Classes are long done, and students are off at home (being bored) so I thought now would be a good time to give you a peek into what a typical class looks like.
Here is a picture of the students all being quiet and well behaved. I’ll be honest and admit that they are not always like this. Usually there are at least 2 girls whispering back and forth and a few kids with their noses in their cell phones (probably texting about how awesome class is *cough*). But this was writing class and they had just started writing a letter to their American pen-pal (something they are all really into) so they were particularly absorbed in writing.
Speaking class is a different ball game. The students should be quiet and attentive while I’m talking, but the point of the class is to get them talking, so the room can get a little lively, especially when we are doing an activity.
With 30 students it is hard to find the time where they can each speak individually, as class is only 2 hours, so we do a lot of group work. This is what the classroom usually looks like:
In this class, students were creating puppets out of socks, as well as a storyline, to perform for the class.
By the end of the period their group had to come to the front and perform their puppet play.
In a good class (like this one) the rest of the students watch and listen closely. (In a bad class they ignore their classmates and read a book or check their phones. Luckily I had very few bad classes.)
Of course speaking class can get a bit out of hand when we do something special like have a party, and trying to keep order in a class of 30, hepped-up, sugar-highed teens can be rough. (Like this party which started a little food fight.) In those situations it takes a firm control by the teacher to get everyone calm enough to get back on track.
But sometimes class can get out of hand in a good way, and as a teacher the best thing to do is step back, disappear, and let the class go by itself. That happened once during an interview class. We discussed interview etiquette and tips. I thought it would be good practice for the future.
As for the interviewers, I gave them a list of the most common interview questions but gave them free reign to ask whatever they wanted. This class was really successful, and pretty fun. Questions were asked, answered, and jobs were awarded or not. But in one class they really broke out of the box towards the end. They decided to make one boy, an especially quiet and shy guy, sing a song for the interview. He chose a romantic song and it was clear he was embarrassed to do it, but he started mumbling through it anyway. Meanwhile, the other ‘company’ was also interviewing another male student, but they fell silent when the first boy started singing, which made him feel even more nervous and sing even more quietly.
To help him the other interviewee started singing along too. Then some of the other students quietly joined in. They all helped the first boy complete the song, and afterwards everyone gave a rousing cheer. That basically opened the floodgates. From then on, the interviews all required singing and dancing, and surprisingly, collaboration. There were only about 2 interviews left, but the candidates teamed up and did duel singing and dancing routines. Here’s one of my favorite:
(I know it’s sideways people, sorry. This is my first attempt at uploading a video on Youku–China’s YouTube–and clearly something went wrong. I’ll try to fix it when I come back from traveling.)
The amazing thing was during this whole time they were still speaking English. They were talking to each other, asking questions and joking around, and almost seemed like they forgot I was there (I purposefully stepped back and stayed uninvolved) but they kept marching on speaking English and continuing with the interviews, even as they got sillier and sillier (which is when they usually revert to Chinese).
I think those classes are the most successful. They are having fun, enjoying speaking English, and using words in a common, spontaneous way which is more natural than the endless dialogues and vocab they drill in other classes. And it’s also wicked fun for the teacher and that’s the important thing, right?!