How I learned Basic Teaching Skills in China
I have been working in China for more than six months now and it’s been a very interesting time for me not just to learn more about the country and its people, but also to enrich my teaching skills and grow professionally as a teacher.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Evgeniya S.
When I arrived in China, I hardly knew anything about specific features of teaching in that country, so I thought that the knowledge I had was quite enough to handle the classes in kindergarten or primary school. But since my first working day, I have often been surprised and even sometimes perplexed by what I have seen at kindergartens and schools in China. Many teaching techniques and methods that Chinese teachers used and wanted me to use were quite new to me.
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Firstly, I was shocked by the size of classes in China: at kindergarten, there were 25-35 kids and one or two Chinese teachers to help me. The teachers could hardly speak any English at all, but they helped to keep the kids together at the activities and make them sit down and stand up when necessary.
At primary school, there were even more students: from 45 to 55 in one class and no Chinese teachers to help me. The kids were more disciplined than at kindergarten, but still, it was very difficult to handle classes so big without a co-teacher. Such large classes were very unusual to me, because in my country (Russia) class size is usually 28-30 students, and for foreign language lessons classes were always divided into two parts so that the groups were no more than 15-16 students.
Teaching an extremely large classroom
I didn’t know how to teach such large classes efficiently. It was new to me to learn the main method of teaching that the Chinese teachers used – choral drilling and chanting. In my previous teaching experience, I didn’t use choral speaking so often as I considered it to be a low-effective method of teaching. The teacher cannot hear all the students individually and see if everyone pronounces the words correctly.
Chinese teachers advised me to use more choral speaking and chanting because kids really like speaking together and don’t like being asked to speak individually or in pairs. Later I understood that it was really so: kids felt more comfortable speaking in the chorus than answering individually, because most of the kids were too shy or afraid to speak in front of their class, even when asked to answer from their seat, without coming to the board to stand in front of the class.
So, using plenty of chorus speaking and chanting was the second thing that surprised me.
Total physical response
Thirdly, I want to mention TPR – total physical response – teaching technique, that I knew about, but had never used so much before. As my knowledge of Mandarin was quite poor, I had to use a lot of TPR in class management and in giving instructions.
I also used plenty of TPR to teach new vocabulary and in story-telling. Kids like to perform gestures very much. At first, I felt like a mime or an actor in a comedy movie, because I had to overact my all gestures and TPR – that was the persistent request of my supervising teachers. After some time, I got used to it and even invented lots of TPR of my own. I was curious to see Chinese kids in kindergarten learn chants and songs they sang in their own language using TPR – all songs were accompanied by peculiar gestures, that I had never seen before.
English is a difficult language to learn for Chinese learners. Such an abundant usage of TPR helps them remember the vocabulary better.
Do you want to teach English in China?
These are the three things that surprised me most in teaching in China, they presented some difficulties for me and made me find new methods of teaching and make my teaching skills grow. I am grateful to that experience, the people I met, the teachers that helped me, and the kids for helping me become a better teacher.
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