Teach English in GAngyang Zhen - Taizhou Shi

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For the last 5 years I have tutored a family giving individual English classes, first to the mother, and then to the 3 children. The mother and the daughter were habile learners, very resourceful and enjoyed studying on their own. They benefited from having individual attention as they were able to move along at their own pace, and the classes were personalized for their specific needs and interests. When they were quick to learn a certain language concept, we could just incorporate it into the natural review that comes with usage; but if they needed extra help on a subject, then we were free to dedicate all the time necessary. This would not have been possible in a large class. For example, the mother had a hard time with the 3 sounds of -ed endings. When we read stories with past tense verbs she would write “ed, d, or, t” over the verbs for reinforcement. Her daughter, however, never had this difficulty. She naturally assimilated the different verb sounds and seldom made a mistake. She needed no reinforcement work other than what would naturally come up in the stories and paragraphs we read. When we studied irregular verbs, I gave the daughter a list of the most common ones and she learned them as homework. We always had the sheet on hand for reference, but she seldom used it. She was a motivated learner and had natural self-confidence. She was the perfect example of someone who benefited from individual classes. We were free to work according to her interests and had great conversations between the two of us. I took on the role of a facilitator more than a teacher. By the time she was twelve, we were able to use selected material that was designed for adult learning. This also would not have been possible in a classroom situation. But her younger brother was a different case. He was very sharp, but rather shy and on the lazy side. He liked to show me that he understood the class in his written exercises or when playing games, but he never excelled in conversation. We studied many subjects in English to match his interests--making robots, studying sharks, doing social studies activities, inventing countries, etc. We also did a lot of math in English and this worked surprisingly well. We would solve word problems and he would converse forgetting that he was having English class! We did a bit of math in almost every class. We also invented our own board game to review words. Though the classes were “tailor made” for him, I believe that he really would have benefited from being in a group class. He needed other kids to stimulate him out of complacency! He would have liked group games and hands on activities with others. Because he was a passive learner, I could seldom break out of the teacher role prodding him along. A fun lively little boy would have enjoyed more movement than I was able to provide. I think he is also the kind of child that needs regular testing and grades to pinpoint his weaker areas and spur him on to do better. A little positive peer pressure and competitive games would have done him good. Last year I took on the youngest boy, six years old, for a half an hour each week. We had lots of fun coloring and pasting and singing along with the audios from his 1st grade textbook. He immediately learned the colors and numbers and the vocabulary that was needed for the materials to do activities. But I think we could have soon fallen into a routine that would not have worked well. Sitting together at the table singing the songs as a “duo” is not the same as marching around the room and singing with rowdy peers! There were many games he was missing out on. One memorable event with the three children was a birthday party that we celebrated. We wanted to give the youngest, Fredy, an introduction to the world of English before he started classes with me. This experience reinforced my idea that group learning would be the more natural method for a younger child. We had races and introduced the words, “first, second” and “third” when we announced the winners. Together they learned a simple catchy song to chant for a version of musical chairs. Then we finished with a treasure hunt introducing prepositions—such as behind the picture, under the cushions, between the chairs, etc. Fredy was delighted that day, especially being able to participate with his big brother and sister. As a retired teacher, I prefer one on one classes. I taught in classrooms for years and just don´t have the strength to keep a group moving anymore. But an ideal situation for me would be to have certain united activities with other kids from time to time to provide a change of pace and stimulate through positive peer pressure. Maybe an English club that meets on a Saturday once or twice a month? Many homeschooling families in the United States form groups to give their kids a chance to participate in group activities and to change routines. One on one vs. group classes? Each will have advantages and disadvantages; the teacher’s task is to make the most of either situation and design the course according to the pupils’ particular needs and capabilities.