Over in China we’re promoting the Genki English lessons to English schools as a course for adults, because it basically addresses all the confidence and language issues that most adults have here. Everyone is raving about how good it is and the download pack is extremely affordable for a 70 to 100 hour course, but I haven’t actually taught it to adults myself yet!
So this week I’ve been given free rein on a private evening school to make sure everything works OK, I guess more for my benefit than anything else. There’s no point me preaching about something if I don’t practice it myself!
Today I had two adults beginners level classes and the two things I wanted to know were:
1) Is Genki English suitable for their level of English?
2) Do they enjoy the songs and games?
Obviously there’s no point running through the download pack if they already know all the English. And there’s no point learning through songs and games if that doesn’t make them smile.
Then I used a bit of Power Teaching to get them to practice giving each other commands in pairs, taking it in turns.
Here I told them they failed and asked them why. They quickly came up with, “Because we weren’t making eye contact with our partners” and “we weren’t speaking loud enough”. For adults I also emphasize things like posture and speaking from the stomach to create a more confident persona. So I get them into new pairs with Mingle and the second time they tried it they were great, very confident and very professional. And once you have that everything else becomes easy.
They also really enjoyed the two songs, it really got them smiling, which was very good to hear. It really brings the energy levels up, like switching on a lightbulb. Next we tried the Lines Game for me to see what types of English they knew. Unlike Japan or Europe where a lot of people are “false beginners” i.e. they know quite a bit but don’t have the confidence to use it, here they now had the confidence part thanks to the Genki rules, but they really didn’t have that much language. Which is perfect because it means all the GE themes still need to be kept in there. (In other countries you might want to rush through any themes they already know as a quick review.)
Finally we ended with Can you speak English? to get them all going home with “Yes, yes I can!” running around in their heads!
The second group were at the same level i.e. not even being able to use “thank you” correctly, so I should have done the exact same lesson above. And in a real situation I would have. But this week I want to try as many different activities to see which styles of activities they enjoy. Even more so with adults they have to enjoy the lessons otherwise they won’t keep coming back!
So I tried the Koala Game for “please” and “thank you”. I didn’t teach anything, I just let them figure out what to say. None of them picked up on needing to say “Thank you.” This is one part of Chinese culture that I haven’t picked up yet either, I still say “Thank you” far too much! Of course in English we use it a lot more. But anyway they did pick up on it eventually.
I then went into Lines Game and Hammer Game to see what English they knew. One girl shouted out at the top of her voice “shirt” but she forgot the “r” which knocked me off balance for a second! Pronunciation from the software is something we need to look at here!
You could tell the difference though from not doing a song at the beginning. Without it it feels like we were using up the energy in the class, going down and down rather than refilling it with the music and getting brighter and brighter. It’s really is the core activity and when you think about it the songs are the reason Genki English is so popular. It was good to really get to see that in class today.
Then I wanted to see how far I could push things so after the What’s your name? song, to see if they would like songs or not, they did, I jumped into I have a question. This is one key theme for any students, but particularly adults as it allows you to express many more things without needing too much vocab. This was a bit of a risk as normally you’d do it after many other themes. Today they did sort of get it, but didn’t get the idea of making questions with “Is it…?” (they were always saying “It is….”) and they didn’t know any of the vocab from the game. Ah, so I really messed up there, bad teacher me! I should have stuck to the curriculum and made sure they had done everything before jumping too far ahead. And I should have allowed a full lesson for this one theme, rather than trying to squeeze it into the final 20 minutes.
I quickly tried to end on somewhat of a high note so I just played them the Do you like animals? and Do you have any pets? song animations (those were the words in the game that they didn’t know). I didn’t teach the lesson, I just played the song. And to my surprise they all started leaning forward, doing gestures on their own, singing along and trying their hardest to learn the new words!
So it goes to show that you don’t need to push all the time, sometimes just playing the songs on their own is enough for adults to learn. Then of course you can play the games to get them using the new English. And I guess that’s actually what happens with the other genki languages, people just learn themselves by watching the songs without a teacher.
So I think that’s the method I’ll recommend for the teachers who can’t teach too well yet, I’ll let the students learn themselves with the computer and then jump in to do the classroom game once they’ve got it all.
For higher levels?
The next question is how high a level can we use Genki English with? For beginners who know little or zero English, are shy and have little confidence it’s perfect as an introductory 70 to 100 hour course. The Download Pack is incredibly cheap for schools or teachers to buy, and if you can speak everything that’s in there you’d be very happy, I know I would if I knew all the Genki English themes in Chinese!
The next thing is to see if it would be useful or not to any higher level students. If they can use everything that’s in the textbooks they use then they probably don’t need it. But I have a feeling there will be a big gap between what they’ve “studied” and what they can actually use. In which case GE would be useful. I’ll find out tomorrow and let you know!