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Issue 20: Slide Away

By Helen LING (ELED Year 5, 2016-2017)

Bleakness of winter lingers
Dazzling white’s everywhere
Impalpable luminescence of the sneaky Sun dissolves
Behind the bough the moon looms, drunk
Flock of ravens flutter away
As the ghastly wind slaps all day
Lads sliding themselves away
from the white slope.
My feet nailed to the slush
Having my mind groped.

Helen's photo

January 6, 2017   No Comments

Issue 20: The Caterpillar, Feifei’s Travelogue – Whitby

By Renee CHAU (ELED Year 4, 2016-2017)

Whitby 1Whitby hi

Hi everyone! I am Feifei. Do you like travelling? I do! What? How can I travel with these tiny legs? Don’t underestimate girls’ power and, well, you have forgotten that I have a reliable buddy, Miss R! She always brings me along while travelling. She squeezes me into her small black handbag, and sometimes into her crammed pink backpack. I am not complaining though! You know, someday when I turn into a butterfly, I will invite her for a ride in return. If I haven’t remembered wrong, she hates riding a roller coaster, so we will see! Well, don’t think that I am a mischievous caterpillar; I am very elegant and kind. Anyway, I am bringing you to one of my favourite places in the UK. Are you ready? Follow me! IT’S WHITBY! Woohooo! Well, I am in the backpack again.

~ [Read more →]

January 6, 2017   No Comments

Issue 20: My Little Dandelion

By Chloe KWONG (ELED Year 4, 2016-2017)

Chloe's photo
I had a little dandelion
In my small precious garden.
I gave it fertile soil, you gave it a little water.
I gave it plenty of light, you gave it a bit of wind.
I loved this dandelion so much
As it was for you and me.
I tried to grow it well
And let our seeds spread further.
Yet one day you said, [Read more →]

January 5, 2017   No Comments

Issue 20: Letters by Her

By Crystal LAM (ELED Year 3, 2016-2017)

Part One (Joanne’s Point of View)
Crystal's photo

You Were My Backup Plan.
Our parents were best friends so we had known each other since the day we were born.
I always thought that if I weren’t able to get married by the age of thirty,
I would marry you and be your wife. [Read more →]

January 5, 2017   No Comments

Issue 20: My Days in Heidelberg

By Trista TANG (ELED Year 3, 2016-2017)

Heidelberg

In August, I went to Heidelberg in Germany on a one-month summer exchange programme. I took an elementary German course at the University of Heidelberg. I was arranged to live in one of the student dormitories. Since it was far from the campus, taking a bus for about 30 minutes to school was necessary. The lessons were held on weekdays, from 9:15 to 12:45. After class, there were some optional cultural activities and workshops. I joined some of them and also left some time for exploring Heidelberg. At weekends, I could either take part in excursions organized by the school or travel to other cities on my own. I joined the excursions to the Black Forest, Strasbourg and Bodensee during the first two weekends. At the third weekend, I took a three-day trip to Berlin with my friends. All the weekends were memorable and I got the chance to explore different parts of Germany. This was definitely a rewarding and eye-opening experience. After joining the programme, I have gained a better understanding of the local university life, environmental conservation and food culture.

[Read more →]

January 5, 2017   No Comments

Special Issue (Nanhai 2015): Close Yet Different

By Miranda Chiang (Year 4, 2014-2015) and Bonnie Huang (Year 5, 2014-2015)

Nanhai is a place geographically quite near to Hong Kong. Yet, English language teaching (ELT) style, students’ learning attitude and motivation, and many other ELT issues are quite different from Hong Kong. We still remember how funny the scene was when we expressed our gratitude by saying Mandarin “Xiexie” to the immigration officers and they replied us in Cantonese, which fully demonstrated that in fact we had few ideas about how Nanhai was like before the tour, not to mention the education system there.

 

ELT in Nanhai

We were stimulated to reflect on various issues concerning English Language Teaching during the study tour, including the purpose of teaching for every lesson, the role of teacher, the role of first language (L1) and the design of instructional materials.

