing you need to consider is why the classroom is set out in the way it is.

 

The placing of the furniture is an important consideration in a classroom. If you walk into a room and the furniture isn't the same, you notice, don't you? Children always notice and care about these things too. It affects how they feel about their environment. The arrangement of furniture can help to create the atmosphere you want. If it is arranged wrongly, it can also damage the quality of education. It has to be said, though, that students are often reluctant to change the way things look: it makes them feel insecure if they are always used to having the furniture in one way. It is your job to accustom them to changes and explain why it is important to re-organise the classroom to fit the activity. Different activities require different arrangements. Arranging the furniture differently enables the following activities: pair-work, group-work, classroom discussion, debate, role play and drama, and these activities strengthen the students' abilities in Oral English, listening skills, and in their confidence and motivation. Occasionally asking the students to help you (in English) to design a suitable classroom to make the most of the activities you are planning, is a good way of getting them to practice their oral English, and give them a sense of responsibility in the learning process.

 

Sitting in Rows facing the front:

This is ideal if you have something to tell the whole class, which they need to understand before you can move on to something else. Perhaps you need to explain some grammar with helpful points written up on the blackboard (see Section on Blackboard Skills). Perhaps you want to give back their homework and have some points to make in general about how well or how badly the students have completed their tasks (see section on Monitoring Students' Homework).

 

Creating space for the teacher to walk around:

Sometimes, in classrooms with many students, there is little room for manoeuvre, but it is important to enable you to have access to all parts of the room, so that you can see what's happening with each student if you want to. If there are places that it's difficult for teachers to reach, then some students may take advantage of this to be naughty. And remember, it is up to you to know what is going on in your classroom, so arranging the furniture so that there is more than one aisleway if possible, is really important.

 

Pair Work:

This is relatively easy to organise even in a classroom where there isn't a lot of room to negotiate different spaces. Desk-mates can simply turn to each other and talk. However, if you want, and there is enough room, you can ask them to place their desks facing each other so that they can make eye-contact more easily. It is important if people are going to work together that they are allowed to make eye-contact.

 

Group Work:

This is very similar to the above, but sometimes requires a group to be able to face each other, maybe making a circle of desks and chairs. Make sure that the students are able to see everyone's faces. This may mean that you have to instruct them how to move the desks and chairs, especially if they're not used to doing it. What might seem common sense to us, isn't always the same for everyone. In setting up group-work you also need to consider making sure that students can still see the front when you ask for feedback at the end.

 

Having a Debate:

Try to arrange the classroom in two sets of chairs facing each other. This might not be possible if the furniture is fixed to the floor, but increasingly now, even in rural classrooms, there is more flexibility.

 

Role Play:

The way you arrange the furniture here depends on precisely what sort of role-play you want to do. If it's just a conversation between two people, you can get the students to turn to each other, but what if you want them to enact a play? Then you need to create spaces for the students to do that.

 

Circle Work:

Some classrooms in China are now using this technique in oral lessons, although it is very difficult in very large classrooms. However, if it is possible, it is sometimes educational when doing oral work, discussion and even role-play, to ask the students to set out the chairs in one large circle, with the teacher as a member of the circle. This encourages a sense of equality in the classroom, and enables people perhaps to evaluate their learning, or talk about an important issue you are all covering (See Part Two on Student-Centred Learning.) As an oral strategy you can ask students to speak and then nominate the next speaker, or to ask questions directly of each other. Alternatively you can ask the students to sit in smaller circles and then report back to the whole class. The advantage of this method is that it not only improves oral skills, but also offers students the opportunity for taking more responsibility for their own learning. Research shows that increased responsibility improves the quality of learning with students.

 

Wall-displays:

It is possible that you will be teaching in poor country areas where these is little opportunity for decorating your classroom, but it is still essential that you create a learning environment for your students. The environment for learning is very significant to learners. You know how you prefer somewhere that is bright and colourful to learn in rather than a drab and dull classroom. Your students are the same. This is especially true with younger children. One of the ways you can make the classroom a pleasant learning environment is to cover the walls with bright learning materials. There are many different types of learning materials that help the students feel comfortable in the classroom. And if they feel comfortable, they are likely to learn more efficiently. Some of these are:

 

             Charts;

             Maps;

             Pictures drawn by you or the students;

             Examples of students' work;

             Bright posters;

             Magazine illustrations;

             Illustrated vocabulary.

 

It is also important sometimes to let the students to have some control over what is hung on the walls because then they will take more care of their environment and work harder. If they create the environment, they will respect it and their learning more.

 

You might tell the students that the best homework will be displayed for a week or so. You might tell them you will choose some different work to be displayed every week. You could ask the students to help you choose which pieces to display. If you conducted this in English it would be a good oral activity as well.

 

The key to success in this area is twofold - the displays should be pleasant to look at, and they should be changed quite often. People stop looking at the walls after a while, once they are used to them. Changing the displays keeps up their interest.

 

If you are not sure how to manage this activity in your classroom, you might want to write an action plan on it and monitor your progress in this area in consultation with a colleague. S/he might have some good ideas to help you improve in this area. (See Action Research section.)

 

Blackboard Skills:

Why use the blackboard? This is one of the most important skills in a teacher's repertoire. Good blackboard skills are those which assist the learning of your students. Quite often, a teacher doesn't plan how s/he is going to use the blackboard, which is a pity, because this resource has the potential to be one of the strongest learning centres in the classroom. Good blackboard skills enable a teacher to highlight the most important aspects of what the teacher feels the students should learn. The following are the advantages of good blackboard skills with particular reference to English teaching. They help to:

 

             Consolidate the learning of the students;

             Offer students a view of all the main knowledge in one place;

             Organise knowledge;

             Highlight key points of the lesson;

             Enable evaluation;

             Offer a back-up to spoken English;

             Summarise knowledge from the lesson;

             Remind students of vocabulary;

             Emphasise spellings.

 

Who writes on the blackboard?

One of the main ways of raising motivation in the classroom (see later section on motivation) is variety. If you always do the same thing in the same way, your students will get bored. This is also the case with questions about who writes on the board.

 

Mostly it will be you. You have more knowledge than your students, so you will be writing most of the time. However, there are times when it is good to let students write their ideas on the blackboard. They can volunteer, or they can be nominated by you. Remember, that if the students do this, it takes more time. There should always be a reason for everything you do in the classroom, and the use of the blackboard is no exception. So ask yousrelf why the students should write on the board, or why you should.

 

How to write on the board:

Before the class if possible to save time: Many teachers waste a lot of time writing on the blackboard during the class, speaking to the blackboard instead of to the children! If there is a chance of writing some of the information before the lesson, this will really save time and help the students to begin to focus on the knowledge from the very beginning.

 

A piece of advice: If you have a lot of writing to do on the blackboard, and this will take time out of the lesson, how about preparing a very large sheet of paper first with the main points on, which you can stick on the wall, or over the blackboard? This will save time, and also show your students how well-organised you are! It also gives you a chance to organise the knowledge clearly. (See below *)

 

Visibly: Be aware that some of your students might be short-sighted. If they sit at the back of the room, they may miss some of your words and phrases. Be careful always to read aloud what it is you are writing. Perhaps more importantly, encouraging students to ask questions is a sure way of finding out if all the students are understanding what you have written.[4] You should write with white or yellow chalk on the blackboard, not with red or blue chalk as these are not very legible.

Clearly!* You should practise writing on the blackboard because it is quite difficult until you get used to it. Make sure that your lines of writing are as straight as possible. When teachers first write on the board, their handwriting wanders up the surface and the line ends up really slanted.

Using a variety - i.e. coloured chalk: Students like a bright classroom (see under Wall Displays), so if you can use coloured chalk, this will aid their concentration and enjoyment. If you have a supply of coloured chalk, it is also possible for you to colour-code different aspects of the learning, eg. vocabulary in green, grammar structures in red and so on. If you are consistent with your colour-coding, the students will become more used to identifying different grammatical emphases in the lessons.

In Sections: If your blackboard stretches, as many boards do, across two or three board-surfaces, it is a good idea to structure your writing on the board to different areas, in order to highlight different aspects of the lesson. For example, on one side of the board, it might become customary to write up a general overview of the lesson each time, in order to enable students to focus at the beginning of the lesson (see Beginnings of Lessons section) on what they are about to learn. Then vocabulary and grammatical points, class exercises, etc. could be written in the middle section, with the evaluation (including homework - see Endings of Lessons) at the end of the lesson. This will result in the whole main content of the lesson on the board, which will be easier for students to copy and learn from. Maybe you want to designate a space on the board for vocabulary work, so that students accustom themselves to knowing what you're doing, with which coloured chalk at every stage of the lesson. These habits take time to establish themselves, but they tend to be very effective over time.

With Drawings: When appropriate, simple drawings can often maximise students' learning. For example, in detailing vocabulary of motion, stick-figures with arrows showing directions can make meanings instantly understandable in a way words might not. The skill of simple drawings needs preparation, however. Before you attempt to draw on the board (and remember how long this might take) practise on paper and even on a blackboard. Time how long it takes you to draw, because this is time out of the lesson and you don't want to waste time. If your drawings are really necessary, can you arrive at the lesson early and prepare them in advance? You could come to the classroom a little earlier, write out the outline of the lesson on the board and then complete your drawings. This will help you to organise yourself and help your students to understand the logic of your lesson. They will also respect your professionality and this will have an effect on the discipline in the classroom.

 

Use of an Overhead Projector (OHP):

Many country schools do not have these machines for projecting images onto a whiteboard. Some city schools and many colleges now have them, however, and instead of chalk and paper, they use special pens and transparencies (transparent plastic sheets for writing on). The great advantage of these is that you can always prepare your materials in advance, and can make them colourful and very interesting to look at. Using them at first can be quite difficult. Many people place the transparency off-centre, so that it doesn't shine onto the whiteboard in the correct position. You will need to practice to make sure this doesn't happen.

 

Use of magazine pictures and drawings:

It is important, as we have said already, to use different methods of teaching in the classroom. Some people learn through listening. Some learn through reading. Some people are more prone to learning from the visual. Therefore it is important to have some pictures prepared for the students to learn from. Younger students in particular love to see bright pictures, whether drawn or from magazines. You can build up a collection of pictures illustrating vocabulary - like cars, trains, planes, and boats for Transport for example; or pictures of horses, pandas, monkeys and birds for Animals. As you become more experienced, you will know which pictures work best with which age-groups and abilities. You can also ask the students to collect or draw pictures for you. Talented artists will love the opportunity of producing pictures which others will use. It will help them to learn the vocabulary as well.

 

Using a tape-recorder:

Tape recorders can be very useful indeed, for listening-comprehension, recording oral work, helping small groups with pronunciation and intonation, and checking. Here are some simple rules, which help make its use more efficient. Always remember to:

 

             Check that the tape-recorder is working before the lesson.

             Wind the tape to the correct position to start. (Sometimes it might be a good idea to have just the exercise you want on the tape, rather than lots of different exercises, which could make it difficult to find particular extracts later on.)

             Check the volume. (Can the people at the back of the classroom hear it for example? Is the speaker on the tape clear?)

 

Mostly, tape-recorders are used for whole-class listening-comprehension, but they can be very useful for smaller-group work as suggested above. They can be an excellent aid for small-group oral-work. If, for example, you have a group for students who have particular problems with intonation and pronunciation, giving them opportunities to listen to, and reproduce, clearly spoken English is a good opportunity to improve their skills.

 

Beginnings of Lessons:

There is an old saying in China, that a good beginning is half the battle. This is particularly true in Teaching Methodology.

