Teach English in ShuAngdian Zhen - Lianyungang Shi

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« English by Skype » - we see these commercials quite often and for a good reason – learning foreign languages online has become extremely popular due to several reasons: 1. People have high-speed internet available at hand, literally. One can learn a foreign language just by taking the phone out of the pocket. 2. Everybody’s schedule is very tight. Therefore, one might not want to waste time riding to a language school or people just feel like optimizing their time and learning a language exactly when they have a slot. 3. There’s a lot of choice out there! If you want to study English with someone who comes from Ireland, Australia or Canada, because you need English for work in these countries and you’d like to get used to the accent – nowadays it is really possible. I have personally been teaching English to several adults from Russia using Skype for a few months now, so I’d like to give my feedback. All the students I have need English « for fun and travel and because I seem to have forgotten all of it ». I would say all of them are at A2 – B1 level. Before the class 1. We had a « technical » 10 minutes meeting with each student where we were checking that the Skype connection was working fine and that they are able to see my screen (I did have a lot of problems with sharing sound files). We also exchanged the mails in order to send documents, if for some reason it is not done through Skype. 2. Since all the students I have complained that their grammar needed serious brushing up, I suggested everyone purchasing English Grammar in Use, beginners’ level, by Murphy. That allows me to provide students with extra grammar drilling at home after we have covered some grammar point during the lesson (for example - if during the class we start exploring Passive voice, because our conversation required it, I explain it, we practise it orally for some time, and then I usually just indicate the unit to drill the grammar point further - and to ask me again if there are any questions or problems) The typical class The typical class lasts about an hour. We start every class by talking about our week and checking out how everyone is doing. Since we live in different time zones and in a very different climate, I like to start each lesson with « Hey, what’s the time in …… right now » and « What about the weather in … today ». I also tell the person what time / weather is in Lyon, France, at the moment. Then, the conversation invariably drifts to « where is your boyfriend/brother/daughter/mother now » or « what is your family doing now » (like that we practise both Present Simple and Present Continuous every single time). The typical conversation could sound like « It’s only 9 a.m. in Lyon now. My children are at school. They are having a sport class, I think. My husband is driving to work. What about your daughter? Is she at home? » That is our go-to warmer up. Sometimes here the person can tell me that he/she is worried/happy/sick, because….. and we can really get the conversation going. As we talk, I type the words the student is asking me in the conversation chat – we re-read them later. For the adult students I recommend making « word clouds » by topic in their notebooks (I usually recommend children writing down the words in the phone-book notebook, it is easier for them to look for the vocabulary alphabetically, as if using a dictionary.) I do believe that writing things down with the pen on a paper is beneficial for memorizing new vocabulary and cannot be replaced by typing. Fortunately, the adults are usually keen on taking notes and rarely need reminders. This warm-up conversation can actually be quite long, if the person is ready to share. I try to make it minimum 15-20 minutes, meanwhile making notes on grammar/lexical points that come up as needed revision. After this initial chit-chat we have a look at grammar. If a student did some grammar exercise for me, he/she would typically have sent it to me before. I have a look at it before the class and we go over mistakes, if there are any. This is also the moment I can refer to any recurrent grammar mistakes the student was making during the warm-up conversation, and explain it more in detail (and give some exercises to do from a Murphy book). I do not like to dwell upon grammar for a very long time, all the drilling is done individually with the handouts, that I send by mail or chapters from the Murphy grammar book. Then, I usually try to find some authentic material for my students to read (usually an article from a blog), on the topic they might find interesting. I also prepare a handout with questions/vocabulary search and we talk about the article they have read, what they learnt from it and whether they found it interesting. After we have gone through this topic, and had a look at vocabulary, I might ask the student to write several sentences about this topic for me for the next time. As for listening practice, I like making them watch the youtube videos which talk about something they can relate to. The videos are less intimidating than podcasts, but they are usually longer too, so that represents a certain difficulty. My personal favourites are a « a day in life » videos, because they are the easiest to follow, even if not all the vocabulary is clear. Once again, I may ask the student to write me something about his or her day. Once I had a student which was filming herself while cooking pasta, trying to sound like a cooking blogger. This was really great! To summarize, my lesson typically covers the following points: 1. Listening – youtube videos (usually done at home, to save time) 2. Reading – articles (usually done at home to save time) 3. Speaking - priority activity 4. Writing – done as a homework, and is based upon everything that has been said. During the Skype classes, my main focus is obviously the fluency and the active use of the vocabulary. I do believe that accuracy and deep grammar study are less adapted for the Skype format, and require a lot of independent study from the student.