Wednesday, April 4, 2012

...English in China...(revised)

The students and teaching staff at Gaoxin No. 2 Primary School have certainly made me feel welcome in their classrooms.  The English teaching department consists of 8 Chinese women and 2 foreign men (1 British, 1 American).  They share a common office which allows for collaboration and team building between their scheduled classes.  I have observed that these teachers, like their American counterparts, have several additional duties, such as monitoring students during the daily naptime, helping to serve lunch, and supervising Saturday sports activities. 

The school has graciously allowed me to spend time observing the teaching methods, reviewing the English text books, answering questions the teachers have relating to specific vocabulary, and, overall, researching the process of building partnerships between Chinese and foreign teachers/student teachers.  Additionally, several teachers have asked me to assist in their classrooms with games, storytelling and listening comprehension.

These students are doing their daily eye relaxation exercises.  Mood music and counting is broadcast over the school intercom.  I am told this practice was implemented many years ago due to the tendency toward nearsightedness that is found in this population.  Apparently, it has been found to be beneficial. 

These 1st graders are playing a game.  The teacher reads a new vocabulary word and the students in this team would race to the board to be the first to point to the correct word.  The students wear uniforms on certain days, and they wear their red scarves every day.

This student was happy to pose with her top ranking test.  The teacher in this class handed back the tests in order from highest grade to lowest grade.  This seems to be standard practice, even in higher grades.  Even college entrance exam scores are posted publicly. 

Miss Jane is the director of the English department.  In this classroom, she is teaching 5th graders the months of the year.  Their homework assignment is to make a birthday chart representing their family members' birthdays.  She has been very helpful in coordinating a schedule for me that allows me to work with various teachers and grade levels.
The director loaned me the textbooks that this school uses.  The texts include dialogues, rhymes, songs, pictures and lists of vocabulary.  Some teachers use supplemental cassette tapes and DVDs during the lessons.

Some of the students are a bit shy, but very willing to participate in new games.  The biggest challenge for me has been finding ways to include the less confident students.  With nearly 60 students in the classroom, and 35 minutes to teach an English lesson, finding ways to engage every student has been my biggest hurdle.  <revised: Grades 1 and 2 have 4 English classes/week with Chinese teachers and 1 class/week with a foreign teacher.  Grades 3-6 have 3 English classes/week with Chinese teachers and 1 class/week with a foreign teacher.  The older students have less time for English because they begin preparing for the extremely important examination that determines the quality of their middle school experience.>
Another challenge for me is to avoid falling off this little stage while teaching!  The platform seems needful given the quantity of students in the room.
This 1st grade boy writes the Chinese characters for the English phrase his teacher has written.  The grammar-translation method of teaching English is the primary model employed in these classrooms.
These 5th grade students practice phrases and dialogues from their text books during class.
This is the main courtyard at the Primary School.  There are several buildings connected by covered walkways.
These students are eager to answer the teacher's question.  I notice the teachers here all use some method of positive reinforcement.  Although several students will never volunteer to speak, many jump out of their seats in an effort to be recognized and it seems the one who calls out the loudest gets the teacher's attention.

Miss Ruby taught the students an acronym to help them remember the spelling for family: Father And Mother I Love You.

These students mop the teachers' office on Friday.

Stella and Pepe met some new friends at lunchtime.


  1. Wow!! Lots of interesting observations! I am surprised they only have the classes twice a week for 35 minutes each!

    1. Yes, I was surprised too. Actually, this school is one of the most affluent in the province and they have English classes sooner than some other primary schools, I've been told. Also, one teacher here told me they used to have longer classes (50-55 minutes) but the school decided to have them spend more time on practicing Chinese, so the English class periods were shortened. Thanks for your comment.

    2. Your comment made me double check with another English teacher at the school. Gave me the revised information regarding the amount of English instruction the students receive. She said, however, that they just had heard that the revised standards for the middle school exam will place significantly less emphasis on English instruction and more on Chinese and Math. She said that some parents don't always support the students' learning English because they feel it isn't important for the purpose of the all important examinations.

  2. Why do the kids always wear a red scarf?

  3. According to a variety of websites, including wikipedia, wearing red scarves is a requirment for all public school students in China. It is the symbol of the Young Pioneers of China, a youth organization for Chinese children ages 6-14. The high school students do not wear them here at Gaoxin No. 1 High School, although, as you can see, they do have blue and white uniforms. I don't think the schools I've been at are extremely strict, since I've seen several students without their scarves. The teachers have asked about whether students in America wear uniforms.