Teaching in China: Slow Down! Speak Slowly! Keep Trying!

teaching English in China through dance

In my class today, I received some helpful advice for teaching in China.  I had asked for feedback from our team leader on how to improve our English instructions. She kindly told me that I had to speak slowly.  So, this would be my theme for the day:  Slow down, give students time to process the sentences and think of an answer.

The Category Game gets our students excited

The Category Game gets our students excited about learning English and enables us to learn about the ladies’ lives.

We started with an exercise on words that rhymed. As an example, the class would think of words that rhymed with “coat” and then I wrote them on the computer and the students wrote them on their notepads.  If there were words that some students didn’t know, we worked to find a definition or a picture of the word.  We did several rounds and each round had a different word to rhyme with.  After this game, we worked on their pronunciations.  I gave each student a paragraph and then the students practiced reading it aloud.  Along the way, we worked on both pronunciation and comprehension. Each student was given a chance to read before the class and the ladies were gaining some confidence and were not quite as shy.  Following this, I had a deck of cards and on each card was a question.  The students reflected on a life experience, and then, articulated it in a sentence.  With this task, I learned about the women in the room, and it was interesting to hear their stories. Our English teaching in China has opened up doors that we’d never see as an average tourist.

square dance on way to teaching in China

Scenes on my way to school: Three of our students lead a square dance in Green Lake Park.

In the afternoon, we combined the three groups into one larger group. This technique allowed the volunteers to meet the other students and it also gave a different dynamic in the room.  Rich lectured on the way that coffee is grown and he had many pictures to support his talk.  He described the pictures effectively and used them to convey the various concepts.  After Rich discussed coffee, I showed the group pictures of our town, Ouray Colorado.  I explained the types of activities that we liked to do in our free time and also allowed me to use photos that I had on hand.

The famous Cross-the- bridge Rice Noodles in Kunming - delicious!

The famous Cross-the- bridge Rice Noodles in Kunming -delicious!

Shek talked about his family too. Shek has a unique history since he actually immigrated to the United States 50 years ago from Hong Kong. His ability to speak Mandarin greatly enhanced his talk as he could translate words as necessary.

Our most enthusiastic hour with the students involved the category game. This game was fashioned something like the game show called “$10,000 Pyramid” that I had watched as a child.  The person in the hot seat was given a category and then another team member had to describe various words that were members of that particular category.  The clue to the word couldn’t be used in the description either.  As an example, the students were given the category of “Types of Furniture” and a list of 6 words that were actual pieces of furniture (sofa, desk, chair, table, dresser, coffee table). Then, one by one, a student would try to get the person in the hot seat to say the word by describing it. The students were very excited. They worked very hard and we were very loud!  We awarded a small notebook to each member of the winning team.

Last, the students asked if we could teach them an English song. Since none of the volunteers actually have children, this request was complicated.  However, I was prepared and I played two songs that I enjoyed as a child:  “Up Up and Away” and “Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head”.

It was a very memorable day teaching in China!

– by Karen, China Volunteer

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