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rethinking oral English

Published on September 18, 2011, by in Uncategorized.

summer in Chengdu – alley I made a mistake recently:  I tried to “teach” question forms and vocabulary in my Oral English class.  I knew shortly after I began the lesson, presenting one carefully-prepared PowerPoint slide after another, that I was on the wrong track.  For one thing, my explanations weren’t well thought-out or very clear; it was a mish-mash of the “W” question words everyone knows (who, what, when, where, why, which) and general guidelines for how to request information in English in both basic and polite forms.  It was a yawn.  My students’ eyes began to glaze over, and I realized that I was boring myself with my own lesson. What went wrong?  First of all, it was a Monday morning. I remarked to my students, “You look tired today.”  They did; they are mostly engineers for a Chinese company, required to attend a month of English classes for 42 class periods a week.  They only have one free day, Sunday.  Second, I teach two groups of 38 students, a huge class size for an oral or conversation class. Shortly after I left class, after returning the laptop computer and remote control for the projector to the A.V. department, I decided to rethink my entire approach to teaching Oral English. In 5 years of teaching in China, I’ve begun to wonder if you can “teach” speaking.  Many of my classes have been geared toward test preparation, which means drilling students in vocabulary and sample responses for oral exams.