Teach English in LanshAn Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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Before we talk about the causation of learning difficulty, we should figure out why is it important for teachers to know about it? After we understand the importance, we will analyze the causation in multiple ways. Last, we will look a couple major and common difficulties students could meet and how should teachers deal with them? Firstly, why is it important to know what kind of learning difficulty the students have? As a teacher, by knowing student’s difficulty during their learning is going to help us analyze their needs so we can make better teaching plan to fit their needs and help them overcome the difficulties they have. The analyzing process could also give you a great chance to reflect your teaching plan and change it into a more logical way. Once the teacher understands the students’ difficulty, she/he can give them right guidance to become a better learner. This will make the scientific and efficient teaching and learning happen. Now we understand why it's so important to know where the students are trapped. But what caused various kinds of difficulties. For a better understanding, we should not just look at it from student’s perspective, but also from the teachers. In the TEFL class, a lot of the students are lack of the English language environment and western culture background. This would cause the comprehension difficulty of the students. In some countries, their first language could have totally different language structures or phonology system with English, like Chinese. To remember all the new grammar rules and vocabularies in English is not an easy thing for them. In addition to these object factors, students could have some personal reasons like some of may not be sensitive to typical types of information or some have concentration problem. Unscientific or inefficient learning methods the students use would be another principle reason. This problem will also happen to teachers. Due to lack of information or experience, sometimes teachers may not make the class interesting or varied enough to motivate students and fit their needs. Teachers classroom management skills would affect the relationship between the students and the teachers. Without a good rapport in the classroom, learning difficulty is going be hard to be removed. All in all, the reason for the leaning difficulty could be complex and comprehensive. But teachers play a vital and positive role for students to get out the difficulty. If the teachers keep improving during their teaching career and care enough about the students’ needs, they can not only avoid causing learning difficulties but also analyze the problems their students have and guide them to get out of the difficulty using proper methods. Now let’s see some common difficulties students could meet during learning and how teachers could prevent them from happening or sort the problem. A “good student” normally have less difficulty when learning. What makes a good student? They are willing to listen, ask questions and experiment with the language. They can think about their learning method and accept mistakes. Last but not least, they want to learn! But what stops a student from having these good attributes and becoming a “good learner”. The factors like his/her age, culture, language level and motivation, these can all cause different learning difficulty. For example, the adults usually have some learning experience. This will cause them to have a fixed view of how teaching should be going. Accepting the western culture or absorbing English language could be more difficulty for them. Even they are normally quite motivated but their anxiety about “loss of face” would need teachers give them more encouragement. Young learners, on the other hand, are more open-minded to experience and learn new things but they could be lacking motivation and have more behavior problems. When teaching them, teachers need to make the class varied an interesting to help build and encourage their motivation. What’s more, classroom disciplines are also important for younger learners. Same as the students with different English level, they have different learning difficulties as well. Our goal is to understand the differences between them and a ‘good learner’, and then help them to become a ‘good learner’ in a suitable way. Does a good student still need a good teacher? Of course! Actually, a 'good teacher' will most likely have 'good students'. A good teacher who is kind and patient with enthusiasm about teaching would largely stimulate students’ learning willingness , build good rapport with them,respect their differences and personality. A good teacher can reduce and prevent learning difficulty by fostering the good learning attributes to cultivate ‘good student’. Now we know how complex and important the relationship between students and teachers! I am a patient teacher with many years teaching experience. So, to some extent, I am a good teacher already, but there is still a long way to go before I can really become a ‘good teacher’. Keep learning will be the only way to achieve it. When a teacher has built a good rapport with the students, scientific learning and teaching methods would be much easier to be accept by the students as the trust that they have on the teacher makes them more cooperative. Conversely, unscientific and inefficient approaches will cause huge problems and variety difficulties with the students. Many students study extremely hard. They spend a lot of time to memorize English words, learning grammar, reciting countless collocations, but a very common phenomenon is that when they are trying to talk to native English speakers, they still don’t know what to talk. When they are supposed to write, they have to rely heavily on a few templates already in their brains. They are trying to learn English just through mechanical repetition and overlooking understanding the logic inside the language. Teachers could also use wrong methods. I can remember a couple of my high school English teachers even start the English class with dictation. Can you imagine how boring was the class? In order to know distinguish which is right teaching or learning methods. We need to understand the English language. There are 4 basic skills