Teach English in Yongji Zhen - Hengyang Shi

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The main aim of any lesson/class is for the teacher to be able to convey the information in such a manner that the students are able to absorb the information as quickly and as effectively as possible. When it comes to teaching a new language, what needs to be taken into consideration is that the students need to be kept motivated, exposed to the language, and given the opportunity to use it themselves. The most effective method on which this whole course is based, and in which all these factors come into play is the Engage, Study, Activate (‘ESA’) technique. However, what holds even more importance than the method itself and what can influence the students’ motivation in a positive or a negative manner is the teacher’s attitude and their classroom management skills. The attitude encompasses the teacher’s physical presence, posture, voice, gestures, as well as their ability to get all their students equally involved, which can be facilitated through eye contact, by grouping the students in certain ways, and by optimizing the seating arrangement. Maintaining discipline in the classroom is also important in order for the class to run smoothly. Depending on the type of activity, the teacher’s role, or what the students are expected to do, the teacher could either be sitting or standing. Standing conveys a more dominant attitude and could prove somewhat disruptive and irritating to the students. It is recommended during the presentation of the language point or when giving instructions as to get the attention of all their students. Sitting, on the other hand, conveys a more relaxed attitude and is advised during the reading activities, during the activate stage or during controlled practice in which only occasional monitoring is necessary. The voice also plays a very important role when it comes to teaching. A lack of clarity, variety, projection or use of incorrect range could hinder the students’ understanding when it comes to explanations or instructions. Depending on the size of the classroom more or less projection could be necessary, and the volume could also be adjusted to liven up or quiet down the class. The complexity of the language should also be considered in order for it to match the level and abilities of the students. Eye contact and gestures should also be used to create a better and more visual rapport with the students. They can be used concomitantly (e.g. to indicate who is to speak by making eye contact and an inviting hand gesture) depending on the situation. However, the teacher should be careful of not overusing them, since staring at the students in the eye all the time could come across as strange and hostile, while gesturing excessively could convey agitation, uneasiness and distract the students instead of helping them focus. The most important goal and perhaps the most difficult to achieve is how to make sure that all the students get involved in the class. This can be accomplished by grouping the students and by physically arranging the classroom in certain ways. Students can be grouped into pairs, groups, whole-class or left on their own, each one of them coming with advantages and disadvantages. While whole-class grouping creates a sense of belonging, is much easier to organize, and it allows the students to interact with all the class members, it also reduces the chances of individual students speaking, especially for the shy ones. Pair work and group work both have the advantage of increased student talking time and student-to-student interaction but they can both prove to be rather noisy. While during pair work students have the opportunity to share ideas, there is the risk that they start doing so in their own native language or that they actually get to work with someone they don’t enjoy working with. These risks might be less prevalent in group work due to the fact that working with someone you don’t particularly like is not as problematic and the exercises themselves are more encouraging of students using English instead of their native language. Allowing students to work for themselves can also be productive as it allows teachers to address individual problems and differences and it also helps the students to find solutions on their own rather than relying on their peers. However, it does significantly reduce the student-to-student interaction and inhibits that feeling of group belonging which working as a whole-class promotes. The seating arrangement can also contribute and influence the above-mentioned elements. For instance, arranging the classroom in orderly rows (the traditional seating form) facilitates the eye contact between the teacher and their students, allows the teacher to have a clear view of everyone, and is appropriate for larger classes and whole-class activities. For smaller classes, however, arranging the tables in circles and horseshoes would be more indicated since it makes it easier for students to work in pairs, have eye contact with each other, thus creating the effect that the class becomes more comfortable and intimate. Another option would be to have separated tables which can be ideal for group work but it is more likely to create discipline problems especially since the teacher won’t be able to maintain eye contact with all of their students. Last but not least, for me as a new teacher, discipline problems arising and the question of maintaining the discipline in class (especially when working with younger learners) are of crucial importance. I am aware of the fact that the teacher cannot possibly control everything and completely prevent disciplinary problems from happening, but from my own experience as a student, I believe that many teachers either don't give this topic too much importance or are simply using the wrong approach. As with anything that has to do with human behavior, the first step is understanding the underlying reasons and causes of the problem so as to find a solution, or even better, to prevent them before they even become actual problems. Disciplinary problems in the classroom might have different reasons, such as boredom, low self-esteem, peer pressure, problems at home etc. Unfortunately, some of these issues are difficult to be tackled by the teacher and cannot be solved in any depth, but what the teacher can definitely implement through their own behavior is respect, empathy, and keeping their students motivated and entertained. They can do so but not being late, by always being well-prepared, consistent and fair, not losing their temper, preparing many interesting activities, establishing rapport with their students, and most importantly, being enthusiastic about teaching. In conclusion, there are many factors which can contribute to the appearance of teaching difficulties, but these can be avoided or solved just by paying attention to details such as, the teacher's attitude, which includes the posture, the voice, or gestures together with the teacher's ability to get all their students involved as much as possible. This can be achieved through eye contact, gestures, as well as by grouping the students in certain ways, and by optimizing the seating arrangement (should the classroom allow it).