Regular readers will know that day 2 is always the hardest in any training. Day 1 is always “Wow, this is amazing”. Day 2 is “Wooo, we’ll never be able to do this”. Luckily day 3 is usually “Wow, we can do this!”.
This morning started off well enough with going through the phonics lesson plans and getting them into groups to prepare to teach a lesson tomorrow. They were very good at this. The best thing was one of the head teachers who was just beaming because using phonics he could read a whole English sentence perfectly for the first time. It’s those types of experiences that have made phonics the force it is.
Then in the afternoon we had Genki English i.e. speaking and vocabulary. I ran through a demo lesson to illustrate the basic lesson plan and they were great. Then we got them in groups, gave them a written lesson plan, in Chinese, and a CD to practice with to prepare a lesson. As what usually happens they didn’t bother to read the lesson plan and just enjoyed playing around with the CD. Needless to say when they then came to the front to teach the lesson it was terrible. The usual culprits were there:
* Jabbering on at 100 miles and hour in English.
If the target language of the day is “I’m hungry” then there’s no possible way the kids could understand all the explanations in English. If they could then you should skip “I’m hungry” and move on to lessons that are at their level. The key here is “L+1” Krashen’s theory (nice overview here) that the language you use in class should be at the students level, L, plus just a little bit. Anything less and the students aren’t learning anything new. Anything more and they lose interest. Remember that students don’t turn off in class because they are not interested. The major reason students stop paying attention is when they don’t understand. To illustrate the point I started gabbling at the teachers in Japanese, and sure enough they couldn’t understand, stopped listening and started talking to their friends. Unfortunately they couldn’t make the link between this and their own gabbling in English turning students off, which was one of the main problems they had yesterday.
* No eye contact with students
They were “presenting” but not looking at the students. We were sat there not speaking, not moving and not responding. But they continued on regardless.
* Getting angry at students
I was pretending to be a “bad student”. One teacher came up to me actually told me to “Be quiet” and told me off! I thought she was joking at first, but then we feared she might be serious. OK, that’s one major source of the discipline problems found.
* Not using the computers
The computers (or CDs) are there to teach the correct pronunciation. Bad pronunciation was one of the main problems they mentioned yesterday. But if the kids get authentic English pronunciation from the start they’ll be able to reproduce it perfectly. Unfortunately the teachers were simply saying the words themselves and everyone was reproducing the Chinese accent perfectly, a lot of which none of us could understand a word of. To get them to understand how important using the computers is I said I’d teach the UK trainer a Chinese lesson. I spoke the Chinese in the most appalling Yorkshire accent I could do. They said it was terrible. and only a native Chinese speaker should teach Chinese. Unfortunately they didn’t make the link between this and their own English accents!
* Not having read the lesson plan
Instead of reading the lesson plan they decided they would simply make something up on the spot. That’s never a good idea! Everything in all the Genki English lessons is there for a reason. They’ve taken 10 years to develop by hundreds of teachers. If you are really good then please improve them, but if you actually follow them they’ll make the lesson easier than you could possible imagine!
* No idea of how the games are played
This is always a bit of a problem with adults. I guess it comes from the fact that the games were designed to get the most out of the kids rather than being particularly easy to teach. Hopefully by tomorrow they’ll be able to “think like a kid” and see how they work. Especially things like thinking about how the kids will cheat is always tricky!
Anyway, so it’s always a bit of a downer on day 2 as the teachers have seen how well Genki English works but then how terrifying it can be to stand in front of a class and actually teach it yourself. Which is fair enough. Although to be honest most of the problems are general teaching issues more than anything else. Once they’ve done 2 or 3 lessons and have given each other lots of feedback and seen how other teachers do things, both good and bad, they’ll improve no end.
Over the years I’ve tried to make it more and more easier to teach, but the priority has always to be what works best for the kids learning, rather than what is easiest for the teachers to do. Plus of course if they could do it all straight away then they wouldn’t need the training, they could have simply just watched all the videos online!
So after another long day (jet lag had me up at 4AM!) we popped out to see the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium & Olympic Swimming pool before another gorgeous Chinese meal.