Private tutoring, leads to references

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Private tutoring is an entirely different sort of language teaching altogether. You actually have to plan something to discuss with the student. Quite recently, I’ve found that some of them will demand to have homework. I tend to associate the word, homework with younger students and the rote method of learning. I do agree that repetition has it’s place, but the view that the student wants something to take away from the lesson is, I think is teacher lead, but laudable.

Speaking of one of my soon to be former students, she is about sixty years old. Being from a former Soviet bloc countries, she can be a little on the outgoing side. I would define a difficult student to teach is one that needs a lot of input, as in talking. However, encouraging your student to talk more than you do is a matter of luck, and also I think, experience. Far from being difficult to extract language from her, she has turned out to be very fluent, albeit in German and a multiple of other continental languages such as Russian, Italian amongst others. However, in dialogues with her, I have felt that she is most able to talk about anything. But, in listening to her, it was sort of like an out of focus picture. The gross detail is there while the finer detail is blurry or missing. Having lived in a foreign culture for so long, certainly refines your predictive language ability.

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Reducing Teacher talk time. Wait, I’m not a teacher!

Teacher Talk Time CREDIT: Macmillian education

Teacher talk time or TTT for short, is an all important aspect of communicative teaching. The opposite for this is Student talk time or STT, and, since CLT is based on mostly pair work and group work, the teacher/ instructor should by rightly, say his or her piece in as precise manner as possible and then simply let them get on with it.

Once I was aware of this, I made an effort to not only to do just that, but also to create tasks for the students so that they will be talking more. Easier said than done as there are lots of facts in student motivation. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors all play a part.  Skill base is one while, things like their affective filter might be sky-high for lots of other reasons.

I remember when I was reviewing some videos of my classroom teaching (some moments are truely cringe worthy) that some of my classmates at the time noted that I had an excess of ‘discourse markers‘. This trait wasn’t unusual and in the past my female high school students at the time told me that I’d said ‘okay’ over 20 times in one lesson. Thinking back, it’s not a word of confirmation, but a rather wet attempt to get the class to be quiet, which they didn’t. Now days, while negotiating for meaning with a student I would have my fingers over my mouth just to signify to the student they are to speak without interruption from me. It’s just a matter of holding your bottle and letting them just spit out their sentence.

Maximising STT, failure within earshot

IMG_20120217_155054While I was in Shenyang, I got to spend a lot of time in one of the local Starbucks. To paint the scene, the first thing you hit after you’ve gone through the revolving doors is the counter. You’re greeted (in Chinese of course) by the staff. I stroll up to the counter and order my usual hot chocolate, grande’ size. The shop is normally crowded but I’m usually able to find a seat. Coffee shops tend to be places where all sorts of people meet. Not uncommon that I’ve seen foreigners congregate here for whatever reasons. I’ve seen a bible club run, meetings occur (locals and foreigners alike) and of course the 1 to 1 English lesson. I have to say that this guy was talking way too much. When I took my CELTA training, the specific teaching footnote was to maximise student talk time (STT). They are afterall, there to practise their English, not to sit and hear someone preach. Having to sit in close proximity to the ‘1 to 1’ couple, was annoying. CELTA, I think, had turned me into a stern critic of English teaching. This way or nothing. To be fair, the student did look on the shy side, or heaven forbid was seeking advice, but there’s always room for improvement, on both sides of the fence.