We were walked into the school today by another marching band procession, they really do like these big welcomes!
Then we were doing evaluation sessions, watching and commenting on two Genki English and two phonics lessons by two teachers who we’d trained in December. As expected they were really, really good! As they were so good we did think for a minute they might have cheated and might be “teaching” a lesson they’ve already done (that’s how demo classes work in Japan) but checking the kids proved that were indeed doing it for the first time, which was great.
As a teacher it’s often difficult to evaluate your own classes, it takes an outside view to see how things are going, schools should pay us to evaluate lessons, because there were a couple of big things that needed picking up on!
The first was that although the kids were copying the pronunciation from the software perfectly, and could answer questions perfectly, when they came to shout out things en masse they added a “aaaaa” to the end of everything. So we had Yesaaaa, leftaaa, dogsaaaa, likeaaa, etc. etc. The worst thing was that nobody had picked up on this, mainly because the adults couldn’t hear it themselves.
The other problem is that the teachers were spending far too long drilling the words and sentences before moving on to the song. Their excuse was that they didn’t want to move on until the kids “knew” all the words. It was a very bad remnant of the old rote ways of learning and the kids were looking really bored! They did, of course, pick up when they were doing the song. But the song isn’t just an easy way to remember the words or an easy way to review next time, it’s also where the kids are getting the repetition and beginning to memorise the language. If you really feel you need to drill, drill the song, the kids will get it much quicker!
One teacher even missed out the game, saying it was too difficult with 40 kids. Photos of the 100+ kid classes in other countries, plus the next teacher doing really well with the game, got her on board. The class suffered at the end from the lack of adrenaline and speaking practice from having no game though.
Apart from this they were world class lessons and the results were also world class.
The proof of the pudding
In the playground of course all the kids crowded round us. So naturally we starting chatting by saying hello and asking their names. The older kids, who do the old English course, did the usual thing of looking at their friends, turning away, being shy, giggling then running off. The 1st graders, the Genki English & Phonics kids, however were answering us straight away. We didn’t have to ask the questions twice, they could answer straight off in perfect English accents. So then we asked their ages, the older kids again just looked blank but the younger kids had the spark of recognition in their eyes, started counting the numbers then as calm as anything told us their ages.
Then they started asking us questions “Where are you from?” when I answered they couldn’t hear, so one girl cupped her hand to her ear, copying what we’d taught her teacher to do and said “sorry?” Of course the real proof is with the kids and the difference between the genki and non-genki kids was like night and day. What a huge difference.
As I always say it’s not the English as such, that’s easy, but it’s the attitude that makes the difference. These kids weren’t fussed by English, they were just rounding up what they knew so as to say what they wanted to say. After the lesson when we asked the teacher to ask the kids if they enjoyed the class, instead of Chinese she just translated it into easy English and asked “Do you like Genki English?”. Some classes would never make that kind of a jump from “Do you like carrots?” etc.
Fresh veg for school lunch!
Anyway, here are my notes from Sunny’s and Rain’s (yes these are their names!) lessons:
– check “z” and “k” sounds
– Need to video her doing model storytelling lessons!
– Using the computer for phonics sounds was very good
– Very professional correction of kids’ mistakes
– Very confident with computer, using it as a natural tool.
– Good that they had a mixture of kids getting things right and wrong (proves it wasn’t a set up class!)
– Kids at the front can’t see the board
– Made herself tall and small, using different heights during the lesson
– Used Genki English phrases (asking names, “Can you do it?” ) kids code switched from Chinese effortless, only needed asking once.
– Students need something to rest on during writing practice (not their knees!)
– Very good at keeping the kids’ interest even with loud music and races going on outside
– “He” and “She” not “hey” and “shey”
Phonics “tricky words” from the tricky hat
– Need a gap in the middle of the kids so can check ones in the middle, not just the kids on the edges.
– Mistakes the kids were making were “good” mistakes e.g. “chig” instead of “chick” shows they were really listening even if they hadn’t quite mastered all the sounds yet.
