Teach English in YichAng KAifAqu - Yichng Shi

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Have you ever had the experience of saying a fictional character's name out loud to someone for the first time and they don't know who you are talking about even though you're reading the same book? I have and it was a confusing feeling. The thing I have learned about English is that to truly learn it, you need to speak it. When we learn English by speaking it out loud we can avoid the mistakes of mispronouncing words that we have only ever read in our heads. This is a primary reason I think we need to decrease teacher speaking time in class and dramatically increase student speaking time when we are teaching our students English. Just decreasing teacher speaking time isn't as easy as it sounds. We still need to teach the material, right? And give directions and feedback and reinforcement. It can seem like there is no place to decrease our speaking time because we have so much to say! I'm not saying we stop doing these things in our classes, I'm just saying we need to be more selective in the way we do them. I currently teach at a high school in Japan as an ALT and one of the things I have found is that when students are talking more (in English!) they are learning more. I try to start all my classes off with an activity. I am there to be fun as well! Activities can be great for getting students to associate new words with English words or to just get students communicating. One of the activities I like to do for communication is a conversation train. When you do this activity for the first time it will take longer to explain but once they know the format they are ready to go. I start by writing my question in English on the whiteboard and then reading it out loud. I then give and example of what I want by answering the question and then asking the question to my JTE for them to answer. This model helps the students understand what I am asking for as well as to start thinking of how they want to structure their own response. After a minute or two of "think time" they stand next to their partner in their row and ask and answer the question to each other. When everyone has shared with their partner one row will rotate forward one and the front student rotates to the back. They now have another partner to share with! I usually do this a few times and I wander around the class listening. This makes students more confident in their answer because they are saying the same thing multiple times. I like this activity because I get to have all students speaking from the beginning of class and not just responding to me one at a time. Another way I get students speaking more in my class is by having them talk with a partner a lot. When I do new things with my students I will of course have them repeat what I say so they can hear how I am pronouncing a word or phrase and I can hear how the class is saying the same. I can catch common mistakes in general this way but I can not catch everything. When I have them work in pair discussions or answers I can wander the room and listen to them individually. When they do worksheets I have them work alone for a time but then I almost always have them check their work with a partner so I can again wander around the room and listen to how they are pronouncing words or using the sentences. Then I will correct the worksheet together as a class and have them repeat the correct answer. I could just have them work alone and then correct mistakes from the front without 1-on-1 interaction but are they really learning to communicate in the language that way? I think not. If they are only ever seeing and hearing the language they will be less successful at truly being able to speak it because they have never had the chance. The most important thing we can do for our students is give them the ability to communicate in English. Primarily students will need to speak English and therefore it is our responsibility to give them the best environment to make them successful. That environment has to involve a large amount of talking and to do that we as teachers must be talking less in the classroom. It is a joy to see my students speaking to me and knowing they are communicating their ideas. They may not always have perfect grammar but honestly neither do I.