Teach English in JingjijishukAifAqutonghailu Guanlichu - Yueyang Shi

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During my first semester in college, my teachers arranged for my classmates and me to visit a special historic site relevant to our studies. I will never forget that two and a half hour bus ride. A guest teacher lectured on the history of the site we were soon to explore. While a number of my friends quickly drifted to sleep, I politely sat and tried to listen respectfully. But though I love history, even I couldn’t focus on his dull droning. I watched the landscape and daydreamed while trying to appear engaged. Yes, the trip was memorable, but not a single word of the soporific speech. Thankfully several delightful tour guides on site saved the excursion by making the historic setting come to life. As teachers we should strive to reduce the amount of time we talk, therefore increasing the amount of engaged learning time for our students. Often the majority of words spoken, even by exceptionally dynamic speakers, pass through our consciousness and slip into oblivion never more to be recalled. Some teachers may be gifted speakers, but certainly not all. Also, research show that personally engaging in an activity rather than merely hearing it increases our memory of the topic. Sensory learning shouldn’t be confined to just preschool, but can span all ages. Megan Fitzgerald points this out in an article entitled Engaging Multiple Senses Helps Humans Learn. She states, “You can retain more information when you use more senses.” So how can we incorporate this into our classrooms? First of all, plan ahead. Know the material you will teach. Keep board work to an absolute minimum unless using it to draw students in. Plan activities that help students master and perfect their skills, especially assignments that can be accomplished in pairs or groups. Organization and proper planning helps decrease much of the time traditionally devoted to lectures or mere filler talking. Also, keep the classroom atmosphere warm, friendly, and supportive. Set the tone on the very first day of class, and continue setting the tone the first few minutes of every class. Use Warmers and Engage activities to get students talking. When the classroom becomes a safe place to have fun, be natural, and make mistakes without suffering humiliation, students will keep talking. As they engage more, the time teachers spend speaking naturally decreases. Another useful way to decrease teacher talk time is to ask questions. But just asking questions does not necessarily decrease teacher talk time. Teachers must learn to wait for students to answer. At first waiting may feel uncomfortable to teachers who are not used to it, but 30 seconds or a full minute is not too long to wait. Students need time to formulate their answers in their minds. If they know the teacher is comfortable waiting for them, they will not feel so rushed or pressured to answer too quickly which in turn can lead to mistakes and embarrassment. When students feel comfortable knowing they can think through their answer, they are more likely to engage when given the opportunity. Also, direct questions at individual students instead the whole class. If a student knows he is the one expected to answer, he will not be afraid to speak for fear of interrupting someone else who decides to answer at the same time. Also be sensitive to whether a student really does not know or is unsure of the answer. At such times, rather than answering the question yourself, ask another student to help the first one – maybe one sitting close so they can discuss the answer together before telling the rest of the class. Sometimes teachers can eliminate their own time talking by involving students in the teaching process. One particularly useful strategy is to assign different sections of lesson material to different groups of students in the same class. Students really enjoy this, and everyone gets involved. Naturally students figure out who is good at what, and often assign or volunteer for roles accordingly – the shyer ones write on the board or assist in demonstrations and the more outgoing students present more of the information to the rest of the class. Even if some students speak less in front of the entire class, they usually tend to say more within the safety of their group during their planning time. This technique works especially well when reviewing material in preparation for a test. Finally, keep all explanations and instructions as clear and concise as possible. Find the most simple, straightforward way to tell students what you expect. The very best way to do this, whenever possible, is by demonstration. Be creative – nearly everything can be demonstrated! If you want the students to do a role play, demonstrate the first step or two. If you want the students to complete an assignment, complete the first couple questions on the board. If you want the students to create a poster or brochure or advertisement, show them an example. Never forget that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a demonstration is worth ten thousand. These ideas by no means exhaust all the possible ways we can reduce teacher talk time, therefore increasing the amount of engaged learning time for our students. As we incorporate sensory learning, use paired and group activities, keep the tone of the classroom happy and safe, ask questions, and even let our students become teachers, we will greatly reduce the amount of time we talk and significantly increase our students’ active learning. All these ideas will hopefully inspire even more ways to engage every student to head down the exciting path of learning.