Teach English in Goudun Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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This past winter of 2019, I participated in an ITTT and Inlingua course in Leipzig, Germany. The first week there we were introduced to the other three trainees and we did various introductions, ice breakers, and other information sessions. Our primary teacher for our course was named Peter. Peter had worked for 15 years previously in Thailand but was originally from the United Kingdom. Throughout the course, Peter remained my favorite instructor because he was encouraging, understanding, and most importantly knowledgeable. On the third day of class, Peter really surprised us by holding something which he called an Unknown Language Lesson. It was here that I walked away learning the best, or rather the most important, thing from my TEFL/TESOL course. On the morning of the Unknown Language Lesson, Peter walked into our classroom and immediately started speaking what we would later figure out to be Thai. This was a language none of us, the trainees, knew so the look of confusion and slight panic became apparent very quickly. However Peter knew exactly what to do in this situation and used various techniques to make us feel comfortable and create a fun learning environment. He began by writing and drawing a little cheat sheet on the board with drawings and corresponding words and phrases in Thai. He then gestured to us and had us repeat the same words or phrases back to him. Using gestures, speaking slowly, role playing, and eliminating excess language were just some of the techniques that I watched Peter use during this lesson. All these techniques were used to complete the majority of this lesson which was focused on a role play activity. Peter started by modeling an introductory conversation with all of the aforementioned vocabulary by facing the right side of the room and asking a question (which was pre-taught in Thai and reinforced with gestures and the inflection in his voice). This resembled the first person of the role play activity. Then Peter would take a step towards the other side of the room and turn 180 degrees from where he was so that he was the mirror image of his first position as to represent the second speaker. He then would act as the second person in the conversation and would respond to the question the first person asked. This moving and speaking back and forth continued throughout the whole role play activity. Peter modeled this a few times and then gestured to other students to partner up with him to practice the introductory conversation. Eventually Peter paired the trainees up, and by the end of the lesson, Peter had all the trainees independently using the role play activity to help elicit the pre-taught vocabulary and phrases. Once the lesson was complete, Peter spoke English again and broke down the structure of the lesson into four different stages: T/T, T/S, S/T, and S/S. The first stage of the Unknown Language Lesson was the T/T stage in which the teacher, represented by a ‘T’, would demonstrate the role play activity by acting as the first and second person. This was seen when Peter completed the role play activity himself by standing and responding from two different positions. The next stage was T/S in which the student, represented by a “S”, would respond to the teacher in the role play activity by acting as the second person to speak. The third stage was S/T in which the student would begin the activity by now becoming the first person in the conversation and they would ask the first question. Lastly, the final stage was S/S in which one student would begin as the first speaker and then their peer would respond. Then when all the phrases had been said, the students would switch and the original trainee would become the new first speaker. Overall we were able to witness how this activity was clearly an effective teaching model and I was later able to implement it in a few of my lessons. While exploring the different techniques used in this lesson, Peter led me to the most important thing that I learned from my TEFL/TESOL course. Peter told us that the #1 job of a language trainer was to create opportunities for conversation. This could be seen through things this role play activity or even simply by asking an open ended question rather than a basic yes or no question. What made this idea really stick with me is the fact that we were able to experience how effective getting students to converse was. Without even really noticing, the trainees [or rather the students in Unknown Language example] had been holding conversations and having fun. This drastically decreased Teacher Talk Time (TTT) and Student Talk Time (STT) increased and was naturally encouraged. By processing the lesson as students, we were able to understand possible difficulties and solutions from a teacher's standpoint. I think this is important for all teachers, new or old, to experience because sometimes we all just need to take a step back, make things simpler, and view our lessons from a fresh perspective. Creating opportunities for conversation between students is proven to be beneficial to not only students but also teachers and that is why I think it is one of the most important things that I learned from my TEFL/TESOL Certification.