teacher-fronted vs student-centered
- --- In teflchina@y..., Keith Whyte <kwhyte64ru@y...> wrote:
> Has anyone noticed that Chinese students expect theirKeith, what did you do to get them to adjust so well to your style?
> teachers to stand in front of the class and talk all
> the time? My students are now becoming accustomed to
> the fact that I expect them to do most of the talking.
> They're also learning how to explain and not
> translate. e.g. to say what an oven is and not
> translate to Chinese.
I'll share my experience... My students also expected me to stand and
lecture the whole time, and they complained almost constantly for the
first month or so that "we're not learning" and "you're not teaching
us". When I asked what they meant, they said, "you're not explaining
what the text means and telling us the answers." I said, "Do you
want to know the answers, or do you want to learn English?" It was
the first time someone told them there was a distinction.
Progress was made on the day I took away their dictionaries. As they
filed into class, I told them to put their all dictionaries on my
desk. Of course there was a huge pile. Then, I had them read a
story I had printed from the internet (not from the textbook, which
they've already written translation for in all the margins). I told
them to underline any words they didn't know, and keep reading. When
they had finished, I asked them the main idea, and they got it
right! I made a really big deal about that. "You understood!
Without your dictionary! Hurray!!" Then, we went through each of
the words they didn't know, and I walked them through the guessing-
from-context procedure. As they guessed the words, I did the song
and dance again, "You learned the meaning without the dictionary!
Yes!" They got the message.
Also, every time I explain a word or expression, I use at least one
visual example. Sometimes physical action, sometimes a picture drawn
on the blackboard, depending on what a given word lends itself to.
The students loved to giggle at me demonstrating things
like "stagger" and "off-key", but they would always look in their
dictionaries (I did give them back) to double-check the translation.
Just yesterday, we came nearer to a cure for dictionaryitis. I took
the list of unknown vocabulary that students had turned in from an
outside reading assignment, and I gave each student two words from
that list. Each student was to become an expert on the two words,
then teach them to the class using 1. the definition in English, 2. a
sentence in English, and 3. a visual example. So, when they
presented, I just sat in an empty student seat, and watched...and
there was no whining about my "not teaching" them. It was downright
inspirational to me to see one student explain "intercept" by drawing
a soccer diagram where one player kicks the ball toward another, but
a third player takes it away. The whole class nodded and murmurred
the Chinese equivalent of "Aha!". And I didn't see anyone reach for
their dictionary! It was the kind of moment that makes the English
teacher in me want to jump up and shout, "YES! Exactly right! Way to
make it real!"
Sorry for being long-winded, but please, others share your ideas and
experiences in how to get students to talk more in class, and explain
rather than translate.
Beijing Institute of Machinery
- My husband and I relate so well to this topic. I am sure he will also send a
comment to the list.
It has been our aim from the start, especially in sophomore Oral English
classes, to do as our department head said to us the first day -"Have the
students speak - we both know that you can speak English but it is the
students who need to develop the confidence to speak". I also teach 2
subjects to seniors -British and American Literature and Journalistic
We have succeeded in having students talk and discuss things with us. I keep
telling my groups that they have to think of, and approach, the foreign
teachers and their classes in a different way to their chinese teachers and
their classes. I remind them often that I need feedback to teach well and
that their school, and ultimately they, paid good money to bring me here and
to not waste the resource. I also tell them that I want them able to use the
words they find in the newspapers as looking it up in an electronic
dictionary only gets them so far. I tell them that some of the words in the
literature are archaic and beyond knowing what is meant they will not use
them in modern times.
When we came to a part of literature (I went chronologically) that the
students had a hope of reading and comprehending for themselves I made them
turn off the electronic dictionaries and read the text through once without
it. To be sure that they were doing this I would not tell them what we would
look at in the next class - this avoided prior use at home of their ED. If
they really didn't like this I encouraged them to just underline the words
they were worried about. One of my adults - I have an adult class for less
periods a week for the E and A lit - needed me to sit alongside her while
she sighed and felt very bad during this! I also had to go around and insist
that the dictionaries go off. When they had read once or twice and really
didn't understand I let them use them but only in the same way that they
would use a chinese dictionary when reading something like a novel written
in chinese. They are getting the idea. We are aiming for them to be fluent
readers - using the text to give clues to the meaning and also realising
that sometimes you do not need to worry about somethings the first time -
take the descriptive parts of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" as an example.
This story has wonderful descriptive language that I will come back to later
for my students to appreciate more, but, for the moment, I am aiming to see
if I can have them convince themselves that the main story can be retold to
me in their words long before that. Apparently if a chinese teacher is
having students study a poem they analyse it first and only after they
understand it do they read the poem. Different style totally. We make many
approximations before we "perfect" skills in a language.
Another thing that I do is to have students hand me 5 line summaries of the
story. This is to avoid several practises. One practise, that holds back
comprehension, is using the words in the text; another is being long winded
and telling me every last detail. They must not have the book open to do
this because the minute they do this they write too much detail or quote
from the book. I remind them I have 60 students in each class and try to get
them to imagine what the marking is like for each lesson! They love my 50-yo
amateur dramatics.Do not be affraid to let your students have a laugh at
your expense - put youself in their shoes! Imagine you cannot understand
anything and this at least gets them back again to see the performance.
Small steps at a time.
In Journalistic English classes I have them set themselves a task of 20 new
words each week - this numbwer was negotiated with the students. Most
lessons while they read I set myself the task of talking to every student.
Usually I have them point out idioms they find in their reading that their
ED do not help them with. we discuss the meaning. Students with poorer
english skills need to be encouraged not to allow others around them to
translate too quickly.
This is getting too long. Off my "soap box". Had to explain that to students
recently. I'm having a great time here. The year will go too quickly.
Zhengzhou, Hehan Province China