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Re: (teach) Games and ESL

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  • david kees
    Richard sez: I too am a fan of John Taylor Gatto. But is the Chinese education system and its students responsive to alternative (fun/interactive) teaching
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 1, 2002
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      Richard sez: "I too am a fan of John Taylor Gatto. But
      is the Chinese education
      system and its students responsive to alternative
      (fun/interactive) teaching
      methods."

      First of all, Gatto is as famous as he is infamous.
      His enemies are many. But he considers himself a
      subversive, a saboteur. Experimentation, cutting edge
      methodologies and even the new worldwide commonly
      accepted techniques (ie: communicative approach, task
      based lessons, etc.) can easily meet opposition in
      China. If you want a good excuse for not implementing
      something new just ask permission. They will certainly
      tell you 'no'.

      Secondly, we can understand that the administration
      would have problems with deviating from the status
      quo, but what is surprising is that even the students
      can object. That is because they've been drilled one
      way: grammar -- multiple choice quiz -- more grammar.
      Don't get me wrong, it's also surprising that they can
      learn in this way.

      But if you want to do something differently you do
      have to explain to the students, and anyone
      immediately involved, what you are doing and why you
      are doing it and how it is going to be better for them
      than what they are already used to.

      Although many Chinese talk openly about their problem
      of lack of creativity when it comes down to teaching
      the students they simply teach them for exams. They
      have to do this so students can have the best
      opportunity for a good university. Teachers have to do
      that so students can have the best opportunity for a
      good job. The whole thing is a horrific and vicious
      cycle that seems almost impossible to break out of.

      Change is difficult and whole books have been written
      about 'change management'. So I don't want to fault
      anyone on an individual basis. But at the same time
      I'm not sure I want to be one of the links in this
      chain of bondage.

      If we can offer lessons that allow or even challenge
      the students to create using their knowledge and
      skills and personality then we may be helping them in
      a good way.

      Regards,
      Dave Kees
      Guangzhou









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    • Steven McMath
      I hope you don’t mind me chipping into this discussion. I`m back from a month in the Uk and back into old habits. “Experimentation, cutting edge
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 1, 2002
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        I hope you don�t mind me chipping into this discussion. I`m back from a
        month in the Uk and back into old habits.

        �Experimentation, cutting edge methodologies and even the new worldwide
        commonly accepted techniques (ie: communicative approach, task based
        lessons, etc.) can easily meet opposition in China.

        Dave Kees�

        This is very true. The ironic thing is that after years of learning using
        the grammar-text book approach the communicative approach is exactly what
        they need. I`ve seen students going from being afraid to speak any English
        to being chatter boxes in a few weeks. Their heads are full of English -
        they just don`t use it to speak. Chinese students, generally speaking, think
        that if they read English for years then one day they will magically emerge,
        like a butterfly from a crysalis ( spelling? ), talking perfect English. As
        we all have seen it does not work that way.

        Games: I think this is a question of degree depending on the age of the
        students. The younger the students the better the reaction to them. I have
        noticed however that many Chinese students associate learning with the pain
        of hard work. If the pain is not there they often think they are learning
        nothing. As far as I can tell, the older the students the more marked this
        belief is.

        It`s also a general Chinese characteristic that they see learning as them
        listening and the teacher talking. Often this manifests it�s self as a
        desire to obtain information from foreign teachers ( whether this is
        culture, spoken English or what ever ) but also, interestingly, sometimes as
        the belief that just listening to a native speaker talking will greatly
        improve their English. This is true but not quite to the extent I feel some
        students ( and administrators ) feel it to be true. However it does tend to
        give us quite a bit of latitude, no matter what approach we take to
        teaching, just as long as they get the opportunity to listen to us.

        Kids, however, are just kids and most of them would be happier outside
        playing if they had the choice. Games in those circumstances do go down
        really well. And it�s what they need!

        Conversely I don�t feel that laughter in the classroom with no substance,
        from the Chinese perspective of learning, necessarily means the older
        students appreciate my teaching style. A relaxed and humorous atmosphere is
        conducive to learning, and the Chinese recognise this themselves, but to be
        thought of as a good teacher I do need to conform, to a certain degree, to
        the teaching style they have been used to all of their lifes. Explaining why
        you are doing something does go a long way but I do remember that by the
        time they get to University they have had roughly 16,000+ hours of the
        Chinese style of teaching and that I`m probably the first foreign teacher
        trying to use the communicative approach they have ever met.

        Since I switched over to a more lecturing approach ( and trying to meet the
        students more in the middle ) the student assessments I have obtained have
        improved greatly. This is at a University and I do realise that the focus of
        teaching at a University and at a Middle school should be very different.

        Steven McMath





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