Sunny’s Genki Class
– Warm up – perfect. Kids answered quickly and with prefect pronunciation.
– Kids answered straight away, no hesitation
– No problem with understanding “How are you?” vs. “How old are you?”
– When kids made mistakes other kids corrected them, (in a fun way.)
– Kids didn’t just go for the “easy answer” e.g. answering “It’s a beautiful day!”
– Not all the kids could do everything (which showed they were learning in this lesson, not just reviewing)
– Lines quiz – did it with 6 kids at the front (different kids each day) and other kids checking the answers (to save time)
– Teacher needs to look at the lesson plan during lines quiz to make sure all previous topics are covered.
– I need to write a praising words song because these kids were so good!
– Kids laughed (big smiles) and joked when introducing words, but sat up straight and went quiet when teacher counted to 3!
– Do the kids laugh so much in normal lessons? They were loving it!
– Use the keyboard on the computer to activate each word, rather than the (inaccurate) mouse.
– Perfect pronunciation when using the software
– Teacher asked the kids what gestures to do, good
– Asked the kids what meaning of new words was
– “Lizard” pronunciation not perfect, but OK for now
– Ah, she picked up on this and went back and spent more time on it, good.
– Kept good pace with loud parts, soft parts
– Corrects their mistakes very well and positively
– Code switching no problem
– Watch for “s” sound becoming “yesaaa”
– Don’t point at the written words on the software, always point at the pictures
– Kids get bored with too much repetition of the words, move into the song much earlier
– Chinese kids seem to really like goldfish!
– Should concentrate on the harder words, words the kids have got can be moved on from.
– Move on to the song already!
– First time through kids didn’t get the mini lesson, so it was good that she did it again
– Teacher sat down during mini lesson so kids were focussed on the screen
– Too much bass on the sound system
– Song first time wasn’t too good.
– Much better second time
– Need applause at the end of songs!
– Used the computer software game (good) but at the expense of the classroom game (bad)
– Should get kids to come and touch the screen rather than just shout out the answers.
– Had a tendency to ask the same kids each time
– Finishing on more drilling left the lesson on a low note, should have finished with the game!
Rain’s Phonics Class (duplicated items removed)
– Leftaaa, rightaaaa, jumpaaaaa in warm up
– needs more blending
– missed the phonics story
– some kids can blend, but a few adding “a” to the end
– didn’t use the computer for pronunciation
– Other than that very good.
Rain’s Genki Class
– Jumpaaa, leftaa, rightaa etc. – bad!
– Did the gesture and got the kids to say the words, good
– With “how old” the kids were counting with Chinese hand gestures (minor point)
– When asking a question kids should give just one answer, not recite all the ones from the song!
– Be careful, the computer sound was “dogs” but the homemade picture cards was “dog” – potential confusion
– Warm up song was perfect
– Pronunciation was very good when repeating after the computer, after the teacher not so much
– Need more computer!
– Be careful of using grammar technical terms
– Need to move to the new song much more quickly, some kids were falling asleep with all the drilling!
– Excitement came back with song then game, they are much more fun and much more effective!
Overall they were really excellent, and better than 90% of the beginner teachers I work with. Excellent teaching skills in general. Just need to get rid of the rote learning completely and spend more time on songs and games (this will impress the parents more as well). Kids don’t need to remember all the words in one lesson, that’s what reviews in future lessons are for.
We asked why they drilled so much and they said it was because if the kids went home and couldn’t remember all the words they had done that day the parents complained. Parent education would be the best thing here, but if they have to do it, then just use the songs to drill the words, it’s much quicker and much more fun! Then use the games in follow up lessons to make sure the kids can really use the English.
Wow, that was a lot, but it was so, so good to see the kids doing so well. They really were amazing and in only a few weeks of teaching. Just imagine what they are going to be like in a couple of months’ time! Yesterday’s April fool may have been about Japan making English an official language, but in China they won’t need to as the kids will all be fluent if they go on at this rate!
Then it was out for the hottest Chinese food you could imagine!