 

We observed two lessons in the primary and secondary schools respectively. We were impressed that the local teachers put much effort in designing the lessons. They attempted to provide a more authentic context like going to a summer camp as a class or showing photos of students as a lead-in when teaching the module about friends; one could see that the students were engaged and motivated. We have for sure gained insights from their teaching pedagogy and teaching strategies. For example, the lessons we observed in the No. 2 Xiao Xue employed an impressive way to deal with errors made by students. Students never hesitated to answer teacher’s questions in class. After sharing their answers or ideas, teachers would invite other classmates to point out mistakes made by their peers. Although it is a bit awkward that they would use a commanding tone saying “[Name of the student], follow me!” before correcting their peers, it is to a certain extent effective in maintaining students’ attention and encouraging peer interaction. It can be seen that ELT in China is moving away from chalk and talk, but to focus more on the needs of the leaners. However, the group activities we observed were mainly reading aloud with roles in groups. Hence, we might conclude the teachers interpret the communicative purposes in a rather restricted sense with striking controlled features like reading aloud.

 

This study tour enabled us to reflect on the role of teacher and the purpose of teaching a lesson as well. When we were exchanging teaching ideas with the local English teachers, they tended to ask us “What is effective teaching and learning?/ How should a highly effective English class be like?”. Effective teaching taps into a wide range of factors such as teacher’s quality, pedagogy, instructional materials, students, assessments and so on. It is worth noting that many beginning teachers, like us, might misconceive a lesson is satisfying and has accomplished much when teachers have done a lot and many activities are squeezed into the lesson. However, it might only be “fruitful” from the teacher’s perspective since learning is not the natural consequence of teaching. The needs of the students and the objective of the lesson should therefore be the soul of a lesson plan. The role of a teacher should be more than a reporter who reports the knowledge from the textbooks to students. Our job has not completed when we have finished what want to talk in class. Being novice teachers, we might be easily confused and get lost in our own planning. A clear learning objective, therefore, can for sure keep the class to stay focused and greatly enhance the effectiveness. In short, when designing a lesson, clear and practical lesson objectives are far more crucial than packing the lessons with a lot fancy activities.

 

When compared to Hong Kong, a set of centralized textbooks is used by English teachers in Nanhoi. Agreed by the local teachers, it seems that the textbooks do not contribute much to organize coherent lessons with a logical sequence. Different parts are not closely related even if they are grouped under the same skill. Thus, when planning our own lessons, we spent most of the time on modifying the tasks so that things would not be learnt discretely. In addition, it is obvious that how we view the role of L1 is different from them. Since schools in Nanhoi only have three to four English lessons per week, their exposure to English is even less than those in Hong Kong. For practical reasons, the role of L1 is quite important in class. There were constant Chinese-English translation in class. For example, Chinese translation of the key words were provided in the PowerPoint and students needed to come up questions in English by reading a Chinese passage. It appeared to be a bit intimidating when we conducted a full English class with the students. It is always tempting to use Chinese in class because it is the most direct and convenient way. Yet, L1 should not be used out of teacher’s convenience; it can be beneficial in teaching and learning when it is used consistently and with purposes.

 

Students
            Number of Students

In the schools that we taught, there were around 45 to 50 students per class. At first, we wondered how a teacher could manage a class of 48 students during the English lesson. Later, we were all very surprised that students paid much attention in class and no students chatted with others, while the teacher mainly stood on the stage, gave instructions, and monitored the whole class. When asking the teachers why most class time was taken by them in presenting and giving instructions, it was replied that because of the class size, it was difficult to allow students to do tasks by themselves.

 

Indeed, more teacher-to-student interactions and student-to-student interactions can still be applied in a large class. For instance, pair work and group work, such as information gap task and other communicative tasks, may also be used in such big class. Apart from preventing the teacher from talking too much, students could enjoy the lesson more by actively participating in it and communicating with their friends, especially under the learning environment that English class is the only time for most students to use English in the Mainland China.

 

            Learning Attitude/ Motivation

No matter whether it was the primary school or secondary school, students’ learning motivation was generally higher than that of Hong Kong students. Since the schools that we visited were counted as a city-rural school, most students came from under-privileged families. Many of their parents needed to work all day outside, leaving their children at hometown to receive education. From the children’s eyes, receiving education, especially learning English, was a path to success and a way to improve their living in the future.

 

When chatting with the secondary school students there, it was found that they loved learning English at school since English lesson was the only time for them to learn and use the foreign language, meanwhile they knew the fact that English was extremely important in today’s world. Although they admitted that the English teaching method was quite boring, they were self-motivated to learn English so as to learn this foreign language better and perform better in the examination. Somehow, I would think that some Hong Kong students may take receiving education for granted and thus neglect how precious it is to have such learning opportunity in their life. “Why do I need to learn?” is a good question for Hong Kong students to think about.

