Teach English in Huolianfan Chachang - Huanggang Shi

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When we’re learning something for the first time, we usually experience uncertainty — even anxiety. We are hesitant to test out what we’re learning, for fear of making a mistake or failing. There are many factors that we could blame for this. Perhaps it’s because of our upbringing, past experiences with other teachers, or the unrealistic expectations that exist in many cultures. Regardless of the reason, we as teachers must face this reality on a daily basis in the classroom. This reality can hinder the progress of the students we teach. That is why our response to it is so vital; we must actively encourage and aid our students so that they can grow into competent and fearless English speakers. This essay will examine three different ways we can ensure the confidence of our students: teaching receptive skills, teaching productive skills, and having the right attitude towards mistakes. Let’s begin with how we can effectively teach receptive skills. We are teachers. We teach. If students cannot understand what we are trying to teach, then we cannot rightfully call ourselves teachers. This is where receptive skills come into play. The two receptive skills are reading and listening. These skills will be used by our students every day in the classroom. So how can we cultivate these skills in our students? One simple thing we can do is prepare them for the lesson ahead. Pre-teach vocabulary they will come across. We might demonstrate vocabulary visually (such as through pictures, props, and even miming) if it is difficult to explain or if we’re teaching lower level students. It is not necessary to teach every single word that students will see or hear, but imparting key words and phrases to them beforehand will ensure that they understand the meaning of what they’ll be taking in. Allowing students to absorb other vocabulary on their own using the context of the lesson will develop their independent thinking and perception skills. Another key factor is the topic we choose. If we are showing them a video to develop their listening skills, will that video interest them? If we’re handing out a newspaper article to develop their reading skills, will they care about its contents? Getting to know the individual interests and passions of our students will help spice up our lessons and ensure that students will be motivated to learn. Of course, once the information has been consumed, it’s important that students reinterpret and present it. Hence, they will need to use productive skills. If a student is unable to express themselves, classes will become frustrating and tedious. Taking in and understanding information is one thing, but repackaging and adding on to it with one’s own words is another. The two productive skills are writing and speaking. These two skills each come with their own set of challenges. Speaking requires actively forming speech on-the-go. You can’t hold a conversation if you have to keep making long pauses to formulate sentences. And so, students need to practice. When presenting new grammar or vocabulary to students, we must make sure that students have time during a lesson to test it out aloud. We can do this through drilling, or by devoting the activate stage to acting out a scenario or playing a game where what was learned must be employed. Allowing students to work in pairs or groups is especially helpful in getting everyone talking. As for written skills, many challenges such as punctuation, formality, and legibility can pose problems to students. It’s important that we tie in various written formats and situations to some of our lessons, so students can practice. Making the tasks creative and/or focused on self-expression will be more likely to hold students’ attention. But now that we’ve got students reading, writing, listening to, and speaking English, what more could be needed in the classroom? It is impossible to learn something without making mistakes. And when dealing with something as complex and intricate as a language, mistakes become the norm. But contrary to popular belief, mistakes are not a bad thing; they are opportunities for correction. Does this mean that we must correct every mistake made by a student? Hardly! Doing so would discourage and dissuade a student from taking risks. And risks are necessary when learning a new language. Students need to feel comfortable experimenting with new language. If they stay within the safe range of what they already know and never try to use what they’re actively learning, they won’t make any progress. And so, in order to make students feel more confident experimenting, we must set the right atmosphere in the classroom. Mistakes should not be reprimanded. If making a correction is necessary, do so gently and kindly. Corrections can also be saved for a later date — perhaps to be addressed in a future lesson. Or we can wait and see if the student learns on their own. Self-correction and self-reflection should be encouraged so that the student can take pride in their own progress. A teacher can also demonstrate the proper attitude; if you make a mistake, own it! Laugh at yourself, rectify the matter, and move along. Seeing you handle mistakes in this way will make students feel more comfortable about making their own. The challenges that can exist in a classroom are many. Teachers need to take active steps to turn them into opportunities, rather than leave them as threats. If we work to effectively develop the receptive and productive skills of students, and show them that making mistakes is nothing to shy away from or be afraid of, then we will have surmounted some of the greater hurdles one might face. Let’s all do our best to make our students feel comfortable and confident as they take on the English language head-on!