 

Roughly speaking, a lesson divides into three parts - the beginning, middle and end. Each part has a distinctive purpose, and should be seen as clearly purposeful by the students. It is really important to promote clear learning, for students to understand not only what they are learning, but how and when. A lesson lasts for 45 minutes so the beginning should last from five to ten minutes.

 

The beginning of the lesson should serve as an introduction. It should create a conducive atmosphere for learning. In other words it should help the students become motivated about what they have learnt last lesson and what they are going to learn this lesson. There are many ways in which this can be done.

 

Taking into account all you have read so far, you have to assess the atmosphere of the class and respond to that as it happens. It is not possible to set up every step of a lesson in advance. Let us explain.

 

One day, one of our colleagues at Guyuan Teachers College asked Dr. Laidlaw how she started her Methodology classes. However, she didn't have just one way at all because it depends on many factors - what is the purpose of that particular lesson? 'Am I happy with the students' progress at the moment?' 'Have they done their homework sufficiently well?' 'Am I annoyed about something?' 'Are the students behaving unusually?' 'Is it rainy or windy or very cold or very hot?' (Weather affects students, particularly younger ones.) So those emotional factors (the New Curriculum calls it the Affective Domain) will alter the atmosphere at the beginning of the lesson and your first job is to make sure whatever the situation you begin the lesson educationally. In other words your attitude, words and manner must be designed to make the most of the opportunities for learning.

 

Punctuality:

Arrive on time, or preferably even early. This creates a good impression with your students. From this action they can see that you are serious about studying and that you respect them enough to make the most of the lesson time together. If you arrive slightly before time, you can organise any materials for the lesson ahead of time and not waste time at the beginning. You could, for example, write on the blackboard! Your punctuality will enable students to concentrate better, and if you start in this way, students will follow your example and be ready to study more efficiently.

 

Outline of the Lesson on the Blackboard:

It is helpful in creating a conducive atmosphere to write an outline of your lesson on the board in numbered steps. For example, in a lesson in which you are testing vocabulary and getting the students to use it freely, you might write the following on the blackboard:

 

1)        Review of vocabulary from last lesson;

2)        Students test each other in pairs;

3)        Students design conversations;

4)        Show conversations in larger groups;

5)        How much have you learnt?

 

From this the students will realise that there is a structure and focus to the lesson and that you are serious about them studying hard. It will also make them feel secure and security is important to learners. If we feel secure, we can learn better. Don't you find that too?

 

Try to remember, however, that if you start every lesson in exactly the same way, students will become bored. Although it is important to show the students what they have done and are going to be doing, the ways in which you do this can change. You should write up the outline every lesson, but then you can vary the ways in which you organise the review of last lesson's learning.

 

Review of last lesson:

The aim of a review is to check learning and to see what needs to be covered again before you can continue with the learning-programme. Sometimes this involves handing back homework (see sections on lesson-planning and evaluation, as well as Part Five on Using the Textbook). In order to find out:

 

             You can ask direct questions of the class;

             Conduct a very short listening comprehension to see how much they have understood;

             Ask the students in pairs to work out one/two/three etc. things they have learnt from last lesson, then ask individuals afterwards;

             Ask one student to say what s/he has learnt and then to nominate another student to answer and so on;

             Ask students to write answers to direct questions to reveal how much they know and hand in their work at the end of the lesson;

             Ask students to demonstrate their knowledge using the blackboard - remember this takes time;

             You can prepare a large white-sheet of paper to stick on the board with some ideas with mistakes to test the students' understanding.

 

Remember how much time you have and what it is you want to achieve in the lesson. Don't waste time with methods, which are clumsy. However, you need to find out what the students know in order to be able to progress with the learning programme.

 

Humour and Encouragement:

Try to use humour if you can. And by humour, I don't mean sarcasm. This is because sarcasm can hurt peoples' feelings and if you hurt your students' feelings they won't be happy in the lesson and if they're not happy in the lesson, then they won't be as highly motivated to learn, will they? You should not get other students to laugh at their classmates' mistakes, as this will damage their self-confidence. They will also not trust you as a partner in their learning. However, this does not mean that you become too gentle with the students. It means you treat them so they realise that they are respect-worthy people, people you like spending time with. Isn't it always nicer if our teachers treat us with respect and kindness, as well as knowing when and how to manage our behaviour?

 

Try to encourage your students by telling them you expect them to work hard and if they do, that they will understand your lesson. At this stage of the lesson it is important to show your students that you believe in a good outcome from the lesson. You can do that by saying it, but it's best to do it by the way you behave, by praising good answers and not making too much of a fuss about poor ones. Indeed, you can even praise someone for being brave in trying, even if the answer is wrong.

 

Endings:

There are many similarities between beginnings and endings in terms of learning-aims. Both should contain a review of learning. At the end of the lesson you must find out how much your students have learnt. As with beginnings there are many ways of doing this. Try to vary your methods. If you have used pair work a lot at the beginning and during the lesson, it might be worth getting your students to work in larger groups for variety. The following are educational ways of completing a lesson. An educational completion is one in which the learning gaps are highlighted for the students and the teacher, so that everyone knows what has to be done in order to improve the learning situation next time. There are, of course, many ways to do this:

 

             A very short written test prepared in advance (see Lesson Planning);

             Students asking questions (see section on Managing Oral Work - Asking Questions);

             If your lesson deals with different areas - vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation for example, you might split the class into the same number of groups as tasks in the lesson, and then ask each group to give the class feedback about their task. To do this effectively you have to manage it well, otherwise it takes too long. If you integrate group-work of various kinds within many of your lessons, the students will become used to these ways of working and will conform more quickly and efficiently.

             If you're teaching vocabulary, you could ask them to draw very quickly pictures of any of the items taught, and then at the English word, point at the correct word, with desk-mate checking. Or you could ask them to name the drawings you hold up.

             Ask pairs to ask each other questions about the lesson and then feed back. (See section on Asking Questions).

             Ask students to pick out most significant learning from the lesson. (You might be surprised how difficult students find this activity, and it acts as a good focus to let you know how the class has understood your teaching that day.)

 

The most educational methods are those which lead to an understanding of what has been learnt, not only by the teacher, but by the students too.

 

Students need to know what they must do individually to improve their learning. So it is important at this stage of the lesson to summarise in such ways that everyone is clearer about the learning.

 

Humour and Encouragement again:

Just as in the rest of the lesson, it is important to end a lesson in a positive manner. If you end up disorganised, or rushed for time, your students will not feel secure in their learning environment. You need to make sure they feel they have achieved something during the lesson and this is best achieved through the way you appear to be. If you are unconfident, or disorganised, or angry or stressed, then this will communicate to the students. If you are annoyed about something which has happened in the lesson, it is fine to be annoyed, but you need also to make reference to the fact that in the future things will be better, but that they must work hard to achieve this.  If you communicate your confidence in their ability to cope with what they are learning, and that you are enjoying the process with them, then their motivation will increase and they will want to work harder. They are also more likely to be successful. You will learn, through experience and confidence, how to react in different circumstances and learning-situations.

 

Previewing next class:

This doesn't need to take very long at all, but it is really important to let the students know what they will be doing during the next lesson. This will give them a sense of process, and put their present learning in an understandable context. Students work better when they know why and how. In fact if they really understand the processes you're working with, they will soon be able to guess what you will be doing next lesson! So, end the lesson with a few words telling them what's happening next time and some words of encouragement.

 

Your Evaluation (afterwards):

Based on the responses you get from the students all the way through the lesson, but particularly at the end, you need to think carefully about how successful your lesson was. In education success should be measured by the increasing ability of your students to learn well. In order to find out whether this is happening it is helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

 

             What precisely did you want the students to learn?

             Did the students learn what you wanted them to?

             Were there any students who seemed lost? How can you check up on them?

             Which students are doing well? How might they be able to help those who are doing badly?

             Were the methods you chose in that lesson always the right ones?

             How could you have improved the learning in that lesson?

 

Then, based on your answers to these questions, you can start planning for the next lesson.

 

Managing Oral Work:

Asking Questions:

 

Teacher's questions:

The type of questions you ask should depend on the kind of information you want to hear. There are different types of questions available to you:

             Closed question, eg. 'What does ...mean?' For a closed question there is one right answer and everything else is wrong. This kind of question requires simple answers and little critical thinking on the part of the students or teacher. (The New Curriculum defines critical thinking as one of the key-skills in learning a language, so you need to encourage it in every class.)

             Open question, eg. 'What do you think of...?' This requires the student to think carefully for her/himself and to offer an opinion.

             Semi-open question, eg. 'What are the main reasons, in your opinion, for...?' This offers the student a chance to offer an opinion, but within particular limits.

 

You should choose the questioning technique which is likely to give the students the greatest learning opportunities.

 

Students' questions:

Who asks most questions in the classroom? The teacher or the students? It tends to be the teachers. Why is that, when it is the students who lack the specific knowledge of English and need to find out more? Research shows that classrooms in which students ask questions are the most conducive for learning. Although of course teachers need to ask questions to find out how much students have learnt, it is educational to create an environment in which students want to acquire more knowledge and are motivated to ask questions.

 

In China there is little tradition of students asking questions so it is difficult to break this habit, but it is helpful to the learning of more communicative skills if the students can be encouraged to ask questions. Creating such an atmosphere isn't easy because it takes time in which you must show the students that you trust they will become good at English, but that they are partially responsible for their own progress.

 

If the students feel secure - for example, if they know that you are strict but fair - they will be more likely to ask questions. If they ask questions, you will learn more quickly what it is you need to do to improve your teaching of them. Students asking questions also develops their critical thinking skills. Many student-teachers ask how they are supposed to make time for this activity. We would suggest that enabling the students to ask questions is one of the purposes of education itself, because it helps the students to become more efficient learners. If students ask questions it means they come closer to an understanding of what they need to know, and they are taking an active part in the learning process. Students who are active learners tend to take their studies more seriously and learn with greater motivation and insight.

 

To help students ask questions, the following conditions in whole or in part, need to be present in your classroom:

 

             A desire to know and understand;

             A sense of purpose in the learning-process;

             Security;

             Happiness;

             Personal confidence that they won't look silly;

             Confidence in the teacher's ability to handle the situation;

             An understanding of the shape of the lessons and how each fits into the whole purpose. (This last one is difficult to achieve, as it requires tremendously good planning and confidence on the part of the teacher, great flexibility and insight, and most of all, experience.)

 

The Chinese government is taking more notice these days of the more communicative aspects of learning English and under the New Curriculum, students are expected to be far more flexible in their ability to ask and answer questions.

 

Helping the children learn how to work in pairs and groups:

One of the biggest problems that new teachers encounter when they try to organise oral work, is that students are resistant to it. They are reluctant to speak out, because they are not used to it in some areas. Although this resistance makes the atmosphere difficult for the teacher, s/he must persevere, because these new methods will help the students become better at English and it is a teacher's responsibility to promote learning not to give in to students' reluctance!

 

In addition, there is a myth that if the teacher says, right let's do some pair-work/group-work, that the students will know how to, get into pairs and groups, and talk usefully! They won't. They need to be taught how to work in pairs, how to work in groups. The teacher needs to explain why and how. This might have to be repeated several times, but it is worthwhile to spend this time explaining, because oral work is becoming increasingly important under the New Curriculum, and the students aren't going to be able to do use the language flexibly[5] without such activities.

 

Let's look now in some detail about managing oral work in both pairs and groups.

 

Organising Oral Work:

There are several ways of organising oral work, as you have seen in the section about the arrangement of the furniture in a classroom. The way the students are set up to speak should be suitable for what it is you are trying to get them to learn. If you want a discussion, a small group might be the answer. If you want the students to test each other, then pair work is more appropriate. You have to choose the most educational method.

