Teaching style- Oral English - 48 students/class

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Teaching style- Oral English - 48 students/class

Unread postby RobJames » 14 Apr 2010, 15:45

Dear Lucy,

You have helped me a lot before, but I need your help again !

I am teaching Oral English to English Majors, 1st years at university, central China. The classes are for 48 students. Chinese students learn English from a very early age (about 5 years), and so are quite familiar with the language. So these students must have been learning for at least 10 years. In reality Chinese students have poor listening and speaking, because they spend much of their school study on reading and writing.

I have been given a book, but my (and I think the students) opinion is that it is boring. It is a lot of reading, which I think the students can practice in their two other classes - Intensive and Extensive reading. The book has role plays, but just for two people.

So I have tried to make my classes fun - talk about films, singing a song, show photos. However, one student said to me that the lessons are fun, but he never learns anything, and then proceeded to give me tips on how to teach!!!!

So I feel a bit lost unfortunately! I want to ask you about 1. Teaching style,
2. Vocabulary or constructing phrases

1. I want to just talk about teaching style. Splitting into groups/talking to the whole class/or traditional lecture? When I did my TEFL course, the suggested teaching style was split them into groups. Whilst this is feasible in a class of 20, it is less appropriate for a class of 48. So the best I can do is eight groups of six. Even then, it seems there are just too many students to keep track off. Should I get one student per group to speak, and go around to assess them ?

2. Teaching vocabulary/phrase constructing - is this my responsibility in oral English? Or should I just give them scenarios to create and then teach them how to say it? Do you have any useful links to help me here ?

Probably my biggest hurdle is getting a good book or website for ideas. I am in a small city, there are no English books in the shops. I could buy something from the internet though, if you recommended it.

Thanks Lucy, Rob
RobJames
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Re: Teaching style- Oral English - 48 students/class

Unread postby Lucy » 17 Apr 2010, 15:48

Dear Rob,

I've copied your questions here and answered them below.

Qu 1: I want to just talk about teaching style. Splitting into groups/talking to the whole class/or traditional lecture? When I did my TEFL course, the suggested teaching style was split them into groups. Whilst this is feasible in a class of 20, it is less appropriate for a class of 48. So the best I can do is eight groups of six. Even then, it seems there are just too many students to keep track off. Should I get one student per group to speak, and go around to assess them?

This is a tricky one. They need to be able to speak freely in order to use the language but I understand what you’re saying about the size of the class and the difficulties that represents. I suggest you try splitting the group into 2 groups of 24. Give half of the class a written task to complete and do your communicative activities with the other half. Then do a swap; the half who were speaking can do the writing task and vice versa. Depending on the length of the class, you can carry out this swap in the middle of the lesson (eg 45 minutes each in a 1 hour 30 lesson). You would have to be very organised and give clear instructions to both groups. If your classes are short, you can swap groups for each lesson (if that makes sense; it’s not easy to explain what I mean). By doing this, students will also be engaged in “serious” study half of the time. This should keep them happy.

Qu 2: Teaching vocabulary/phrase constructing - is this my responsibility in oral English? Or should I just give them scenarios to create and then teach them how to say it? Do you have any useful links to help me here ?

Yes, teaching vocabulary and phrases is definitely necessary when teaching speaking. I always suggest that the teacher chooses the topic of discussion and identifies the language that is likely to be used when discussing the topic. At the beginning of the lesson (or in a previous lesson, if you’re very well organised!) you should review the language to see how well the students cope. When you see how the students cope with the language needed, you have 3 options: you can decide to go ahead with the speaking task; you can decide to revise the language briefly; or you can decide to ditch the speaking task completely (if students really don’t master the language). Basically, if students don’t know the language needed to fulfil the task, they won’t be able to do the work. Try to make the review of language interesting and communicative, not serious study of a grammar book. You can try looking at Communication Games series by Hadfield and Hadfield. This will allow students to use language in a very controlled situation before using it freely in the main speaking task. Controlled speaking exercises go down well in large classes.

Finally a comment about students’ perceptions of the right way to learn: I find it always helps if you explain to them the theory behind what you are doing. Explain it in simple terms, but explain to them that by using the language they will remember more, etc, etc.

You can also go through the helpdesk to look for other similar posts. There are other questions and answers similar to this one.

I hope this helps.

Lucy
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