Thursday, 17 February 2011


Thursday 17th February 2011

MP3 track of the day: Say (all I need) - One Republic

Weather: Hot

I would have liked to announce that, this morning, I awoke to the sound of birds sing and a cool breeze floating through my window. Instead I was awoken by a pneumatic drill and it was already extremely hot. I got up, extended my stay for a further two nights, and made my way to the same restaurant I was in last night. Before starting my English revision I ordered a chocolate pancake (which wasn't great) and I got out my diary and my Chinese guidebook.

I thought to myself that I could see, all I wanted to see, within China in thirty days. If I entered China on the 2nd April that would give me eleven days to visit the region of Kunming and Hong Kong. I would then be in Shanghai for six nights which would leave me twelve days to visit Leshan (location of the largest Buddha in the world), Xi'an (terracotta warriors) and Beijing to see the Great Wall of China. There isn't anything I'm missing is there? I don't want to rush China as I don't know when I'll be able to go back; I think I'll have to make my mind up when I reach Xi'an; if all is going well I could be home by the 1st May, which would save me a pile of cash. If I love china I may extend my stay … who knows!

I closed my diary and got on with my jobs for the day. My first module for the day – module six – was all about teaching pronunciation. This is a lot more complicated than it sounds as there are quite a dew words, within the English language, that are spelt differently but sound similar (for example 'sheep' and 'ship'). What's more the stress of the sentence can change dramatically depending on the context of the sentence. The stress within the sentence 'I bought a car last week' could be on any of the words, apart from 'a':

  • I bought a car last week. - (It wasn't my brother who did it)

  • I bought a car last week. - (Not sold; I had sold my old car the week before)

  • I bought a car last week.- ('Car' would normally be stressed if the speaker were presenting this as news to someone. A more emphatic stress may be placed on 'car' if it means: "you thought I'd bought a bike, but it was actually a car").

  • I bought a car last week. - (Not the week before as they told you)

  • I bought a car last week.- (Not last month; the emphatic stress it could also mean "it's been a week since I bought it and you still don't know about it!")

This section shows how complicated English really is; it's quite amazing to think that, most of us, use it perfectly everyday. This section will require a lot of thought before trying to teach it.

Probably the most difficult of all sections to get right, module seven dealt with error correction. It gave a lot of good ideas including making sure that you don't 'over correct' and instead only focus on correcting errors that are to do with the lesson. For example if the lesson is to learn past, present and future tenses it would be unwise to correct a students spelling. Also it seems important to check for 'correction patterns' within a students work. For example if students are writing 'I has been to work' instead of 'I have' then a 'past tense' lesson should be planned. This section is all about correcting your students mistakes without damaging their enthusiasm.

Module eight focused on teaching speaking and writing. There were loads of useful ideas which revolved around group work for speaking exercises (e.g. within groups discuss your favorite pop star and why) and individual work for writing exercises (e.g. Ask students to put the pictures on the blackboard into a short story). After both of these exercises are completed it seems like a good idea to bring the class together to talk through the results (e.g. Hands up who likes 'x' pop star and why) and to go through any apparent errors that most of the class suffer from. Like I said, there are loads of ideas within this module so I can see me revisiting these notes in the weeks to come.

Module nine was listening and reading. It appears that 'concept questions' will become extremely important in investigating whether a student has learn't what they were either reading, or listening to. For example, if a weather report was played over the radio, a few concept questions could be:

  • what is the weather for Phnom Penh?

  • Is it going to be sunny in Siem Reap today?

  • What is the average temperature?

It's probably best if these concept questions are given out before the student listens to the weather report; this is so the student knows what information they should be listening out for. Again questions about any text, the students are asked to read, could be given out beforehand and the answers debated at the end of the lesson.

Lesson planning was next; module ten gave guidance on lesson planning which included a blank 'lesson plan' document. I can see that lesson planning will be extremely vital if I'm going to keep the lesson focused and keep my students stimulated. I have a feeling that most of my evenings will be spent planning for the day after.

The final two modules focused on games that can be played within the classroom (module eleven) and preventing cultural mistakes (module twelve). You know, depending on the age of my students, I think I might finish each of my lessons with a game. Give my students something to look forward too. After finishing reading through my notes I went back through my guidebook to read about the cultural issues within South East Asia. My main worries are touching someones head (as the head is the most scared part of the body and shouldn't be touched) and secondly, but more of a worry, is using my left hand to point at students (The left hand shouldn't really be used, which is a bit of a bugger as I'm left handed).

After this I finished my drink (a vanilla shake … very nice indeed) and headed out of the restaurant having been there for eight hours. The time was 5pm and I hadn't got a clue what I was going to do next which didn't evolve spending money or getting hot. I racked my brain and failed to think of things; in the end I went for a short walk to KFC to purchase a drink. I used the walk to try to let all the information I had gained, over the last couple of days, sink in. Did I feel more comfortable about teaching English? A little, but not as much as I thought I would. Re-reading my notes had helped a little but actually knowing where I could find additional information, on certain individual topics relating to teaching English, was the biggest benefit of my revision.

I left KFC and pondered back over to my guesthouse; I went for tea at the restaurant I had spent most of the day in before finally heading for an early night reading my book. I haven't got a scooby-doo (clue … I'll teach my students that saying as well) what I'm going to do tomorrow. I may inquire into tuk-tuk prices to the Khmer Rouge killing fields however, winning my internal vote, is actually coming back to the restaurant and just reading my book. I hadn't had a 'book reading day' since I was in Quebec City, Canada, awaiting my train to Halifax, Nov Scotia. It sounds like a waste of a day but I'm looking forward to it.

Toodle Pip!

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