 

It is possible that your students won't have experience of different methods, so it might be worthwhile explaining in Chinese why you are doing this. This will help the students to feel happy with the new way of doing things. If you expect too much of them too soon, they will not be highly motivated.

 

It is quite common for students to try it for a while and then not pay attention, or become distracted, or get stuck and not ask questions. You must be sure that you set up the task clearly, and have ways of checking that the students are doing it effectively. Make sure you can walk around the classroom. Sometimes teachers use group/pair work time to write on the blackboard.

 

If you need to do a lot of writing, prepare it on big paper before the lesson, so that you can spend the time walking around the classroom and listening to your students.

 

This gives you an opportunity to correct mistakes, encourage their learning and focus them back on the task. Always set a time-deadline so that the students know how long they have and what they are expected to achieve in the time you are giving them.

 

Pair work:

Whatever the conditions in your classrooms, whether you are teaching in a modernised or a rural classroom, you should be able to include pair work in your classes as a way of improving spoken English.

 

Pair work can improve pronunciation and intonation, listening skills, vocabulary, grammar and students' confidence. It also enables you to walk around the classroom and listen carefully to your students' oral work and then help them on an individual basis.

 

Setting up pair work is relatively easy. The more the students are used to this process, the easier they will find it to accommodate themselves. Here are a few suggestions for varying pair-work:

 

             Simply ask the students to split into pairs. If there is an odd number of students in the classroom, then one 'group' can work in a threesome. You can ask desk-mates to pair off. This is the most convenient combination if there isn't much movement possible in your classroom.

             Ask the students to pair up with the student who has the next number - i.e. students numbers 1 & 2 work together and so on. This adds variety, but might be time-consuming to organise.

             You can place students of differing abilities together. The 'good' student will improve her/his understanding through having to explain something, and the 'weaker' student will have the undivided attention of a 'teacher'. Although this can be difficult to organise (because it might be time consuming and you will have to know your individual students' abilities well) it is educationally very helpful for both. It is also a way of fulfilling the NC requirements about students taking more responsibility, and learning something about self- and peer-evaluation (see section on Evaluation).

 

If it is easy to move around in your classroom, you should consider using each of the above methods sometimes in your teaching.

 

Group Work:

This is particularly useful for improving the quality of conversation and discussion with students. If your groups are too large, not everyone will have a chance to speak, and it is important that it becomes customary for everyone to speak during oral sessions. If you are working with advanced groups on a discussion topic, the following guidelines might help:

 

             Give a time-limit to the discussion;

             Ask each group to elect a spokesperson;

             the spokesperson should then ask each member of the group their opinion (in English as far as possible);

             Ask questions of each other (in English);

             Summarise the most important points (in English);

             The spokesperson feeds back information to the class (in English);

             Individuals from other groups can ask questions.

 

Whilst the groups are preparing their discussion in the whole class, you can go round groups and monitor them. Whole class discussions are quite difficult to manage, and take a lot of time, but sometimes, they are worthwhile if you make sure that somewhere during the process everyone is getting a chance to speak.

 

During the feedback, try to ensure that it isn't the same person or group being asked questions all the time. Remember, the purpose of discussion is discussion by the students - not by you! Group work helps more people to take part than the usual question-and- answer process between teacher and individual students.

 

The best way to promote speaking and listening in English lessons, is to be confident yourself and to manage lots of different ways of encouraging the students to speak. If you are shy about speaking, so will they. Remember, you have to set a good example and help your students feel that their efforts will be appreciated.

 

Organising Listening Comprehension:

We are including a short section on managing Listening Comprehension as many new teachers find it difficult. There are many different ways of conducting a listening comprehension lesson. Try to remember, though, that simply following the cassette is unlikely to be the most creative way of doing it. Before reading this section, make sure you've looked through the earlier part on using a tape-recorder.

 

The logic of managing Listening Comprehension is similar to the logic you will find when using the textbook rather than teaching it. (See Part Five for more details about this.) The New Curriculum requires teachers to use listening comprehension as a method for helping learning, rather than simply teaching it.

 

So first you need to decide what are the aims of using Listening Comprehension in the classroom? They include:

             Helping students to recognise meanings;

             Increasing vocabulary;

             Increasing understanding of grammatical structures in normal spoken English;

             Increasing the students' confidence in using rather than simply understanding the language;

             Helping students to combine different aspects of learning the language - writing, reading and critical thinking skills.

 

Before a Listening Comprehension with a Tape:

             Make sure you have thoroughly prepared the passage beforehand, and enabled your students to become acquainted with new words and phrases as appropriate;

             If possible try to conduct some sort of conversation with the class, which centres on the same theme as the listening comprehension. You might want to ask them an opening question, or get them to think about something specific to aid their listening;

             Checked that the tape is working well - that the voices are clear and audible for everyone;

             That you discuss with the students what is the purpose of this particular listening comprehension and what the students should be learning from it;

 

During:

             Remember to give the students enough time for each aspect. You can check by walking around, or asking them individually or collectively;

 

After:

             Give the students a chance to check their answers. You can get the students to do this in pairs if the students can manage it, or in small groups, to enable some free-talk about their ideas and answers. The aim here is not to get the highest marks, but to improve their use of English in a real situation. The New Curriculum advocates this method.

             Encourage students to give feedback in a conversational way, rather than as a drill. This can be done in bigger groups and then feeding back to the class as a whole.

 

Listening Comprehension without a Tape:

When students are a little more advanced, you can expect them to take some of the responsibility for their own Listening Comprehension exercises in a bid to improve pronunciation and intonation and listening for meaning. What about the following?

 

             Ask students to work in pairs, reading a few sentences to each other, and asking questions about it. The students can prepare a small passage from their book with some questions as a part of the homework in preparation for the lesson and then they can test each other. This task-based activity encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning. The more responsibility they take for finding a small passage and teaching it, the better.

             Ask students to work in two pairs together. One of the first pair reads a small passage in appropriate sections to the second pair. The second person in the first pair listens to the reader and corrects pronuciation and intonation.

 

You can go round and listen to their efforts, helping where necessary.

 

Summary:

Listening Comprehension doesn't have to be a strait-jacket. You can use if communicatively in your classroom, if you bear in mind that the aim of learning English is to be able to use the language, not just know a lot about it. Many new teachers find this activity extremely stressful, because of the use of equipment, and the difficulty of listening itself. We don't believe it has to be so worrying for either the teacher or the students, and feel sure that if you try some of the above methods in your Listening Classes, you and your students will feel more confident about the process.

 

Now, as an ending to Part Two, we are including an evaluation by Ma Hui about improving group-work in his class.

 

An Evaluation by Ma Hui[6]:

Ma Hui taught his classmates for twenty minutes on a point of grammar, and realised that his use of group work was poor. Here is part of what he wrote for homework after the lesson:

 

Group work is important because it helps students to learn well. Today I didn't manage the group-work well, because only one person talked in the group and the others kept silent. I was disappointed. I should make all the students talk in group work. Next time I will tell the students they must all give their opinions and the leader of the group cannot do the feedback until all the students in his group have spoken. Perhaps the groups were too big as well...

 

Good advice! Try that yourselves - make sure that in the group, every child has had a chance to say something. If the students get used to speaking up at all times, they will find it easier and easier to learn the language. In addition, try to make your groups a manageable size. A group is anything more than one person working together. Your reasons for organising any kind of group work have to offer educational possibilities for your students.

 

Now, in the next section we are going to give you two Action Plans, written by third year student-teachers Wang Rui (2003/4) and Cao Hongmei (2002/3) from Guyuan Teachers College. First, Wang Rui's about promoting oral work in her classes. Look especially at the level of detail in her plan.

 

Wang Rui's Action Plan

 

1) What do I want to improve? How can I help my students speak more English in class?

 

2) Why am I concerned about this?

Some students do not speak English: they seem to want the teacher to talk but do not want to talk themselves. This makes me worry about teaching English because the only way you can learn to speak is by speaking. English is used for communication. Besides English has become an international language. If they cannot speak English fluently they will lose confidence in front of people and this will even have an effect on their study or activities in general. I'm not only hope they can use pass examination with it but enjoy to speak it as well. I feel if they can't speak then it's my fault. China needs good English learners who can communicate with foreigners. Perhaps they don't understand about this. Perhaps they are too nervous to speak English. Maybe they don't know how to express themselves correctly.

 

3) How might I help my students speak more English in class?

I could talk to them about how important it is. I need to find out why they don't like speaking English. First, arranging duty-report in every class, so that each student has to speak at least once. Secondly I can encourage my students to imitate teacher's pronunciation and intonation and asking students to help their deskmates in this. Or asking them to read following the tapes. Fourthly, organizing suitable games and singing English songs. Students like to do this. Then, working more in pairs and groups in ordinary lessons, discussing what they like or dislike, what they have done at the weekend or what they will do and things like this. I can arrange some time at the end of a lesson every week in which deskmates have to do this activity. They can talk about what they like: it's up to them. Finally I will ask them to learn some very useful, everyday phrases, sentences and expressions. I will never give up on any student, however difficult he or she finds it to speak English. I will find something. I can ask the students what they want to do to speak. I will tell them not to be afraid of speaking English, in other words they should put their face in their pockets when they come to class, as Dr. Laidlaw says to us. The more mistakes they make in class, the more progress they can make in their studies. Failure is the springboard of success. I'll try my best as well to make my class humorous and interesting for the students and remember they are the important ones in the class. I will try to understand my students' concerns and worries as Dr. Laidlaw tries to understand mine.

 

4) Who can help me and how?

My classmates and roommates can help me by giving me advice. My Methodology teachers, Dr. Laidlaw and Mr. Li can help me by listening to my class when I stand on the platform. I can learn from other experienced teachers, by talking to them and asking their advice for me. The students can help me by writing notes on my lessons and suggesting what is easy to understand or difficult. If I have a good condition I will learn from some useful books in the library or the internet in the college. I can communicate with international teachers around the world using this method.

 

5) How will I know that they like speaking English and that their oral English has improved?

They will enjoy answering questions. They will speak more English sentences correctly. They will enjoy working in pairs and in groups in English. Their duty report will become more and more interesting and less rote. They will become more active in class generally. They won't sit silently all the time. I will feel happy if everyone tries to express themselves in English.

 

And now Cao Hongmei's on motivation.

 

An Action Plan on Motivation by Cao Hongmei:

 

1)        What do I want to improve? How can I help to improve students' motivation with my Senior One class?

2)        Why am I concerned? Some of the students in the class do not pay attention to my lesson and I am worried that their English is bad. Because I am a woman, they think they can be rude to me. I don't know how to improve it and if they don't pay attention then they will make bad progress and I think it is important that they study hard. China is a developing country and needs good students. English is very important now in China. We have the Olympic Beijing Games in 2008. This is a great honour for the country. And we are in the WTO. We are on the world stage now, so English is important. I also think if their English is bad then I am blamed for it. I feel very down about this.

3)        How might I help to improve the students' motivation? I could talk to them about this. It is really four boys who sit at the back of the class and make a lot of noise and silliness for me. First I think I need to separate them and tell them where to sit. It might be better if they sit near me in front of the teacher's desk. I need to find out why they don't like my lessons. Perhaps they don't understand. Perhaps I need to review their homework carefully. I will also stand nearer to them when they are silly, so that they are quiet. I will ask them questions. If they can answer, then I will know they are clever and perhaps I can push them harder. If they can't answer, perhaps they are being silly, perhaps they don't understand because I haven't explained it properly. I think I need to speak to them individually after class as well. I need to explain to the class that it is not all my responsibility to help them learn. They have to help themselves and each other too. I can try out a few things and see how they work or not. I think it's trial and error at the moment. I think perhaps as well if I can give them some responsibility during the lesson, then the boys might behave better and be more happy about learning English in my lessons.