 

Apart from giving a try to integrate theory and practice in classroom teaching, we witnessed personal growth in this 5-day tour too. 13 buddies supported one another as a group and created collective memories that are only shared among us. We also sincerely appreciated local government officials’ and teachers’ warm hospitality. We were so worried what we could show them and whether we could bring them any insight into their ELT before teaching. However, it was such a relief that they valued our ideas and opinions much. It is also to our surprise that we have actually learnt way more than we imagined when we were able to design a lesson overnight and perform well like a profession even when around 70 pairs of eyes (including the teachers) were looking at us. Seeing students’ eagerness to learn and teachers’ enthusiasm to teach further build up our passion in teaching.

 

Photo taken with Dr. Bai in No. 2 Xiao Xue (第二小學).

* Photo taken with Dr. Bai in No. 2 Xiao Xue (第二小學).

Group photo with the teachers of Qiao Bei Zhong Xue (樵北中學).

* Group photo with the teachers of Qiao Bei Zhong Xue (樵北中學).

August 19, 2016   No Comments

Special Issue (Nanhai 2015): What we have observed in Nanhai classrooms: Some insights as prospective English teachers

By Latia Wan (Year 3, 2014-2015), Kelly Lo (Year 3, 2014-2015), and Candy Wong (Year 4, 2014-2015)

Interaction within Class

In the lesson observation of both the primary school and secondary school, students were used to answering questions which were mostly structured without the need to think critically and creatively. As for the interaction between students, the communication and communicativeness are not as much as expected although they have group work in class.

 

According to our observation in the primary school, students had group work in class with high noise level. We understand that noise is unavoidable when group work is carried out; however, we believe that the noise produced in each group should not greatly affect others and should allow the teacher to monitor and comment on each group’s process. We also thought that it is necessary for teachers to give feedback on the general performance of students and point out the improvements that can be made for students’ next group work.

 

Apart from the management and feedback on group work, the content and meaning of group work should be clear during the lesson planning process. Allowing students to use their own experience and ideas is important for students to imitate the real-life communication. Although asking students to read out the conversation in textbook can be useful for them to familiarize with the vocabulary and grammar, flexibility should be catered for students to input their ideas just like in reality.

 

Classroom management

As we observed from the lessons, students are generally very obedient and attentive. Disciplinary problem does not seem to be a big concern in Nanhai teachers’ classrooms. Some interesting routines can be found in classrooms of both primary and secondary level though. Reading aloud before the class begins is a classroom routine for English lessons in the schools we visited. In the primary school we went to, groups of students recite a conversation and do role-play in front of the class each lesson whereas students in the secondary school read aloud discrete target vocabulary items and their Chinese translation before the lesson begins. It may be a useful warm-up to prepare students for the lesson yet students did not seem to have processed the words or passage they read out. They may lack a purpose when they simply read things aloud.

 

There are also various kinds of rules in the classrooms. Schools appear to be a highly formalized place where students are to obey certain rules and follow specific ways in doing things. For instance, there is a standardized way in raising hands, students are to say a specific sentence when the teacher gives a specific instruction, and there is even a writing style that everyone should follow. The habit of closely following different rules may be a reason why students appeared to be so obedient and why the classrooms were always in good order. However, whether it is always beneficial to upkeep all these rules is questionable. Precious lesson time and flexibility could be forsaken because of the maintenance of such rules. It is also debatable whether such specific rules are necessary in assisting students’ learning process.

 

Other than the use of rules, some teachers also shared about how they interact with students, build a more cooperative learning environment and motivate them to learn. One of the teachers mentioned that being willing to talk to students and share their worries is one of the ways to gain students’ trust. Since the school we visited is a boarding school, he could also spend time with his students and care for them after class. After all, trust and care towards students appear to be important factors in building teacher-student relationship without exception.

 

Flexibility of Teaching and Learning

Compared to Hong Kong, teachers in Nanhai seem to face more restrictions, therefore enjoying less flexibility, in their teaching. According to the English teachers from a secondary school in Nanhai, all teachers are required to strictly follow the flow of the textbook, even when its flow does not match the students’ needs. As teachers who do not follow the flow of the textbooks will be penalised, teachers find it necessary to teach strictly according to the textbook despite the incoherent design of the textbooks. Hence, textbooks are highly-depended in the teaching of English in Nanhai. Moreover, there are official teachers’ guides for English teachers on how to teach a certain chapter. For instance, the guide specifically indicates the order of language items to be taught, with certain teaching methods on how to teach those items. Then, teachers have to teach according to the guide, without changing anything from the guide. Thus, teachers have less freedom and autonomy in deciding or designing their own teaching materials.