in language: reading, listening, speaking and writing. The first two are receptive skill and the last two are productive skill. They are equally important so teachers should balance them in lesson. If the student is weak at one of the skills, learning difficulty would happen as the buckets effect. Student will find it is hard to achieve big improvement in English. The 4 skills are substantially different. Reading and listening is not simply mattering for the eyes and ears. We are actually using our brains to understand and process the information. Some students would have difficulty with listening, or some think reading is boring. For solving the problem, teachers need to find out the student’s language level. Make sure the materials for the reading and listening practice matched their level. Choosing the topics that students are interested will motivate them. Pre-teach the difficult or essential language and structures would be another helpful way. Personally, the best way to improve vocabulary is reading. So, I would suggest my students to read a certain amount of time every day. Reading aloud is one of my favorite time when I am with my students. They can learn from the teacher’s pronunciation and expression. Besides the listening skill, the discussion part after reading is a great opportunity for practicing their speaking skill too. Speaking and writing are both used for communication. If students have difficulty at speaking, then teachers should create more opportunity and encourage them to use English to communicate. However, Communication can be complex. They may not willing to talk at all. The key for solving this problem is to create a safety environment where students don’t worry about making mistakes. Pair work, group work or guided speaking activity will help them to be relaxed and willing to talk. Using the classroom walls and the white board, put some sight words and some sentence starters. Set classroom agreement about when should we use English and when can they use their own language. Teachers should always response students with English. Giving students prompts when they are stuck when they are talking. Writing would be the hardest part of these 4 parts. It happens at last as well. Writing requires a greater degree of accuracy in grammar, spelling, layout and punctuation. From my learning experience, writing would be my short board and it caused the difficulty for the progress of the other3 skills. For a really long period, I was scared of writing. So I refused to write. The outcome is my writing is poor for many years and I found no matter how hard I have practiced my listening and speaking, my English seemed have not made a huge improvement ever again. And I am not the only case as I knew. Later on, I increased my reading practice. I felt a gigantic change with my English writing level. I am also more confident about my speaking. Students have no desire to write is a big problem. We should guarantee writing time in our class and show our interests about students writing. Tell them our goal is to show our thinking not to be perfect. Move on from the unsure spelling after underlining it. Encourage them to talk about their story when they get stuck. The more they write, the more confident they will be. Creative writing and free writing would also stimulate their feelings about writing. Again, you can see that the how close these different parts are connected with each other. For teaching and learning methods, we should never isolate language skills and parts. This knowledge also applies to the 4 things that students need to do with the English language; be exposed to it, understand its meaning, understand how it’s constricted and be able to practice and produce it. If the English language is a tree, the Grammar is the tree trunk and branches, the vocabulary and functions are the leaves that add beauty and variety. We have to ensure that students are introduced to new language in a balanced and manageable way. Another big difficulty for both students would be the grammars . The tense system causes students enormous difficulty already. Don’t mention about other parts like the conditional, modals and preposition phrase. However, if teachers can elicit those grammar rules in an organized and scientific way, it will be easier for students to process the information and understand the usage of them. For example, the three different tense in English (the present, the past and the future) each have 4 aspects: simple, continuous, perfect ad perfect continuous. About the forms, all continuous forms feature some form of the verb ‘to be’ + ing form of the verb. All perfect form features some form of the verb ‘to have’ + the past principle form of the verb. Also, all perfect continuous forms some form of the verb ‘to have’ + been + ing form of the verb. For the usage, the continuous tense normally indicates something in progress. It could be in the present, future or past. The perfect tense is used to say something be done. If it was done in the past, it’s past perfect. If it is done now if present perfect. If it will be done in the future, it’s future presents. Helping students find the similarities within their forms and usage would definitely be beneficial for them to understand and remember when and why to use the tense. Same as other grammar rules, contrasting and comparing are good learning and teaching methods for both students and teachers. There are many ways can help students to learn grammar like asking them questions, telling stories, creating real situation. For instance, interviews or role play games are useful for learning ‘if’ conditional sentences and modal auxiliary verbs. Same as other grammar difficulties, finding general patterns, pointing out the exceptions,elicit the logic inside the language point, using activities like games, role play, group tasks, interviews etc. for students to practice the usage. Sure, there are many other reasons for causing the difficulties we haven’t tall talked about here. But teachers need to analyze the students by integrating external and internal factors to get the information we need to build good rapport with our students, make the suitable lesson plans, adopt scientific teaching methods and make scientific and efficient learning happens. These are what can we do for helping students out of the learning difficulty.