4)        Who can help me and how? My colleagues can help me by giving me advice about what they do when boys are naughty. The other students can help me by taking responsibility for what their classmates are doing. Perhaps a colleague can come into my class and watch and give me advice.

5)        How will I know that their motivation has improved? They will enjoy the lessons more. They will answer questions correctly with a smile! They will not try to interrupt my teaching all the time. I will feel better. The class will feel more efficient because everyone is trying to learn the same thing.

 

We are sure you can identify with her problem. You can probably remember situations like this when you were a student at school yourself. This excellent student-teacher put her ideas into practice and the situation with the four boys was greatly improved. Three of them improved completely, and one of them made some progress with his attitude. What is very helpful about her action plan is the way it gave her a way to think of ideas to manage a difficult but typical situation in the classroom. Action Planning is a very practical method of improving your teaching and we hope you will make a lot of use of it.

 

In Part Three, you will read about Lesson Planning, in order to maximise learning with your students.

 


Part Three: Lesson Planning

Like everything else in teaching, good lesson planning is complex, but worth taking time to improve carefully. A lesson plan has to have an educational purpose and be clear from beginning to end - clear not only to you, the teacher, but also to the students. In other words, the students have to see the logic of your planning, otherwise they will be confused, which will disturb the learning process. For further specific information about planning for and using the New Curriculum textbooks, see Part Five.

 

Teacher-centred or Student-centred learning?

The first question you need to ask yourself, is about what it is you are going to teach, and then which might be the most appropriate methods to use in order to teach most effectively. Very often, particularly when teachers begin their career, their lack of confidence leads them to try to control every aspect of the classroom because they are worried that otherwise the students will learn nothing. These young teachers talk the most during an oral lesson, write on the board all the time and give their students little time to organise any of their own learning. So, in such a class, there is little pair or group work, and the students are very passive learners. They never ask questions, and work separately from anyone else. Every idea has to be checked by the teacher, rather than being discussed by the students. This method of teaching is teacher-centred and can stifle the learning process. In order to enable communicative methods to work well, you need to develop more student-centred learning in the classroom.

 

In a student-centred classroom, students do most of the talking - they ask questions, they answer them; they work in groups and pairs; motivation is very high and they develop inquisitive minds and learn to think for themselves. Student-centred methods take a fuller account of individual learning styles and enables students to make some of the decisions about their learning. For example, if a student has a question in a teacher-centred classroom, quite often s/he will not voice it, because it is not customary. Thus the teacher may not ever cover what it is the student needs to know. In a student-centred classroom, a student could voice her or his concern without worrying that it wouldn't be relevant. In that situation a teacher could answer it directly, say when s/he was going to answer it, ask a volunteer to answer it now or later.

 

In a student-centred classroom, it is the students' learning that is at the centre, rather than the teacher's teaching styles and knowledge, and it is the students' learning that dictates, to an extent, the direction of the learning.

 

As we are sure you can see straightaway, this makes it more unpredictable for the teacher, which is why some teachers are scared of this method and try it for a little while, but if it seems too hard, they quickly retreat and say it can't be done. However, it is worth persevering with student-centred methods because students who are taught using some of these approaches, tend to develop better memories for vocabulary, greater understanding of grammatical structures and more confident fluency. Later on we will offer some advice about how to use student-centred methods within the examination curriculum in ways which enable examinations to be passed, but also the students to develop greater flexibility with both thinking and learning English. (See Part Four.)

 

There are some activities which are more suited to student-centred learning and some which are more suited to teacher-centred approaches:

 

Student-Centred Activities                                                     Teacher-Centred Activities

Role-play                                                                                                                Dictation

Pair-work                                                                                                                Recitation

Group-work                                                                                                         Cloze-procedure

Discussion                                                                                                             Listening Comprehension

Self- and Peer Evaluation                                                             Repetition

 

However, the above list is neither exhaustive, nor static. There are ways of doing the teacher-centred activities in ways, which promote greater interaction with the students, and thus promote greater flexibility in learning by the students.

 

This methodology promotes student-centred methods, because they eventually produce students who can use English more fluently, confidently and flexibly. Traditional methods don't always enable students to use the language skilfully in unexpected situations. Thus, in the rest of this section, the focus - Lesson Planning - will develop ways of planning for students' learning, rather than for teachers' teaching. In other words, the focus will be on ways of planning to maximise learning, rather than on controlling every activity to make it easier for the teacher! The aim of teaching is not to make it easy for the teacher, but for the student!

 

Setting out a Lesson Plan:

This needs careful consideration. You need to think of what you want the students to learn and how you can most effectively help them. Consider the following elements of a lesson and in brackets I have given the reasons for including each category:

 

             Class name (so you can keep a record)

             Date of lesson (quick check from one class to another)

             Lesson number (if following Go For It - good for sequencing);

             Content of lesson (i.e. animal vocabulary, present continuous tense, etc. See above for reason.);

             Aim(s) of lesson (vital to make your teaching clear, so that you can check later if you have met your aims);

             Teaching materials you will need; (helpful reminders to further learning of students);

             Short description of beginning, middle and end. (promotes clarity in your teaching methods);

             Teacher's activities; (what will you do?)

             Students' activities (what will the students do?)

(Note: the two above categories - teacher's and students' activities are the most important parts of the lesson-plan, because if you set it out correctly on the page, you will be able to see at a glance if you are doing too much, and your students too little.)

 

The following is a suggestion for setting out a lesson plan in order to help you concentrate on the main features of the lesson. (In this case it is a new grammar exercise.) You should set out a lesson plan on a whole sheet of paper to give you enough room to write all the necessary details. As you read the lesson plan you will see some activities marked with an asterisk (*). These are the more student-centred aspects of the lesson, in which the students are learning more flexible ways to use English.

 

I think you will need to read the lesson-plan several times, because there is a lot of information in it. As you read it, try to ask yourself, why the teacher sets it out in this way, and why she includes so much detail about the students' activities

 

Class: Junior Two

Date: 2001.5.13.

Content: New grammar points.

Aims:

             To build students' confidence in their mastery of English.

             To ensure working use of the new grammar points in speaking, listening and writing.

Teaching Materials: coloured chalk, lesson-plan.

Structure:

Beginning (5 minutes)

Review/Preview

Middle: (30 minutes)

Introduction and practice of new grammar

End: (10 minutes)

Evaluation in which students ask questions about what is not understood and teacher learns how to teach better next time.*

Homework. Review new grammar points and make five sentences using the new grammar.

 

Teacher's Activities                                                                                                                            Students' Activities

Review; Listens                                                                                                                                            Recall last lesson

Preview of lesson                                                                                                                                       Ss ask questions*

Explains new grammar                                                                                                                     Listen, copy.

Asks Qs                                                                                                                                                                      Answer Qs

Form groups                                                                                                                                                       Test each other*

Invite demonstrations                                                                                                                          Demonstrate understanding

Invite questions                                                                                                                                             Confer with desk-mate*

Helps ss*                                                                                                                                                                 Ask questions*

Ask ss to create conversations                                                                                               Create conversations*

Listens*, corrects mistakes                                                                                                         Re-create conversations

Asks ss to pick out what they feel confident about*                           Celebrate achievement*

Ask ss to sum up main points of learning in Chinese*                          Summarise* and write in books

Set homework                        Write in books

Preview following class                        Listen.

 

There are many advantages of using this lay-out for a lesson plan. Read it again and note down anything that interests you or surprises you.

 

In our experience, many new teachers find the columns with students' activities the most challenging. This is because they are used to thinking about a lesson plan from a teacher's perspective, rather than thinking about it as a guide to the learning process of the students. Many new teachers find it very difficult to think from the point of view of the students. Although they can think of many activities for the teacher, they become stuck when they have to think about what the students ought to do.

 

This is the wrong way round. As it is the students who need to learn, it is the students' activities that need thinking about very carefully. Thinking of teaching and learning in this new way can be very challenging, but it is necessary if you are going to adjust to the more communicative methods. The NC states that planning needs to be student-centred.

 

In this plan, the teacher is guiding the students to work very hard and to be active as much as possible during the lesson. She is encouraging the students to take some responsibility for their own learning, and research shows that this helps students to retain more information and to enjoy their work more. When she writes: Students test each other and Students ask questions and Students summarise their learning in Chinese, she is putting the responsibility onto the students to work very hard and to think for themselves. If the students become used to this kind of activity they are more likely to learn well.

 

In other words passive students learn how to mimic their teacher, but not to think critically. Communicative methodology insists on students whose use of English is flexible, natural and individual. Lesson-plans need to reflect this emphasis.

 

One Student's Experience with Action Planning and Lesson Planning[7]:

In this section, we want to introduce you to an excellent student whom we'll call Ma Jie[8]. When she was preparing for her teaching practice at Guyuan Teachers College, she worked on an Action Plan on Lesson Planning because she had taken a couple of practice lessons at the College, and realised that it was her Lesson Planning that was weak.

 

This was her first Action Plan:

1)        What do I want to improve? I want to improve the educational value of my Lesson Planning.

2)        Why are you concerned about it? I am worried because I plan things in my head and write them down, but when it comes to the classroom it doesn't work. I find it easy to write about the teacher's activities but the students' activities are difficult to imagine for me. I keep forgetting things, or I make mistakes, or I find that the students don't behave as I expect. I become frightened. I think I can't manage this class if it is a real class. I get very nervous and think I am a bad teacher. I don't know how to make my lesson plans flexible but helpful at the same time. It is very difficult to be a teacher.

3)        How can I improve my lesson planning? I am not sure but perhaps I need to work out a better connection between teacher's activities and students' activities. I think I need to be more clear about the process and the outcome. I think I need to write more detail for the students' activities because I find it difficult to do this. I need to be very clear about the aims of the lesson and make sure that the processes will make the aims come true. I need to do a clearer evaluation at the end of the lessons so that I can learn how I can improve it next time.

4)        Who can help me and how? I think perhaps my Learning-partner, Li Weiming[9] can help me. He can point out the shortcomings. Perhaps he can also visit the lessons sometimes and see whether the Lesson Plan works. Perhaps my colleagues at the school can help me by checking my plan. Perhaps teachers at the College can give me some ideas as well. Perhaps the students can help me out as well. Perhaps they can tell me which parts of the lesson were interesting and not interesting.

5)        How will I know that my Lesson Planning has improved? The students will be able to grasp the aims more quickly. They will understand what they have to do more easily. The students will answer and ask more questions intelligently. I will feel more confident and happy about my ability as a teacher.

 

Read the lesson-plan at the beginning of this section again. Twice. O.K., let's look now at Ma Jie's evaluation afterwards. Remember, after you've done a lesson, you should evaluate it to see what you can do better, and what the students can do better, next time.

 

Ma Jie's Evaluation:

I am not sure my lesson went well today. The students were naughty at the back and I couldn't check the others when they were practising first time. Although I wrote it in my plan, I forgot it. I am so angry about it. Tomorrow I change the seating with those students. I asked the naughty students to demonstrate their conversations, though, and Ma Bin was quite good, but Chen Hui was silly. I also think I gave too much time for the practice. Next time, I make the time shorter. I also didn't have enough for some students. The girls at the front were very fast and finished too early. Next time I need to think of some extra work if they finish early. That's a good idea every lesson. Some students finish before other students. Perhaps the quick ones can check the slower ones.