 

During our discussion with the local teachers, they often express that they find it impossible to implement the teaching style demonstrated by teachers from Hong Kong, as there are a lot of restrictions that avoid them from carrying out certain learning activities or from deciding their flow of teaching. As student teachers from Hong Kong, after having experienced a few weeks of teaching practice in local schools, we enjoy a certain extent of autonomy in deciding our own flow of teaching, as long as the language items from the chapters are covered during our lessons. In Hong Kong, most teachers can decide whether they should teach a certain language item before another, after evaluating the students’ proficiency or needs. Even though teachers from Hong Kong are also given textbooks to teach, most teachers can have the flexibility to decide on their own the order of teaching, instead of being told to strictly follow every part provided by the textbooks.

 

Therefore, after observing some lessons and discussing with the local teachers, we understand that there are surely some restrictions for the local teachers that prevent them from planning relatively more coherent lessons. With limited flexibility, local teachers find it difficult or even impossible to imitate our style of teaching in Hong Kong. Yet, we believe that as student teachers from Hong Kong, we are not trying to impose the idea that our way of teaching is the best way to teach English. We are not trying to shape and mould the local teachers to teach in our way. Instead, we are showing them a different way of teaching English. Our teaching demonstration might provide them with an option or an alternative in teaching English.

 

 

Constraints of Local Teachers

We realise that there are some constraints that local teachers in Nanhai face especially when they are teaching English.

 

First, the teachers told us that students in Nanhai have relatively low exposure to English in their daily life when compared to students in Hong Kong. For example, we can often see English on the streets in Hong Kong. Yet, in Nanhai, we can hardly find anything in English, apart from English textbooks which often also include Chinese. Hence, students in Nanhai can hardly read or listen to English once they have finished having their English lessons. They also do not have any needs to write or speak English outside their classrooms. Due to their learning environment, without the genuine need to communicate in English meaningfully, most students in Nanhai find learning English extremely challenging. Hence, some local teachers find it frustrating to teach their students in English, as the students’ proficiency level is generally low, thus having no idea about what the teacher is trying to say. Teachers then gradually turn to the students’ mother tongue as a solution to the problem. During our lesson observations, we realise that most teachers use Chinese to translate their English instructions or teaching content, or even directly give instructions and explain by using Chinese.

 

Second, teachers have limited autonomy and therefore are less flexible in designing their lessons. They are required to strictly follow the flow of the textbook and the teachers’ guide. Local teachers can hardly change the flow of the lesson to suit their students’ needs, or even when they find the flow of the lessons incoherent. In spite of the limitations that the local teachers have to face, I truly appreciate the effort that the teachers have paid in trying to make their lessons more interesting to their students. For example, a primary school local teacher prepared a chant for her students, trying to suit her students’ interests and to engage them in her lesson.

 

Apart from the above constraints, there are also a lot more challenges that local teachers in Nanhai have to face. Though there are lots of restrictions and constraints for them, most teachers still strive to give their students the best that they can. They use their own knowledge and creativity, designing more interesting learning activities for their students to motivate them and to engage them in class. The countless effort paid by the local teachers in improve their teaching can never be ignored.

 

Personal Views as Prospective English Teachers in HK

In both primary and secondary schools, we realize that students were quite active in answering some structured questions from teacher whereas it is rare to find students asking questions. Personally, if students can throw questions based on what is being taught means that they are processing the knowledge and skills in deeper depth and it also provides teachers with a sense of what students want to learn. Elicitation of questions from students is not always easy, but it can be done by designing more open-ended questions and activities for students to think critically. The personality of teachers should give students the sense of comfort in asking questions, which means that teachers may not give too much pressure and act too authoritative as students may dread and stay quiet. Able to answer questions is significant in showing their understanding, but able to ask questions is more significant in showing their thinking.

August 19, 2016   No Comments

Special Issue (Nanhai 2015): Never underestimate the capability of our students!

By Claudia Chan (Year 4, 2014-2015) and Sheera Chan (Year 4, 2014-2015)

Introduction

We were happy to have joined this tour as we had deepened our understanding on the teaching and learning of English in Xi Qiao. It was also a great opportunity for teachers in different places to exchange ideas and teaching methodology.

