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Category Archives: students


>By Karen Stanley – Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

One effective way of having students ask questions, I’ve found, is to sit down/stand in the corner, not saying anything, and simply wait for the students to say something. This is often after I’ve explained something a bit complicated, and expect that it will take students time to absorb what I’ve said before they can even figure out if they have questions.

Sometimes I will ask *them* a question and wait. Once in a while, no one ever says *anything*, and after waiting quite a long time (I’ve learned to wait quite patiently), I finally take pity on them and begin myself. Of course, I don’t deal with classes of all Chinese students, and don’t know how that kind of waiting would work in that type of classroom.

I have thought about using the following technique for dealing with student questions (I heard about it in a presentation some time ago), but have never actually *tried* it. I keep thinking I should (someday, of course).

The teacher hands out index cards (or small pieces of paper, since I understand index cards are hard to come by in China) at the beginning of class. During the class, students have to write down a question about something the teacher explains during the class. The students turn in the questions as they leave class. The teacher can then go through them and use them at the beginning of the next class.

>By Janet Kaback – Newark Public Schools, USA

In the past, the role of the teacher was the keeper of knowledge who was considered all-knowing, who would deign to deposit some of this knowledge into the minds of his/her students. This role fit in well with society after the Industrial Revolution. The vast majority of students did not pursue higher education and were trained to work in factories where they were responsible for a certain job. The industries needed laborers, not thinkers.

However, in today’s world, the ability to acquire and utilize knowledge and to apply it in various situations is the goal of the modern societies. The global economy, international travel, and the internet, shrink the world’s differences as we move to develop a fast-paced, technological society. No longer do the advanced countries seek to produce quantities of laborers, rather, we need the technological knowledge and the ability to think and problem-solve that schools must now produce.

Therefore, the role of the teacher needs to change in order to produce students who are able to think, plan, and act on their knowledge. As one teacher said, “Students have to learn to discriminate between useful knowledge and less useful knowledge and decide on their own language learning priorities.”

Advanced societies must change the way the schools teach to produce the citizens who will understand how to act, and how to activate in the 21st century. This includes teaching students how to seek out their own knowledge and how to discriminate between useful and extraneous information in the pursuit of a goal. It does not only come into play with language learning, but must be considered within all disciplines. Just holding a diploma with the knowledge that one was supposed to acquire doesn’t cut it in today’s world…using that knowledge in the correct manner and form to surge ahead in the changing world is what is needed.

>By Katy Miller

When I found students returning surveys which were almost word for word identical, I tried turning these issues into discussion topics to find out exactly what they meant by (for instance) “correct every mistake immediately) and why they thought that would be a useful approach, and found that the students didn’t really know why they saw these things as important, and couldn’t sustain discussion about them.

Yet every time a did a survey, back they came: correct every mistake immediately, more opportunities to speak, and how to learn English. It was interesting that once the discussion on this was over, the same problems I was experiencing as a teacher kept arising: many students were not making use of the opportunities to speak English that I was providing, most students did not easily learn from a correction of a mistake, and some seemed never to take my advice on how to learn English!!

I just wonder how much of the time students give the “cover story” response to these sorts of questions on my surveys – gave the answer that everybody knows is good to give, but hadn’t really thought about them. I’m back in NZ now but I’m coming back to China in September for at least another semester (China and teaching is addictive! Just one more…)

When I get back I think I might spend a little more time explicitly discussing these things in the classroom. I think doing a contract might be a really good way of making sure the students understand the value of these ideas as learning mechanisms, rather than just spouting them off as the expected answer to a question, and might lead them to using them in their learning more effectively.

>By Eve Ross – Beijing Institute of Machinery

I asked students to discuss with a partner what percent of their learning is the teacher’s responsibility, and why. The answers ranged from 10% to 100%, but most were between 30% to 50%. The insights used to defend the various answers were really great, too. Since everyone admitted that the teacher had at least some responsibility, this was a good segue into creating a teacher’s contract.

The list members might be interested in my students’ suggestions of clauses to go in my contract, since they create a students’-view picture of the ideal English teacher. I should mention that I taught these same students last semester, so they are already familiar with my teaching style. The numbers reflect how many of the 32 students included the item in their list of suggestions.

26 – Provide more opportunities to speak English
14 – Teach more Western culture
14 – Point out mistakes and correct them immediately
12 – Show more films
8 – Work more on pronunciation
8 – Give more opportunities to talk about daily life
8 – Provide more chances to meet other native speakers
6 – Give advice on how to study English

Suggestions given by fewer than 5 people:

Give advice on reading
Take students out of the classroom
Answer e-mail quickly
Do more role plays
Ask for student suggestions
Give practical knowledge
Give advice on passing the Band 4 Exam
Be friends
More homework
More tests
More oral presentations
More games
More focus on the text
More different topics
More vocabulary
More grammar

All of these seem like pretty good ideas to me, but only the first three are actually going into my contract: I will provide as many opportunities to speak English as possible. I will teach some aspect of Western culture in every class. I will point out and correct students’ mistakes immediately.

>By Dick Tibbetts, University of Macau, China

It may be that NNS (Non-native English speaking students) understand the English of other NNS better than they do that of NS but it might be worth thinking why. NNS have difficulty with NS who have a different dialect and hence a different accent so why should they experience less difficulty with NNS who also have strong unfamiliar accents.

It may well be that they find them easier to understand because they have a limited vocabulary and use a limited range of structures. If this is the case then there maybe a drawback to using a lot of NNS speech because it would set a ceiling on their English, limiting their exposure to a wider NS English. Is it really true that a Japanese NNS listening to 2 speakers absolutely fluent, both with a NS vocabulary but one with a Scottish accent and one with a German accent would find the German easier?

Take another case. Imagine a Chinese learner speaking to two Nigerian users of English. Mr Auses English as his mother tongue, While Mr. B. uses it intermittently and does not have such a full command of the language. If the Chinese learner understands Mr. B better than Mr. A it can’t be a matter of accent, it must be a matter of limitations in the English of Mr. B.

When we teach we limit the input but I’m not sure I’d like to teach towards a limited English, with that as an ultimate goal. Even on a short course I’d like to leave things open at the end. If you teach towards the English of those second language learners who have a limited command of the language I think you are not teaching a whole language but something that has elements of Pidgin. Languages like Pidgins are not enough for us human beings. If we really want to communicate everything in Pidgin we pretty soon turn it into a creole and a full language. I think we would be better off teaching towards a long term goal of a full language.