 

This evaluation is excellent in my opinion, because the teacher is thinking how she can improve her teaching so that the students can learn more. She realises that she has given some groups too much time, and hasn't planned enough extra material so that all students are working hard all the time. Secondly, she now knows that if she spends too much time with silly students, she won't cover all her responsibilities, so she has the excellent idea of moving the troublesome students to seats where they won't case any more trouble. And look at her comments about making the silly students work harder. This is an excellent strategy for dealing with difficult students.

 

Note the speculative tone of her comments. She is trying to work out what happened, what she might do next, and all the time she is thinking of the quality of learning of her students, rather than her own performance.

 

After a few lessons, Ma Jie wrote the following:

Ma Bin was better today. He sat nearer the front and he answered two questions. I was happy with him. The class went better because my lesson plan was more helpful. I didn't forget to look at it. I checked the homework (see Part Four) of the class and they had done some good work, but Chen Hui is still not grasping it. Today I asked the clever students to work with the less clever students for some oral practice in groups. Before the lesson I organised the students by ability, and it worked really well. I walked around the class and listened to their conversations. Usually in the past they stop talking when I am there, but today, with this new organisation, it worked well and the students didn't seem so nervous. I think everyone gained something. I will use this method again. Now, when I write a lesson plan I am more able to think about it from the students' opinion. It is easier. I still want to work on my timing, though, because it is not always working out. I sometimes have too much time left, or not enough.

 

Here, Ma Jie, is reflecting on her teaching from the point of view of the students' learning, and this is giving her new insights into the processes in the classroom. She is more confident, and feels that she is making progress. She is speculating about what she might do in the future, and note the final comment, in which she realises that perhaps she needs to plan more carefully for timing so that she is not rushing at the end of the lesson, or wondering what to do with extra time.

 

Living with Uncertainty:

We hope you are now realising that although planning for good teaching is a complex activity, it is possible to make progress in it and learn from mistakes as well as from successes. Teaching can be a process of trial and error and an enquiry into ways of making it better for all concerned.

 

You will make mistakes at the beginning. Everyone does! But we can learn from our mistakes and become strong in our own knowledge. Try not to get it all right all at once. Be patient with yourself. You're probably going to teach for a long time, so there's plenty of time to learn.

 

At the beginning of your career, just try to remember to plan carefully and systematically, and then after each lesson, make just a few notes about how the lesson went, and how you might improve it next time. If you're having particular problems in this area, then write out a full action-plan on the aspect of Lesson Planning which is troubling you, like, 'timing', or 'students' activities' and check your progress over time to see how it's going.

 

To summarise:

Lesson Planning is important because it:

             Focuses your mind;

             Focuses your students' minds;

             Clarifies the process of learning;

             Enables you to keep a record of your and the students' learning; (Remember, they are learning about English, but you are learning about Methodology.)

             Helps to show you the strengths and weakness of your methodology and the students' learning;

             Helps you to control the learning process (English and Methodology) more educationally;

             Helps you to learn alongside your students, so that you are creating a learning atmosphere in the classroom which the students will take seriously;

             Helps you to cope with uncertainty and to become more flexible as a result.

 

Now in Part Four, we are going to be describing ways of monitoring and evaluating students' work in ways which will help you with managing the process of their learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Part Four: Monitoring and Evaluating Students' Work

 

Before we look at monitoring and evaluation (which are concerned about judgements of students' work) we need to remind ourselves of the criteria the New Curriculum is using to judge the students.

 

Briefly, students' work is going to be judged on whether it shows an ability to use the language flexibly, whether the student demonstrates certain abilities - fluency, confidence, creativity, manipulating the structures of the language, critical thinking and so on (see Part One). All your judgements on students' work should be drawn from those criteria.

 

Read Part One through again, and then carry on in this section.

 

What distinguishes the three forms of judgement?

Monitoring means checking and or marking work.

Evaluating means commenting on the value of something, either orally or in writing - how good or bad it is, i.e. 'This work is rather poor because you keep making careless mistakes with the present continuous tense.'

Assessing means marking something with a number, for example, 5/10, or 61%. This form of judgement is useful in tests and examinations.

 

A good teacher uses each kind of judgement about students' work, depending on the student and the task set.

 

Monitoring:

First, what's monitoring for?

You should do it to:

             Discover progress of individual students;

             Check whether your own lesson-planning is working;

             See what has to be done again, or in new ways;

             Enable individual feedback to students about their learning;

             Increase motivation amongst students;

             Increase everyone's clarity about what you are all doing.

 

Monitoring can involve the checking of many different kinds of work:

             Students' writing in class;

             Comprehension exercises;

             Listening exercises;

             Homework;

             Oral work;

             Pair-work and group work;

             Examination papers.

 

 

How can you do it?

Monitoring can be done by:

             Marking homework;

             Asking students' questions;

             Managing students' questions;

             Listening to their discussions in groups;

             Tape-recording small-group oral work to review later;

             Asking individual students to give feedback;

             Organising groups to give feedback on what they have learnt (see previous section on Managing Oral Work);

             Watching out for students' critical thinking skills.

 

Marking Homework:

This is probably the major way in which teachers have contact with students' written work and gain an understanding of what their students are learning. It is important that the way in which you mark students' work enables them to move forward in their learning. Because you will have so much homework to mark, you must learn efficient ways of doing it. In this context, 'efficient' means 'educational' and 'quick'.

 

If possible you should try to mark work for the students' next lesson. Speed of feedback to the students has the following advantages:

             They know you take their work seriously;

             It heightens their motivation;

             Their progress is quickened;

             It enables you to plan more smoothly.

 

How you mark is as important as how quickly you mark. There are many different ideas about how marking should be done. Some teachers believe you should mark every mistake. Some think you should mark most of them, others believe that only the most important mistakes should be noticed. We believe that whatever makes marking educational is what should be done! By this we mean that marking should improve the quality of learning with the students.

 

Look at the title-page of this book. It says that the purpose of education is to improve the quality of learning. As with everything in this methodology, you should ask yourself the question: why am I doing it like this? And if you don't have an answer, which connects with improving the quality of education for the students, then perhaps it is not a good idea after all.

 

Three Examples of Marking:

Let's look at an example of homework and how different teachers have marked it. Then we'll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each method of marking. The homework is from a school-student, just beginning to learn about the present continuous tense. This is a rather lazy student. She is quite clever, but she doesn't like English very much. She has had one lesson on it. She has been asked to write six sentences for homework.

 

This morning I going to the school.

tomorrow my brother go to the market.

We are come to england next year.

We are walking to school tomorrow.

I am sit in park.

 

And here are three different ways of marking it:

 

1)

This morning I ---- going to the school.

 

tomorrow my brother---- go---- to the market.

 

We are come to england next year.

 

We are walking to school tomorrow.

 

I am sit---- in park.

 

2)

This morning I going to the school.

tomorrow my brother go to the market.

We are come to england next year.

We are walking to school tomorrow. Very good! This sentence is correct. The others are not.

I am sit in­_ park.

"This is careless. Where is sentence number six? Look carefully at the correct sentence again and then see where you have made mistakes in the others (I have underlined them). Correct them with your learning-partner. Ask if you are stuck! I expect better homework from you in future. You are a bright student but lazy. Show me your book after class."

 

3)

This morning I am going to the school.

Ttomorrow my brother go (is going) to the market.

We are come (coming) to Eengland next year.

We are walking to school tomorrow.

I am sitting in the park.

 

Which marking do you think is the most educational for that student? Remember, she is bright but lazy and unmotivated. What kind of feedback will help her the most, do you think?

 

In Number 1) the teacher doesn't correct mistakes. S/he has also not seen that there are only five sentences completed. Each mistake is underlined, whether or not it is about the specific grammar - the present continuous tense. If there are many mistakes in a piece of homework, it is often better to concentrate on just those mistakes, which are relevant. Capital letters are significant, but not really important here. If a student's work is covered with red ink it can be very discouraging. In addition, students do not always learn much just from looking at where the mistakes are. They need to be active in their correction. A good teacher marks just enough to show a particular student her faults, but not too much to take her responsibility away. There is also no teacher's comment. Therefore, this marking is not sufficient in my opinion.

 

Let's look at Number 2). The comment in example 2 is helpful. (See Evaluation section later.) It points out how the student might improve her work in the future and shows that the teacher expects better. The teacher has also noticed that the student has not completed her homework and realises that this is typical of that student! S/he uses her understanding of that student's psychology to help her phrase her comment. She doesn't correct mistakes at all, only points out the correct sentence. This may not be enough. It depends on whether the student is very bright and careless or not. If she is, then the lack of correction is probably suitable. The marking of this teacher is possibly appropriate, but it depends on the student's ability.

 

Number 3). Here the marking is more thorough, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the most educational. Here, the teacher corrects all the mistakes. This suggests that the student isn't capable of correcting it herself, and we do know that she's quite bright. This teacher has worked hard, but hasn't necessarily done the most educational thing for this particular student. There is no comment, either, which might have helped the student to try harder next time. This marking is quite thorough but perhaps inappropriate.

 

What have we learnt about marking?

             Mark as promptly as possible.

             Work out the purpose of the marking in advance.

             Write a relevant comment, which will help that particular student.

             Expect a lot from each student.

             Mark according to the ability of the student. (If a student can do a lot for themselves, expect that in response to your marking. If not, then you can correct their mistakes, or at least most of them (the relevant ones anyway).)

 

Monitoring with Learning-Partners:

It is possible to enable learning-partners (desk-mates, perhaps) to help each other in marking. Before handing in books, it can be useful to ask students to work in pairs and correct each other's work. This is excellent practice, as it gives them opportunities to identify mistakes and help each other. Identifying mistakes is a fruitful way of learning, as each student has to know the rules well to be able to do so. You will be able to learn more about what the desk-mate does and doesn't know through this method. It is very educational for the desk-mates to be knowledgable about each other's work as they can support each other throughout their English lessons. As they are sitting so close together, each student is a wonderful resource for the other, if you as their teacher, can find opportunities for them to help each other.

 

Evaluation:

The New Curriculum states that evaluation should be both formative and summative. (See Glossary.)

 

Formative Evaluation:

Formative evaluations are designed to help the teacher build up a profile of every student's learning progress over time and it can be done through the following ways by the teacher:

 

             Marking homework;

             Listening to feedback;

             Asking questions;

             Recording a student's performance in a lesson - in speaking, listening, reading, writing, critical thinking, cultural awareness, cross-cultural competence, world vision, participation in groups/pair-work etc.;

             Class-reports over time;

             Games and quizzes;

             Attitudes;

             Motivation;

             Attendance and performance at English Corner and other extra-curricular activities;

             Organisational skills (in other words, does the student organise his/her own learning at all?);

 

Summative Evaluations:

These are usually done through:

 

             Testing after a period of time;

             Examinations;

             Speech competitions etc.;

 

A good teacher uses a combination of both forms of evaluation in order to understand how the student is progressing, and also to help students understand how they are progressing.

 

Ipsative Evaluation:

This is a very useful form of evaluation. Ipsative means self-comparison. The New Curriculum wants students to be able to evaluate themselves and each other. This can only happen if they can compare what they are doing now with what they did in the past. A teacher also need to keep an eye on such comparisons, when looking at her/his individual students' overall progress.

 

Making comments about the value of your students' work can be very helpful for them and for you. Evaluation helps to:

 

             Clarify for individuals what they need to learn next;

             Clarify for the student and teacher what are the problems with learning at the moment with that particular student;

             Show the students that you are interested in their work;

             Increase motivation;

             Act as a record for students and teachers about progress;

             Increases students' capacity to understand more and take more responsibility for their own learning.