 

Primary school visit

On the second day of the study tour, we visited Xi Qiao Number 1 Primary School and had the lesson observation in a classroom of Primary 3 students. We felt shocked at the start of the lesson as the students were very energetic. While the teacher was writing on the blackboard, a student came to the front of the classroom and led the whole class to read aloud some vocabulary in the textbook. They were very concentrated and all the students read together very loudly. During the lessons, the students were disciplined and they followed every instruction given by the teacher. It was also observed that the students in Xi Qiao Number 1 Primary School were motivated in English learning. They were eager to give response and they raised their hands to answer questions even though they might not know the exact answer. At this point, it is found that the students visited in Xi Qiao Number 1 Primary School and those in Hong Kong are a bit different. In Hong Kong, students tend not to give response to the teacher if they do not know the so-called model answers because they are afraid of being teased by their peers for giving a wrong answer. It is believed that the learning atmosphere will probably be more harmonious and positive if less emphasis is put on giving the model answers.

 

It could be observed that the teachers in Xi Qiao Number 1 Primary School were passionate about their work. The teacher who taught during the lesson observation showed us that an English lesson could be fun. She sang the song together with the students accompanied by a series of lively gestures. We could see that the students learnt the abstract concept of ‘long’, ‘short’, ‘big’ and ‘small’ successfully through singing and doing the gestures.

 

However, we thought that the teacher might teach the students to use the adjectives taught to make description instead of merely drilling students on the four words in a 40-minute lesson. The teachers might also try to conduct the lesson in English rather than using Mandarin as the medium of instruction all the time. It was shown in our teaching later that the students were able to follow the teacher and learnt well even if the teachers spoke English only throughout the lessons. The use of pictures and gestures indeed helped a lot. In our teaching, we also required the students to write a few sentences using the target language taught in that lesson – ‘it has a (adjective) (body part of the animal)’ – which they had never tried before. The teachers there told us that the Primary 3 students in Xi Qiao did not learn to write sentences. However, the teachers were surprised by the performance of their students in the lesson that they could actually write sentences following the instructions of teachers. It was very inspiring as the performance of students in the lessons showed to us that we shall never underestimate the potentials of students. Students can probably learn a lot more and perform better when the teachers have a higher expectation on them.

 

Secondary school visit

We had observed a double lesson which covered a whole unit with all the 4 skills. It was actually quite rush if the teacher had to include all the skills. However, what the class practised was that they followed entirely on the flow and exercise of the textbook. The practice of different skills lacked coherence. They were more or less drillings. The lessons focused little on the meaning and use of English but mostly on drilling the grammar patterns and repeating reading the passages aloud.

 

The biggest difference lied on the reading part. The teacher believed that reading aloud equals reading comprehension. The students were asked to read the text after the CD. However, as there were 50 students in a class, their voice totally covered the CD recording. Therefore, most of them could not learn the pronunciation of some difficult words. They were then asked to read on their own. We thought that students had to read the passage and learn the meaning, but actually, they were just reading aloud on their own. After that, the class was divided into 2 halves and they had to read aloud the text by passages. Without looking into the meaning of the text, the students were immediately given with a list of comprehension questions and were asked to answer. It was supposed to be a reading to write lesson. After “reading”, they jumped to drill on the grammar part (which they have drilled it in the previous lesson already).

 

It was quite surprised that reading aloud became the most important part in the lessons. In Hong Kong, we seldom see secondary students read through the passage again and again. In the teaching techniques we have learnt, reading aloud may not be the best choice in comprehending the text as students will just focus on the pronunciation of the words but not the meaning of them.

 

Our lesson

On the next day, we taught the same unit, the reading to write part. We planned our lesson in the flow of pre-, while- and post-reading sessions because we would like to have a clear and connected flow of the lesson.

 

For the pre-reading part, we first activated students’ schemata by asking them if they knew the famous writer, Shakespeare. We then quickly gave them some input by using pictures on the difficult words they would encounter in the following text.

 

In the while-reading part, we asked students to do scanning and detailed reading for understanding the format and the meaning of the passage. In between, we had included some activities (e.g. ordering the events by using timeline) to let them have a better idea on the text type. We thought that it would be important for them to know the text type and format so that they could write a similar passage in the later part.

 

We then bridged the students to the post-reading part which was an interesting activity. They had to work in groups. Each group had to create an event with the elements we taught. After that, all the groups had to combine the events to make a story. Group work was rare for the students there. However, they could take the chance to express and share their ideas and also take the autonomy to create something fun in the English class. We hoped they could enjoy during the lesson. Moreover, it was great for them to use the language instead of just reciting and drilling it.

 

The last part was the writing part. We did not have enough time for them to complete the writing but we had allowed them to come up with some ideas by using a mind map. Brainstorming could let students to organize their writing systematically.

