List of Conversation Topics:
The Smart English package is aimed at helping out the vast number of English teachers over in China who are trying to liven up or improve upon their spoken English lessons. They also very useful for new teachers who are thrown in at the deep end with no induction or clue as to what they should be doing when teaching spoken English.
For any teacher at any time one of your primary targets will be looking for fresh material. Let’s face it, doing the same old same old time after time has the two stage effect of rubbing off on your students and making your life feel like cardboard. Unfortunately I have met many English teachers in China that are at the end of the road and are looking to get off the TEFL boat and move to new pastures. Often this means leaving the country and returning home. Normally people last a year or two at the most and then they are off. Such an enormous waste of talent and potential, especially after spending all that time and effort settling in.
Why is this you may wonder? China is an amazing country and for the Westerner it’s a relatively stress-free environment. You have fantastic students, half the number of hours you would normally work and you don’t worry half as much about your cash flow; no bad by any standards I would say. The honest truth of the matter as to why there is such a high turnover of staff is that they are fed up with teaching the same thing again and again!
Normally a company will provide a well-known text book. I’m sure you’ve come across them. They provide a general sprinkling of just about anything with a CD, tick-boxes and multi-choice questions, a few paragraphs for reading in each chapter, some ‘grammar focus’ and lots of photos to fill the page out with. Topics form a general umbrella which can easily be completed after a few weeks.
The groan of unsatisfied students resonating around the class when they are asked to open that text book again is a sure sign that you need to get your act together and plan extra material around it.
Your students have done it all before. They don’t need grammar focus or reading practice. Many of the class will have already gone past much of the material that is presented to them and hanker for their specific needs to be taken care of. The bottom line is that they get no real chance to practice their spoken English properly before their IELTS or TOEFL test arrives. For professionals who wish to sharpen up their English language skills, material provided is normally woefully impractical.
There are many websites which are lifesavers when it comes to providing help regarding spoken English lessons in China. However, surprisingly there really is still very little in the way of a structured approach.
Enter ‘TEFL Kick-Ass Lesson Plans China’. The original title for the series was ‘TEFL Smart English, Discussion Questions and Activities China’. Fine to a point, but then I wondered who my plans were really meant to help. Do they belong in the realms of the repetitive vaults of academic dreariness that is the standard EFL/ESL model? The answer is definitely no! They are aimed at the countless younger generation of English teacher that are now employed by all English Language Training Centres (ELTCs) all over China; filled with vibrant energy, loving being part of a new culture and enjoying every second of being in class and building a new network of friends and contacts. They are aimed at teachers who want to bring a sense of humour to their classes and have fun.
Let’s face it, Chinese students have been looking at various text books for more years than they care to remember. They don’t want to sit in another class and stomach another two hours of text books or listening to the teacher; they most likely have already been sat in hour after hour of IELTS classes with a great pile of books to manage. They want to practice speaking and have fun at the same time.
Student Books are available on request but the whole point of this method is to ensure that your class speaks as much as possible. I supply notebooks to all my students for them to record new language to review and targets to aim for.
Who can use the lesson plans?
There are five types of teacher that could use these lesson plans:
• Already established teachers who may be looking to freshen up or add to their existing material. If your career is in education then keeping your lessons from becoming stale is an essential day to day element. You have to stay ahead of the game and be continually searching for new ideas and approaches, especially if you are attached to the same students for any length of time. The activities here are guaranteed to jump start anyone’s spoken English lessons back to life with an accompanying bonus of feeling energized once again.
• New teachers coming to China. This includes people who have no teaching experience and just want to leave their old life behind. Often you will be thrown in at the deep end and find yourself suddenly teaching with little or no form of induction. Luckily once you have taught your first class you will realise what an incredibly nice job you have just started and how brilliant your students are. Use these plans to help you settle in and bring you confidence to your new start.
• IELTS and TOEFL teachers who also have to deliver a spoken English package. Many find themselves scratching their heads as to what they should be doing instead of their normal highly structured approach. Most are trained to deliver classes which are 90% teacher talk time with students taking notes.
• People who are backpacking and may be invited to do some teaching while they are on the road. If you are touring China then teaching is an ideal way to get closer to this unique culture. Not only will you find out more about the education system, you may well be invited out to dinner, evenings out or even activities to areas of interest that most tourists won’t see. Having been pencilled in to teach, it may be difficult planning from a hotel room or dormitory so in this respect these plans are ideal.
• Foreign students who are studying in China. Many English speaking students also want to work part time to supplement their allowance. Most don’t have time to prepare properly for class while they are immersed in writing a dissertation, so in this respect these plans are important time savers.