 

Apart from the feedback-forms already discussed with monitoring, evaluation also offers the chance for students to become more active in their own learning. It is possible to organise students to evaluate each other's work. This is especially true of advanced groups, in which the evaluation can be done in English. Training students to make constructive comments about their desk-mates' work can augment (improve) the learning atmosphere in the classroom.

 

Evaluative comments should always be:

 

             Constructive - in other words, helpful, thoughtful, sensitive, appropriate to that particular student's abilities, and practical;

             Concise - you have many students and don't have time to write an essay on each homework!

             Developmental - in other words, should point towards the future possibilities of learning for that student;

 

Look at the following three evaluations and see which you think is the most appropriate. These are comments about a student - Ma Lian - who is very bright, but often lazy and naughty in class. He has written ten sentences on the future tense. He is 14 years old.

 

1)        Ma Lian, you are a bad student. Please correct your homework.

2)        Ma Lian, your work is careless. I am disappointed in you. I know you can do better. I would like you to look at numbers three and four again and ask yourself about their construction. Please re-write these sentences. I will speak to you next lesson.

3)        Well done, Ma Lian. You have made some mistakes but you will get better. If you are stuck next time you should ask me for my help and then you will learn better.

4)        Look through this work again, Ma Lian. See the underlinings I have made and see whether you can correct them  yourself. Sk your deskmate to help you. Write down corrections or questions you have.

 

What do you think?

 

Let's dismiss Number 1) straightaway. This is understandable feedback for Ma Lian, because the teacher is obviously annoyed and frustrated. However, this feedback is not educational - it isn't constructive, or developmental. It is concise, but that's not enough. It doesn't help the student at all, because its intention is punishment rather than education. The teacher needs to set a good example in her marking here by making helpful and thoughtful criticism.

 

Number 2) is strict and straight-to-the-point! However, it seems fair in the circumstances. This teacher believes in Ma Lian's potential and is therefore dissatisfied with his present performance (developmental). He has a suggestion about how to improve it and what she is going to do next lesson (constructive), and it is relatively short (concise). Very good!

 

Number 3) tries to be constructive, but doesn't have any real helpful hints about how Ma Lian might improve his work. The teacher shows belief in the student, but without any evidence. However, the suggestion about asking for help is a sound one.

 

Number 4) aims at getting the student to take responsibility for his own development, as well as getting his deskmate involved. The NC says that students should learn how to self-evaluate and peer-evaluate.

 

Of course, you won't always be able to make evaluative comments about each piece of your students' work, because class-size can be very large and there are only so many hours in a day. However, you ought to try now and again to make these kinds of helpful comments so that your students know where they stand with you. A combination of monitoring and evaluation makes the most educational responses to students' work. You must find the combination which is possible given the time at your disposal!

 

An Action Plan about Monitoring and Evaluation:

Li Xiaoyu[10] did her teaching practice at a Vocational Middle School. She was worried about the educational quality of her marking (monitoring) and evaluation of students' work.

 

Action Plan:                                                                             Name: Li Xiaoyu                                     Date: 2002-5-7

 

1)        What am I concerned about? I am concerned about marking and evaluating students' homework with my Senior One class. I want to know, how can I monitor and evaluate students' homework more effectively?

2)        Why am I concerned about it? At the moment I receive a lot of work from the students and I don't know what to do with it. It takes me a long time to mark everything and I am very tired. There are so many different mistakes and marking them all doesn't seem to help students learn. If marking is to help students, then I need to find better ways of doing it that don't take so long. Sometimes I spend a lot of time on it but it doesn't make the students learn more. This worries me because I think perhaps I am a bad teacher. I want my students to learn a lot not a little. I also want my students to be

3)        How can I improve my marking of students' work? Perhaps I can just mark the main mistakes. Perhaps I can ask students to mark their desk-mates' work. Perhaps I will choose one class to mark very carefully and see what happens. I will write a short and helpful comment if it is a good idea. I will try to make the students think of their own corrections, perhaps in pairs or in groups. I can ask students to ask me questions before they give in their homework so that they can correct their own. This will help them improve their learning and confidence as well. I can check through homework over a long time and see whether I am making better comments and corrections.

4)        Who can help me and how? The students can help me by asking questions about their homework before they give it to me. They can check their desk-mates' work as well. Colleagues can check my marking to see if it is helpful or not. They can give me ideas how I can improve my marking.

5)        How will I know that my marking has improved? Students' understanding will show in their homework and will improve from one homework to another homework. I will be able to mark homework more quickly and efficiently. Students' questions about their work will be more focused and show understanding of their problems. I will find more ways of marking and evaluating, using students to take more responsibility for their own work. There will be a better atmosphere in the class because everyone will work hard and like their work very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Part Five: Teaching or Using the Textbook.

The New Curriculum tells us that as a teacher you can no longer just teach the textbook. You have to use it.

 

1) Planning ahead yet remaining flexible:

Planning lessons is going to be one of the biggest challenges in the New Curriculum. Until recently, teachers have always been able to tell you how long something should take, and exactly how they're going to arrive at their destination. It was all in the teachers' notes. 'Junior English for China' gave step-by-step guidance for teachers in terms of planning, timing and outcomes. Teachers weren't expected to vary their planning for their particular students' learning. There seemed to be an expectation that all students learnt in the same way, so all students could be taught as a big group! Teachers attempted to teach in similar ways across China in order to complete the content. Up until recently, teachers of English knew that they could stand at the front and deliver the lesson, feeding the knowledge into the students automatically, and testing them at the end of the process.

 

Well, you can't do that anymore. You can't plan everything because you are not dealing with the same kind of curriculum. You're dealing with a curriculum that must take notice of the students' learning needs, their emotions and ideas, their critical thinking and innate abilities. You have to think about how students' cultural awareness, world vision and patriotism are connected to learning a language. This means you're going to have to develop the capacities you can read about in the rest of this Handbook. You need to get to know your students' learning needs so that you can learn how best to teach them. You will be expected to use the textbook as a guideline, NOT as a strait-jacket. This means you can't plan everything. You have to respond to students' learning needs, and we believe this might be the biggest challenge facing English-teachers today. (See later for some task-based activities and how you might allow flexibility in your planning.)

 

Teaching the New Curriculum means you can't just begin at page one, Unit One, Exercise One, and go through the book page-by-page anymore. You can't say, 'Well, on Thursday in six weeks time, we have to be finished with Unit Four!' You need to know where you're heading, but it isn't always going to be possible anymore to see how long you're going to take and how you're going to get there.

 

Living with Uncertainty:

Teachers have traditionally kept control of the learning process through assuming that all the knowledge students learn is the same, and that all students can learn it in the same way. Consider the following:

 

             First of all, you have to realise that learning a language isn't just a case of learning words, structures, grammar, phrases and so on. It's a lot more than that. A language is made up of culture, history, relationships, custom and so on. It's also learnt by individuals with their own ways of doing things, their own prior-knowledge and expertise, and their own learning-needs.

             Secondly, the New Curriculum has widened the scope of learning and made the process of learning part of the curriculum itself. No longer can teachers simply teach language, vocabulary, grammar and so on. Teachers need to pay attention to how the students are feeling, how they're learning and how they can become independent in their learning.

 

So, your job just became a whole lot bigger and more important! It's bigger, because you can't control all of it by yourself - you need to work with your students more closely and democratically. It's more important, because the New Curriculum sees learning as a lifelong process. English teachers are expected to help students develop strategies for learning that will benefit them for the whole of their lives, rather than just for passing examinations at school.

 

Relevance and Appropriateness: Language in Context

One aspect, which many teachers are finding difficult in using the new textbooks, is the whole issue about relevance and appropriateness of the material in the books. You have to make sure that the information given in the books is relevant for the students in your classrooms. What does that mean? Well, think about these issues:

 

Is the vocabulary in a particular unit going to be useful for your children? For example, if you're doing something on places, and there is a lot of new vocabulary, you don't have to make them learn every word, especially if those words are to come outside your students' experiences of life. For example, imagine you're teaching in a poor countryside school with few facilities, in an area with few links to the outside world. Look at the following list of vocabulary, which can be found in an early unit of 'Go For It':

 

             Post-office;

             Cinema;

             Video-store;

             Car-park;

             Internet caf;

             Bank;

             Baker's;

             Supermarket.

 

Would all your students have seen all the places above? Might some of them never have seen a video-store, or an internet caf? If that's the case, you'll need to tell them about such places, or ignore a couple that you think will not be helpful to them at the moment. Again, even though it's in the textbook, it might not be entirely relevant to your students. You'll have to make a lot of decisions like this when planning how to use the textbook in your classroom. Your students won't be expected to know every word and every grammatical structure. They will be expected to be able to use the language flexibly.

 

Summary: So, how does all this affect the way you use the textbooks? Well, we believe there are a number of steps you can use when you're preparing to work with a textbook in your classroom. The following ideas can benefit your efficiency, and lead to a more creative and productive set of approaches for your students' learning. We see the following suggestions as helpful not only for this precise aspect of English-learning, but as exemplars for other parts of the textbooks too! A creative teacher will start to see how an involvement with one unit might be applicable in other units too.

 

We will also be showing you something about cultural differences so that you can learn to ask yourself the right questions when preparing a text.

 

O.K., then. Look first at the material the text-book is asking you to cover on introducing oneself and greeting people.

 

Ask yourself the question: What is the aim of this part? What answers do you come to?

 

Is it to learn vocabulary?

Is it to learn grammar points?

Is it to practise speaking?

Is it to practise pronunciation and intonation?

Is it to practise listening?

Is it to practise reading?

 

Yes, it's all of the above, and if this were a traditional syllabus, it would be all there was, but a lot more is required by the New Curriculum. Look at the following questions, which you can use in planning for any unit. After each question we've made the link to the New Curriculum standards.

 

Specific Questions to ask yourself:

How can I use this unit to motivate the students to learn English? (NC Affective Domain)

How can I use this unit to help the students work together more effectively? (NC Team-work)

How can I help the students to find appropriate resources for this unit, so that they can better understand the background to this work? (NC Resourcing Strategies)

How can I use this unit to help my students to become more aware of cultural differences and similarities between China and Western countries? (NC Cultural awareness, world-vision)

How can I encourage the students to find their own ways of improving their learning about greetings and introductions? (NC Metacognitive/Monitoring Strategies)

How can I use this unit in such a way that it's relevant to the students' daily lives? (NC Attitudes and Values)

How can I help the students evaluate the effectiveness of their own learning? (NC Assessment, Peer-evaluation, critical thinking.)

 

Do you see? Under the New Curriculum, you're not supposed just to teach the text, you're supposed to use it with the students creatively in order to improve learning, whilst paying close heed to the standards set by the New Curriculum. Every time you are using the textbook with students, you can't just go through each exercise mechanically. You have to link it with cultural implications, motivation, patriotism, for example, and so on. You have to take into account a much wider context than in the old curriculum.

 

General questions:

What's the purpose of this learning?

Why are the students doing it?

Is it the best way for them to be doing it?

How can I find out how to help them do it better?

 

Now let's look at cultural awareness and cross-cultural competence when teaching a text as these two aspects form a large part of the validity of students' experience when learning English according to the New Curriculum.

 

Cultural Implications when Teaching the Text:

Most learning about a foreign language has cultural aspects. Just consider the following. Think about your kind of greetings. How do you greet a friend, for example, or an acquaintance, or your boss, a little child or your grandparents?

