Teach English in Wanjindian Zhen - Zhumadian Shi

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Teaching beginner students in the elementary level can be very satisfactory, difficult, entertaining, and enjoyable. Throughout this year of teaching English in Japan, I have taught elementary school students in a one on one setting, as well as large classes containing up to 40 students in the classroom. Each situation has its own positives and negatives within the class. The level and grade of the students also factor into the differences. Even if the students were of the same grade, depending on the school, the students would not know certain content given. After I arrived as the new ALT (Assistant English Language Teacher), the knowledge gap with the students that had an ALT before compared to those who did not, seemed to be very apparent. Each ALT has their own teaching style, so each school that I went to had different learning styles or rules within the class. One on one classes are very easy to handle and require the teacher to constantly be communicating with the student. Since it is just one student, evaluation is easier, and the teacher can constantly check how the student is learning the content. Getting to know the student and building rapport with them happens naturally as you teach them. Communication with the student is constant, so the teacher has all the time to learn their strengths and weaknesses, their interests, and how to engage them throughout the lesson with activities that involve stories, information, or even characters that they like. My student particularly liked cars, so I brought material that had various car brands. This helped create interest for the student and they were more engaged throughout. The negatives of a one on one is that the student can only talk to the teacher to practice their English during the lesson. Sometimes conversation can be very repetitive because the student is still a beginner and cannot form many sentences in English. Group classes can be very dramatic, high paced, slow, and loud. This all depends on the classroom management of the homeroom teacher and the ALT, but usually elementary classes in Japan are super noisy or the opposite, dead silent. When the classroom management is successful, the students are always focused on communicating in English and on completing an activity. They are always ready to listen, and apply the lesson’s grammar point or goal given. When the students are focused like this, it made the class high paced, and the day’s lesson plan was usually completed successfully. On the other hand, it was impossible to move on from one activity to the next when the class had no classroom management. Even getting through the greeting of the class, demonstration of a worksheet/activity, or asking simple questions for them to answer was very difficult. In the beginning, I was constantly yelling over them because I thought that was what I needed to do at the time. The students took no reaction to that. However, once I decided to do the quiet response, the students would realize something was wrong. The time it took for them to get used to it was very extensive. However, once the students established that they need to be quiet when I counted down from five and did the silent gesture, they started to listen. The loud classes still have a hard time getting all the students to understand the activity’s directions, even after demonstrating and giving instructions one to two times. The positives of a loud big classroom is that students are not afraid to all yell at the same time, especially when using a gap fill activity. The shy students are also given a chance at that time to speak what is on their mind, even if it is not out loud to the whole class by themselves. When there are many students in a class, there are usually a couple of students that are confident in English, who always try to speak out. It is great seeing them involving themselves in the classroom as much as they can. However, it will seem like you are only teaching that one person, if you do not focus on teaching the whole group and not the individual. There are countless other positives and negatives in each setting, but from my experience, this is what I felt affected me the most when teaching. One on one could be quiet and boring, while groups could be loud and enthusiastic. One on one could be fast paced, while groups could be slow paced. Each class could have different pros and cons depending on the homeroom teacher, their classroom management, and the level of students within the class. Teachers need to learn the positives of both and apply those facts into their lessons. This is so that each type of class can learn as much content as possible within the given amount of time. Understanding the negatives will prevent the teacher from making mistakes that could affect the English learning of the students. In the end, I enjoy both types of classes. Through the experiences and mistakes that I make from teaching every day, I constantly learn and reflect how I can teach better in each type of situation.