Teach English in Yongxing Zhen - Zhumadian Shi

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During my short career as an English tutor in Hong Kong, I have taught local children from elite schools who are highly confident in communicating in English, as well as children from the Mainland China who tend to be shy and fearful of using English. Regardless of which group of students I teach, I find that story-telling can be very powerful in creating interests and boosting confidence among students, as well as improving their language ability in a natural and enjoyable way. This essay will discuss the advantages and the design of classroom activities for children using story telling. Learning a foreign language used to equate a heavy amount of memorization and pen-and-paper drills in Asian culture. However, in the past decade, more and more educators have recognized the value of story telling in sparking genuine interests in learning English among young students. Stories are an effective way to draw children's attention in the classroom, while introducing them to vocabulary, grammar and sentence structures that they are unfamiliar with. While the traditional textbook approach focuses on presenting information and concepts that children are expected to memorize and use in their homework and assessments, stories invite children to enter an imaginative world and in the process, question the meanings of words and grammatical structures that prevent them from understanding the stories. The active process of finding out what a word or a grammatical structure means help students take ownership of their learning journey; and this is often a much more effective learning approach than passively listening to a teacher explain new words and grammar. By actively engaging students' brain and interests, stories can potentially help students learn a language faster in a natural way, given that relevant class activities are carried out corresponding to the story. This leads us to the second part of the essay: how do we design class activities based on a story? In my personal teaching practice, I often ask my students to draw pictures as we read a story. It can be a drawing based on the description of a character or an object in the story. This not only makes the story telling time more fun and interactive but it actually tests students' understanding of the story. Sometimes students may ask for explanation of certain words as they draw. After drawing a picture, it is usually helpful to ask students to label different parts in order to reinforce the vocabulary learnt. For older children, they can copy the descriptions directly from the text; while younger children may appreciate the teacher spelling certain difficult words for them. At the end of the drawing exercise, students will be asked to explain their drawing and this can be a good speaking practice. At this point the teacher can jot down words that student have problems pronouncing, and do 3x3 drills with them at the end of the drawing activity. Another good classroom activity is role play and this is perfect for the activation phase when the students have listened to the story. Students can be split into a few groups and the teacher can assign different scenes to each group to act. For younger students, the teacher may need to give out scripts for students to read out. For the older students with higher language ability, the teacher can ask the students to work on a script in their groups. When it gets too hard, the teacher can also give them some prompt words and phrases to work with. This is a good group practice to reinforce vocabulary, pronunciation and sentence structures learnt during story telling. To ensure students' understanding of the teaching points, worksheets are always helpful. To consolidate students' knowledge of vocabulary learnt from the story, teachers can prepare fill in the blanks questions or ask students to write sentences using the new words. To test students' understanding of the text, teachers can ask students to label a number of pictures with names of the corresponding characters or objects. Finally, for older students, a reflective or imaginative essay can be a good writing exercise as classwork or homework.