 

Ni(men) hao! Hello!

Ni(men) chi fan le ma? Have you eaten?

Ni(men) qu na li? Where are you going?

 

Do you see? Some greetings are appropriate for some occasions and people, and some are not. It's the same in English. Your job as a teacher is to help the students learn what is appropriate and give them the opportunities to practise what they are learning. In other words moving them from competence to performance. For example, in England, it is not considered polite to ask people where they are going unless they are very good friends. Furthermore, it is considered impolite to ask someone if they have eaten unless you are going to invite them for a meal yourself. So, a teacher of English needs to bear in mind what s/he's doing all the time and open doors of understanding with students so that they can get a view into England, America and so on, for themselves. The teacher should also be trying to help them find information about cultural differences and similarities and encourage the children to talk about them (NC resourcing-strategies).

 

Cultural Use of Language:

Another aspect of developing cultural awareness with your students, is to look at the language itself and see if there are any cultural implications in the use of vocabulary. In Unit One the word 'Trash' is used. This is American English. 'Rubbish' is the British English word. Differences are something you should point out in the use of language, which means your preparation for using the textbook must be to widen the scope of your own cultural knowledge, so that you can facilitate your students in learning about Western  culture.

 

Look as well at the use of people's names: Francisco is a Spanish (or South American) fore- (first) name, not a North American name, for example. Do you have different fore-names in different parts of China?

 

 

 

Critical Thinking in Using the Textbook:

Another crucial area for you to consider when planning how to use a text is how you can encourage critical thinking skills in your students. There are several ways of doing this. (See later for Lesson Plan and Description on specific ways in a specific class.) Critical thinking is one of the basic skills now required with the New Curriculum together with an improvement in skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking. If you can develop critical thinking in your students you really are going to benefit their ability to become independent life-long learners (one of the chief aims of the New Curriculum).

 

Critical thinking can be encouraged in a variety of ways:

 

             Question and answer.

             Independent-study with review afterwards.

             Pair and group-work;

             Peer-monitoring and review;

             Formative (and to a lesser extent summative) evaluation;

             Discussions about opinions and knowledge;

             Evidence of claims to learning with teacher, self and peer-review.

 

There should be elements of the above in most lessons, or through the students' preparation and/or homework schedule. See how many of these above qualities you can find in the lesson plan/description a little later on. You should be able to find all of them in one form or another.

 

Right, let's look now at how you might plan a 45-minute lesson for Unit One, based on all the material above and your learning so far in this Handbook. The following is only a series of suggestions and descriptions, but you have to remember it is severely limited by the fact that we don't know the students, or their levels of competence (or performance), or when the lesson would take place, or where the school is situated, or what the weather's like on the day you teach the class, or what their prior knowledge is, or...!!

 

A Single Lesson Plan and Description:

This isn't a lesson-plan like the one earlier in the Handbook. It's more descriptive than you will need to use, but it should give you an idea of the critical thinking you will have to engage in when you're thinking about how to approach the text when planning for students' learning. The purpose of the lesson-plan/description below is to make you think how you might adapt it to suit your classroom and your students.

 

Aims:

             To help the students learn language suitable for meeting people.

             To enable them to understand some of the cultural implications of their learning; (cultural awareness, cross-cultural competence)

             To enable them to use the new knowledge (NC - providing personal information and describe personal experience; critical thinking; resourcing strategies; affective domain; world vision; patriotism).

 

Class: Junior One.

Number in class: 75

Text: Unit One: Meeting and Greeting.

Before the Class:

             prepare a large piece of white-paper (which can be seen from the back of the room) with very large, black writing on:

 

Question: What's your name?

Answer: My name's Mary/My name's Francisco.

Introduction and Greeting: Hello, I'm Wang Ming. Nice to meet you!

Response: Hi, I'm Zhang Hongmei.

Question: What's his/her name?

 

             prepare 75 slips of paper with names on and an equal number with questions on:

 

Question: what's your name?

Answer: My name is..../I'm .....!

 

             Prepare another 75 slips of paper like this:

 

Question: What's his name?

Question: What's her name?

Answer: His name is....

Answer: Her name is....

 

             prepare a sheet of white paper with these columns on:

 

Last Name             First Name            Last Name             First Name

 

Fill in a couple of names, but leave lots of space to suggest more can be done.

 

             Find as many pictures of famous people (Chinese and Western) as you can, which are large enough for everyone to see. This will broaden their cultural knowledge as well as helping them with their language-learning.

 

First:

             Write aims for the lesson on the blackboard - in Chinese. Remind students to check as they go along if the aims are being met in their particular learning.

             Stick white paper on the other side. Make sure students can see it at the back. Walk around to see for yourself.

 

Preview:

             Ask students in pairs to demonstrate how they greet each other in Chinese. Get them to turn to each other and introduce themselves. Encourage them to smile and laugh and enjoy themselves (NC affective domain)

             Write up the most common greetings and responses on the blackboard in Chinese.

             Ask the question: 'Why do we greet each other?' Encourage lots of different reasons. (NC cultural awareness and critical thinking.)

 

Middle:

Start by walking slowly around the room and smiling at the students. Take the slips of paper with you. Don't say anything. Just walk and smile. They'll be really interested and wonder what's going on. Then start by saying, with gestures (in English) 'I'm Teacher .... Who are you?' Give them the first set of slips of paper (one each) and insist they don't look at them. Make a big thing of it because the children will then be keen to see what's going to happen next! Create some excitement about the slips of paper. This will motivate their learning. If you can make the students curious about what you're doing, you will have their full attention.

 

As you're going round, watch to see if they can catch on about you introducing yourself. Try again. Walk around. Finish distributing the slips. Remind them not to look! Smile. Be encouraging. Return to the blackboard and go through the white-paper phrases on the blackboard. Ask them to repeat the phrases. Get some students to say them on their own. Ask for volunteers. Compare what you say in Chinese as greetings and what Westerners speaking English say (cross-cultural competence). Differences? Similarities? In other words do you say in Chinese 'pleased to meet you', or something else? Would you use the same phrase for formal and informal occasions? (cultural awareness) Does it make a difference how old the people are? What position they occupy in society? Get the students to think about that (critical thinking).

 

             Ask them to look at their slips of paper. Ask them in pairs to go through questions and answers and swop papers. Ask them to make gestures to match as well. Review two pairs in front of the class. Don't just pick the ones at the front who always put up their hands. They can either stand where they are and perform (depends on the furniture in your classroom) or you can bring them out the front with clapping and lots of praise.

             Then ask them to work in two pairs together at their seats. The first pair should meet and greet and the second pair should write down what they say. First pair to check spelling. This should help their listening and writing abilities.

             Go through the questions relating to what's his/her name? Use examples from the students (and not just the ones at the front!).

             Give out the next set of slips and ask them to split into two pairs. Each student should have a chance to ask and answer a question.

 

Go through the structure on the blackboard about how to ask a question. 'What's?' is short for 'what is'? Revise his and her/he and she. Do tell them in Chinese as well, because they will find it difficult otherwise.

 

Use the big pictures, asking a student to help you pin them to the blackboard. Ask another student to ask a question about one of the pictures and nominate a classmate to answer it. This can be repeated as many times as you have pictures. Remember to check that every child can see the pictures. Ask, or walk around and check with individuals. This method also helps you to make contact with individuals in the classroom. Make eye-contact with them. Smile. Try to get the students to nominate different students every time, as many whilst you can encourage all the students to try. If lots of students put up their hands, praise them and apologise that their classmates can't choose them all! Tell them you are proud of them.

 

Ask the students to draw a table in their exercise books according to your white sheet prepared before the class with columns on it.

 

             Get the children to turn to their deskmate and ask questions about various people and receive answers, which they write down.

             If there is space, get them to move around the classroom and ask people their names as well as asking them for other people's names too. They can take their exercise books with them and write down what they hear. This will be a noisy activity, but the children will enjoy it and it will enable them to use their English confidently.

 

Evaluation:

             Ask the question: 'What is your name?' And wait for volunteers. Otherwise ask directly. You should at this stage specifically ask students who haven't seemed very active in the lesson, because otherwise you won't know if they've learnt anything. Instead of you doing any correcting necessary, ask the students themselves to give feedback.

             Then ask the students to give you an example of anything they have learnt in the lesson. This can be linguistic, or it can be cultural, or it might even be something else. You should praise all contributions. Again ask the students to correct mistakes of pronunciation, grammar, fact etc. This will improve their listening and critical thinking skills. It will also force them to be active all the time, instead of sitting passively. If no student offers a criticism, ask a student directly if he/she noticed anything (NC peer-evaluation).

             Ask the students if they have any questions about the lesson today.

 

Homework:

             Ask the students to find a way of testing their deskmates and classmates next time on what they have learnt this time (NC self-evaluation; peer-evaluation). This might take the form of simply asking questions to which others must supply answers. It might take the form of writing an answer on the blackboard and asking the students to provide the question for that answer. It might take the form of students nominating others to answer questions directly or to perform some pair work. Let the students be creative in their ideas in this part of the homework. It's good practice for critical thinking, creativity, imagination, motivation, teacher's and peer-group evaluation.

             Ask them to be prepared to come to the front and say something about what they have learnt, with evidence (monitoring, critical thinking). In other words if they say that they can ask a question about naming, get them to do it! Other students should be able to ask them questions and they should be able to answer them. Then students can comment on their classmates' performance. This whole part can act as the next lesson's preview, with the teacher drawing out the significant points and helping to correct any inaccuracies.

 

Now let's look at Chen Huilin's Action Plan on how to improve the use of textbooks in her class.

Action Plan by Chen Huilin on Using the Textbook.

 

What do I want to improve? How can I improve my usage of the text with my students so that they can improve the quality of their learning?

 

What are the reasons for my concern? I am worried because I don't have good ideas when I'm planning lessons. I can follow plans but I can't make them. A good teacher needs to be able to make a good plan. I like the new textbook, but I think it's very difficult to use. We are supposed to use it and not teach it. Moira says this means we have to be flexible, and let the students tell us what they want to learn. That makes me afraid. I feel I am not powerful in the class. And I know more than the students, but I have to try and change my teaching for their learning. It's very hard! As long as they cover the main content, it should be all right. I am worried though, because I think it means many parts are not in my control at all.

 

How can I improve my use of the textbooks? I can understand the aims of what we are doing in the classroom better and that will help me to be able to use the textbook better. For example, if the students need to learn about some grammar, I can find some practical tasks for them to do, that helps them to be active. I can check the students' homework and see what their mistakes are. I can use the textbooks as a framework for learning, but use a lot more pair and group-work and get the students to evaluate their work and their classmates too. I can see if the ideas in the book are relevant to my students or not. If the ideas are not relevant I can change them. As long as they are learning the main content, it's all right. I can provide more materials for the textbooks. I can bring pictures into the classroom, or some objects that the students will like to see. This can help their imaginations.

 

Who can help me and how?

             The students can actually help me a lot. They can review the next Unit and tell me what's really difficult about it. They can ask questions in our preview part and I can then try to make sure we go through them in the lesson. They can also tell me if they find the work and how we can make the work more interesting in the future. I can encourage them to bring materials into the classroom which are about the content. They can be more active in the classroom and take responsibility for their learning.

             My classmates/colleagues can help me by coming to observe my classes and I can observe theirs, especially if they are doing the same work from the book.

             My teachers can help me by giving me some feedbacks.

             I can help myself. I think I need more confidence. I can help myself by reading some books about the New Curriuclum. I can study the New Curriculum myself more and learn more about it.

 

How will I know it has improved?

