Teach English in Huangbai Zhen - Yueyang Shi

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I began this course with the goal of acquiring some essential information about teaching English language as a preparation for my internship of teaching English at a Chinese middle school. In this essay, I would like to reflect on my first-hand teaching experience in relation to what I have learnt in this course. Classroom management is a large topic that cannot be satisfactorily summarized in a couple of pages. Therefore, in this essay, I will focus on two aspects – eye contact and gestures – which helped me the most in conducting my first lessons. Eye contact and gestures are visible elements highlighting the teacher’s presence and engagement in the classroom. However, they also possess other functions that can influence the pace and difficulty of the lesson and the engagement and motivation of the students. Keeping in mind what I had learnt in this course about the “power” of eye contact, I applied that knowledge in my first class, e.g. to hold students’ attention, to encourage contributions, and to indicate that something is correct (with a nod of the head). I found that the indication that something is correct is a widely-sought response from all of my students. When answering a question, many students prefer to avoid looking at me directly; however, once they struggle or are unsure of their response, they turn to me for approval. Nevertheless, eye contact together with a nod goes beyond this approval, it also gives encouragement to the students to continue. Moreover, I discovered it helps to build rapport with the students; it is proof that you as a teacher are listening to them and are interested in what they are saying. Such rapport and encouragement can further develop into motivation to be more active, or, at least, less shy. I have noticed the development of one very shy student, who over the course of weeks became less and less reluctant to speak in front of other students. Gestures are as much of an importance as eye contact. They are a great element to the class, making it more effective. With regards to the information and tips I have learnt in this course, I thought about how gestures can reinforce instructions. I applied one particular gesture – raising a hand – in relation to asking who would like to volunteer to answer a question or act out an activity. I believe that this gesture is effective on three levels: 1) it is a supporting visual tool, further interpreting the message of my assignment to the students; 2) it demonstrates the physical movement required of the students to signal they want to volunteer; 3) it reduces my role as a teacher in that particular activity – in other words, I make the same movement the students often have to make, therefore, it puts me at their level and makes me more approachable. Another great use of gestures is to convey the meaning of language. Sometimes when words are not enough, it is helpful to use gestures to further illustrate and explain the meaning. Even if the meaning of a new word does not need a physical representation, it creates a stronger connection between a word and its meaning, and thus make it easier for the students to memorize. I like to project the use of gestures into games, especially a pantomime. It is not only a great way to revise and strengthen students’ knowledge of vocabulary, but it is also a useful tool for the teacher – seeing the students acting out vocabulary can give me good understanding of how the students interpret certain vocabulary or activities and which gestures they connect them with. I can apply the same gestures in the future to make it easier for the students to understand. Before doing this course, I thought that the success to a good lesson is lesson planning: having a plan with points for each activity and the flow of class surely must ensure that the lesson will be successful. Lesson planning truly is important, as the design of this course – repetitive revising of ESA lesson-planning – would illustrate. Nevertheless, there is more to teaching than merely having a plan. Connecting with the students, creating a motivating and encouraging environment and many other aspects are an inseparable part to a successful lesson. In this essay, I used the examples of eye contact and gestures to not only demonstrate what I had learnt in this course and how I applied it in practice, but also, perhaps, to bring more attention to the minor aspects of teaching, which are of no less importance than, for example, lesson planning. And while there are many more aspects to classroom management, I believe that this short essay has established that even small details matter and can make a great impact on the class and the students.