Audio-lingual method, inescapable

20180514_085625Second language teaching in New Zealand is something I’d always thought I could do, and now are doing at the present with an institute in town. My students are genuine first learners or I surmise, “false beginners”. And oddly enough, most of them are Chinese, though I did have one student that was from Columbia.

They’ve had the benefit of English learning but, possibly had not had the chance to speak much, or at all. I feel that some of them have quite high affective filters. But, the biggest thing that’s letting them down is the way that they’re learning, which is through the Audio-lingual method. (Which is “repeat after me!) Being a good CELTA, I have tried to have them learn through more productive methods. Sadly, having them produce anything is to wait a long time to produce. Another thing I’ve seen, and have proved again is that any material that they have in their hands is instantly translated into Chinese, sometimes through translation software. Good if you want speed, bad if you want learning. Thanks Google.

/dʒózəfs dʒǽkət ɪ́z tú lɔ́ŋ/

Still, teaching the chants, pronunciation and rhythms of speech takes me back to when I was teaching Elementary school in Korea. I even taught my current students what a schwa (/ə/) was when pronouncing the reduced form of a vowel. Still, I’ve managed to write fluently using phonemic speech most times, with, few errors.

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Graduation day

IMG_0015 Graduation day!

Pausing for thought, lost in the intringue

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Though austere, given that she was only copying down Chinese characters, her study conditions were adequate for what she was doing. This was on the first time I’d seen her, in my repeated visits (for my evening meal), she would be always at it. Possibly her mother owned the shop she sat outside. Along with her study brother seen in the previous post, these sons and daughters of working mums and dads, were hard at it.  Good on them I say.

On another topic, the people of Guangzhou take to being photographed well, and with a certain amount of dignity.

The study is intense

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Sub-title task, resulted in nothing sub-par

Cowboypics_zps7a2377d5.jpgI tried a communicative writing task last week, with some results. The students were given a strip of pictures and, they were asked “write the sub-titles” for the strip. I explained it as a movie that was missing it’s sub-titles. The results, were varied, if not entertaining. But, it did get them speaking, as a way of feeding back on their work, they read aloud their neighbours work. After a week of the same strip (though different classes) the results are consistent at both levels. The more able classes produced good output, with some of it often being funny. While the lower level classes and students produced… lesser works. Okay, I wasn’t expecting a Shakespeare sonnet, but given free writing practice, my students never failed to amuse.Snippets_zps234aa95e.jpg

Student tests, teacher down time

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Korean students, in general, do too many tests. From my perspective as a ‘non-teacher’ they don’t really learn. Rote learn but they simply have no time to assimilate what they’ve taken in. “Do they really understand what they’ve learnt?” In terms of spoken English I’d have to give a ‘no’. The speaking tests I’ve just had with them were a case in point.The question sheet, which I gave them in advance, was so that they could learn the form. What got in response from the students was a canned answer. Some of the students, but the others didn’t fair any better in terms of understanding the form.

I found that I could get the students to ask each other the test questions. In that instant, it become a communicative test question and not simply a closed question asked by me. I say this because in the past it was just me and a student going through the questions. Even then there would other students in the room, whispering in de-sotto voices the answers. I don’t exactly discourage this for two reasons: The learning doesn’t stop even when I’m testing; and, even student deserves a fighting chance. Can you speak (English)? Can you speak along the lines of the questions? Suffice to say my goal isn’t really to generate grades or marks, which my supervisor would really have me do, but it’s a test of competence. Even when I hand my supervisor the grades, it’s doesn’t really contribute in any major way. The proportion is too small. It’s like adding a grain of sand to a pile of sand. From an activity point of view, speaking tests are easy to administer, giving me lots of spare time to make lesson plans and the like.

New comments, more comments!

Studentfeedback_zps4392d42d.jpgFinishing the contractual English camp this year was more of a chore than anything else. It’s all in the mind, and I must say that the students I taught were top flight. I did have the best and oldest students at camp. The oldest student was 15, Korean age I’m told.

In the cause of reflective teaching, I wanted to get some feedback from my students. “Write down one good thing and one bad thing about my class and teaching.”  I then disappeared from view, the sheets (bodged A4 photocopies cut into quarters, that were only used on one side.) were then annotated by the students, collected by the teaching assistant later.  Reading the comments later, with a bit of trepidation I might add, was surprising, heartening and enlightening all at the same time. I’d been in a bit of a mood at the beginning of week one. Very unprofessional of me since I was taught to leave all your problems at the door. So, the surprise was that most of the comments were positive in nature, heartening because they expressed that they wanted to come back and have me teach them again, and, enlightening because of the only two negative comments were that they couldn’t understand my pronunciation.  One could rebut that their listening skills weren’t good enough, and that any English speaker doesn’t speak at a moderato tempo. Only in the artificial environment of the language classroom would this tempo be done. What use is classroom instruction if you can’t be understood?

Highlights aside, I know I’m doing the right thing. One student stated that he enjoyed doing grammar. Its the first time I’ve heard that! Grammar for me is what is only necessary to do the productive tasks later on in class.  But, what I have confirmation of is the gamification of the productive task as a vehicle for providing motivation for competitive students. One last note is that Korean students don’t like ICC (intercultural communication). Not just these students I taught, but all ages. The answer to this might be to be more subtle in teaching it. Sort of like slipping a medicine tablet amongst a sweet biscuit.