The students will be more creative in class and outside the classroom. They will have a lot of ideas. They will be using their critical thinking more. They will ask questions and answer a lot more eager in class. They will bring things into the classroom and share their knowledge with others. I will feel more confident as a teacher and I won't get worried about examinations all the time. My students will start to see that English is about more than passing an examination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part Six: Tips for Teaching English Communicatively within the Chinese examination system.

This short section is designed specifically to help you realise some of the more communicative methods within the examination system and procedures. In other words, there are ways of teaching examination processes like cloze-procedure, listening-comprehension, and dictation using communicative methods.

 

Cloze-procedure (gap-filling exercise). There are several communicative ways of teaching this activity. You could ask:

             pairs of students to try it and then give feedback later.

             pairs/small groups to devise a test for each other (good for clever students, needs careful timing).

             pairs to swap answers and mark each others'. Then check.

             individuals to fill in gaps on the blackboard and then get class to correct any mistakes.

             small groups to suggest synonyms, alternative words or phrases for each gap (advanced students only).

             learning-partners to correct each other's work before handing it in.

 

Listening Comprehension[11]: ask,

             desk-mates/small groups to read short passage and to answer questions already prepared by you, the teacher;

             students to listen to the passage in separate paragraphs and then discuss with their learning-partner/desk-mate a title in English for each paragraph;

             students should consider a title for the whole passage;

             learning-partners/small groups to make up questions for exercise;

             learning-partners to correct each other's work before handing it in.

 

Dictation: ask,

             desk-mates/learning-partners to read a short passage to each other, then mark result;

             swap roles;

             an excellent/good student to read dictation from the platform;

             students to practise pronunciation of difficult words in pairs after dictation;

             learning-partners to correct each other's work before handing it in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Glossary of Technical Terms used in this Handbook[12]:

 

Active learning (adj/n) - learning in which the students are thinking for themselves, rather than being told everything by the teachers.

Advocate  (v) - to promote or encourage something because you think it's useful.

Affective Domain (n) - this is a term used in the New Curriculum to mean the emotional aspects of a person.

Aisleway (n) the space where teachers walk between the rows of desks in order to be able to see what the students are doing.

Assessment (n) [to assess = verb] - a judgement expressed in numbers about a piece of work, i.e. 78% or 7/10.

Attainment targets (n,n) - a series of standards created for people to achieve.

Autonomy (n) [autonomous = adj] a quality meaning independence, and in the classroom, students with this quality are able to learn a lot of things by themselves because their teacher has helped them with their study-skills, so they know how to study. This quality is highly favoured by The New Curriculum.

Bluff (v) [a bluff = n] to pretend something in order to gain an advantage. For example, a new teacher needs to bluff about their confidence in front of students, so that they will believe in her/him.

Cloze-procedure (n) - sometimes called 'gap-filling exercise'. It is a test designed to test vocabulary and understanding in which a piece of text is written with gaps, which the students are supposed to fill in. It is a good memory test and tests some aspects of understanding. There is no evidence, however, that it tests students' ability to use the language flexibly and spontaneously.

Collaborative (adj) [to collaborate = verb; collaboration = noun] - the skill of working together.

Conducive (adj) the promotion of a quality. For example, an atmosphere, which is conducive to learning, is one in which good learning can take place.

Consolidate (v) [consolidation = noun] - bring together (usually aspects of learning).

Co-operative learning (n) [to co-operate/to learn = verbs] learning together, and helping each other at the same time.

Cramming (n) [to cram = verb] - learning by heart, literally stuffing oneself full of information. Often done by students just before examinations and quickly forgotten afterwards. With the New Curriculum this form of knowledge will be discouraged, as it does not allow the student to engage with the knowledge on a personal level, simply sees it as a commodity to be mastered.

Criteria (plural noun; singular = criterion) standards of judgement; points through which judgements are made about the educational quality of something.

Critical thinking (adj/n) [to criticise/think = verbs] - a form of thinking which does not accept information passively, but looks at it from different angles. A student using critical thinking makes up his/her own mind about something. A highly prized skill under the New Curriculum.

Cross-Cultural Competence: This refers to someone's ability to understand the significance of something in different cultures. For example, someone who was cross-culturally competent would understand that in England and America it is not appropriate to ask someone over twenty how old they are, but in China, this is acceptable.

Cultural awareness (n) - a knowledge about the fact that cultures are different. (See cross-cultural competence). Cultural awareness is not seen as such a developed skill as cross-cultural competence, because awareness is only passive and under the NC, awareness has to become more active - it has to be about how to do something because of, and with, the knowledge.

Deductive (adj) [to deduce = verb] - a form of thinking in logic which concludes the particular from the general. In other words, in a grammar lesson, a student is using deductive reasoning when s/he infers an example from a given rule. (See Inductive)

Demonstrate (v) [demonstration = noun] to show something, to display it to the public.

Drilling (n) [to drill = verb] getting the students to recite vocabulary together by heart, or reading from the blackboard, or repeating after the teacher. This can be helpful for instilling vocabulary, but not helpful for getting students to think for themselves.

Elicitation (n) [to elicit = verb] the skill of encouraging an original and creative answer from a student. Highly prized skill in the New Curriculum.

Enquiry-learning (n) - this form of learning requires students to ask questions, to research, to find out for themselves. It is an exploratory process, which leads to autonomy on the part of the students.

Evaluation (n) [evaluate = verb; evaluative = adjective] a written or oral judgement made by the teacher or the student about the quality or value of a piece of work.

Experiential learning (n) - this is learning through experience, rather than being taught. In the English classroom, students learning this way would bring their own experience into the classroom and use that as the basis of their learning experience. This is quite different from the old system in China in which the teacher provides the total conditions for learning and doesn't expect the students to be active on their own behalf. The old. system gives total power to the teacher, whereas under The New Curriculum, the students have a chance to determine through negotiation with the teacher, some of the ways they will learn and be taught.

Facilitation (n) [verb: to facilitate; facilitative = adjective] - the skill of guiding people towards finding their own solutions, rather than mapping out the answers in advance and forcing the students to reach the same goal in the same way. Facilitation requires great flexibility on the part of the teacher and students.

Feedback (n) - the comments you are given about a performance of some kind. For example, when you ask students to discuss something in groups, then afterwards you want to know what they have discovered. This is called feedback.

Fore-name (n) - in Western countries the family name comes second, not like in China. The fore-name is the given-name, the name parents choose for their child. So, in the West we say John Smith. Smith is the family name. John is the given name. It's exactly the opposite in China. This is a cultural and linguistic difference.

Formative (adj) - used in evaluation and assessment procedures at the beginning to see the standard of students at the beginning of, and during the process of education.

Inductive (adj) [to induce = verb] - a form of reasoning which infers the general from the particular. In a grammar lesson, for example, a student using this form of reasoning would be able to work out the rule of grammar from a few examples. This is a high level skill and much prized under the New Curriculum because this kind of reasoning enables students to think for themselves and helps them to learn more thoroughly.

Interpersonal skills (adj/n) - skills to do with relationships between students and between students and teacher. The NC says, if the students get on with the teacher well, and get on well with each other and learn how to co-operate and collaborate, their learning is likely to be better as well.

Key-points: main ideas.

Learning Partner (n) - someone (usually chosen by the student) who acts as a help to a deskmate, reading through work, encouraging him/her, checking homework, etc..

Legible (adj) [legibly = adv] - readable; clear, easy to read.

Micro-teaching (n) [to micro-teach = verb] a form of teaching in very small groups: one teacher, perhaps three or four students. It can be a very helpful way for student-teachers to practise their skills with their classmates.

Monitoring (n) [to monitor = verb] checking students' work, for example homework, or class-writing, or conversations or behaviour.

Peer-evaluate (v) this means that classmates evaluate (check the quality of) a student's work.

Pilot scheme (n) this is an experimental method to discover whether a larger but similar process would work well elsewhere. Pilot schemes are often used by organisations or governments to find out important information before a national scheme is put into action.

Pre-determined (adj) [to pre-determine = verb] - to arrange in advance.

Promote (v) [promotion = n] to encourage a quality; to show the advantages of something. You can promote learning in the classroom if the atmosphere is conducive to it.

Resourcing strategies (n) - a process of enabling students to learn how to find their own resources when necessary for learning. This might include using the internet, looking up information in books, comparing ideas from different sources.

Rote-learning (n) - learning by heart without necessarily understanding. Good for vocabulary-building, less good for flexibility in practical situations or for long-term memory.

Self-evaluate (v) - this means to check your own work and measure its quality.

Speculate (v) - to imagine what will happen in the future.

Strait-jacket (n) - a form of cloth-binding for prisoners to prevent them harming themselves or another person, in which their arms are folded around their body and strapped in to prevent movement. This term can be used as a metaphor meaning to prevent someone having the freedom to act creatively.

Student-centred (adj) [n = student-centredness] the learning in a student-centred classroom is dominated by the learning needs of the students. Students are given the space to develop their own learning pathways rather than having everything determined by the teacher. Student-centred classrooms are characterised by active and enthusiastic students to whom the teacher is responsive rather than always leading them. Students are encouraged to be independent learners and to take responsibility for their learning.

Summative (adj) - used in evaluation and assessment procedures at the end of the process of education. It acts as a kind of measurable summary of the process.

Teacher-centred (adj) [teacher-centredness = noun] learning in these classrooms is characterised by a dominating teacher, who does most of the talking, leads the students in every activity, and does not encourage independence in his/her students.

Whiteboard (n) like a blackboard, but white in colour. Usually it has a smooth surface and needs special pens to write on. It is cleaner and more efficient than a chalk (black) board.

World-Vision (n) - this means that students are expected under the NC to see more than just China. They are expected to have a sense of the world being a whole. They are also expected to grasp ideas about China's place in the whole world.

 

 

Useful Web-site Addresses

 

Voluntary Service Overseas English Teaching:

http://workingpapers.vso.org.uk/ede.htm

 

Action Research:

http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/otherpages/moira.shtml

http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw

http://www.jeanmcniff.com

 

The New Curriculum:

New Curriculum Working Party, (2005), 'The New English Language Curriculum Standards' (for Junior and Senior High School), Beijing Working Party Press.

 

 

 



[1] Chen Xiaotang, one of the people on the New Curriculum (NC) Working Party, said this at a VSO conference in November 2002.

[2] See section on student-centred learning.

[3] See Glossary

[4] In a Methodology examination once, one of the writers of this Handbook had the experience of writing the questions for the examination on the blackboard, only to be confronted with answers, which bore little relation to what she had asked the students to do. When she asked them why they hadn't asked her, they told her they felt too shy to do it in an examination. Therefore in the future, the writer learnt from this mistake and made sure that she asked particular students at the back to read out the questions to the class, so that she was sure that everyone could understand the task. In addition, she paid more attention during the following lessons to making sure that in her classes, students felt safe to ask questions. See section on Asking Questions.

[5] Using the language flexibly, is the main purpose of the New Curriculum. If you neglect pair work and group work, you are neglecting the children's education.

[6] Names of students changed to protect identity.

[7] It is important for you to distinguish between Action Planning and Lesson Planning. Action Planning is an overall plan, which guides your actions over a long period of time in any area of education as a whole. It's about planning for improvement and focuses on those areas of teaching that you want to make better. Lesson Planning is the activity in which you work out how to make a particular lesson or lessons efficient.

[8] This is not her real name, but in order to protect her identity, we have given her a false name. However, the work she produced is real.

[9] Name changed.

[10] Name changed to protect identity.

[11] See notes on Listening Comprehension in Classroom Management section

[12] The terms used in the glossary also show the verb, adjective or noun forms where appropriate.