 

After lesson meeting

A group of students yelled, “I feel great!” right after our lesson. They commented that it was the first time they could understand a lesson held entirely in English.

 

We had also discussed this issue with the teacher. We believed that students had the ability to understand what teacher said in class in English. Teacher could try maximize their English use. Our professor suggested that teacher should not speak any Chinese. They can type the Chinese words beside some very difficult words, or let the brighter students to tell the class. We should not underestimate students’ ability. This might help them develop a habit to listen to English in the lesson.

 

The teachers were also interested in the way we taught other skills. We had shown them some other lessons’ materials and plan. They were impressed by our creativity and variety of lessons.

 

Conclusion

Every place has its own culture and policies on English teaching. Regardless of Hong Kong or Xi Qiao, it is undoubtedly that both are examination-oriented. They are more textbook-bounded which teachers cannot deviate or adapt any parts of the textbooks while teachers in Hong Kong receive more freedom to create their own lessons.

 

In this trip, we found that a relaxing and anxiety-free environment is important for students to learn a foreign language. Teachers should be encouraging and supporting so that students are not afraid of using the language or making mistakes. Moreover, teachers should always believe in their students and never underestimate their ability. Sometimes, teachers can give out challenges to students in order to strengthen them.

August 19, 2016   No Comments

Special Issue (Nanhai 2015): Discovering the differences of learning and teaching style between two cities

By Alvina So (Year 4, 2014-2015) and Casper Wong (Year 4, 2014-2015)

After five days of study tour in Nanhai, we have discovered the differences of the learning and teaching style in Hong Kong and in the Mainland. It was a valuable experience for us to explore these variations, as we have never imagined that there is such a big difference and there are more restrictions for English teachers in the Mainland than in Hong Kong.

 

On the second day of the tour, we have observed two lessons from one secondary school and one primary school. For the lesson in the primary school, we were shocked by their style of having ‘group work’. As this was a phonics lesson, students were instructed by the teacher to read the chants as a group. At that moment, a class of more than 50 Primary 4 students stood up and shouted out the chants loudly. Their voices are really like they were shouting at each other. We wonder what’s the point of having them stood up and shouted out the chants in that loud volume? Could they really listen to what they were ‘reading’? What does the teacher want to achieve by having this drilling? Can this be considered as ‘group work’?

 

Another point we found interesting is that teachers in the Mainland are fascinated by the idea of ‘highly effective classroom’ and they tend to put many objectives into one single lesson. However, we usually set some achievable objectives for one lesson in Hong Kong. According to the feedback of the teachers in the Mainland, they were also shocked by our lesson design as we set only two objectives for one lesson.

 

Teachers in the Mainland do not place much emphasis on teacher-student interaction during lesson. They revealed that they appreciate the interaction that we have demonstrated in the lesson as we walked around the classroom and gave instructions to students individually while they were doing their work. We were surprised that teacher in the Mainland do not think that it is important to monitor students’ progress individually during lesson. Most of them just stay on their teaching platform in front of the classroom for the whole lesson.

 

As for classroom management, the discipline of primary and secondary students in the Mainland is much better than those in Hong Kong. Students are trained well for those classroom routines. For example, they sat up straight and put their hands on the table for the whole lesson and they put their hands up with a specific angle. This facilitates the progress of the lesson, as teachers do not need to worry about the time needed for managing the classroom. However, as teachers, we think students were all too tense and strict during the lesson and they may not be able to enjoy the lesson. Of course, this tension may also be caused by the presence of other teachers and reporters in the observed classroom.

 

There are some questions that we, as prospective English teachers, could ponder on based on these observations. For instance, does quantity really entails effectiveness? Does it mean that having multiple learning objectives in one single lesson most be ‘highly effective’? Also, teachers all want to have classes that are easy to manage. But do we want the kind of disciplined yet robotic classroom as in Nanhai in order to facilitate our lessons? Does this really provide the most comfortable environment for students to learn effectively? These questions are all worth reflecting on.

August 19, 2016   No Comments

Special Issue (Nanhai 2015): The importance of embracing innovative teaching approaches

By Mandy Cheng (Year 4, 2014-2015) and Lily Cheng (Year 5, 2014-2015)

Ready to take up teaching posts soon, we found it a rewarding journey to Nan Hai visiting primary and secondary schools. The teachers there are enthusiastic and passionate about new teaching methodologies to enhance students’ language abilities. Also, the government have organized different teaching competitions to promote teaching effectiveness.

After having trial teaching and professional exchange with the local teachers, we found that the problems faced by teachers in the mainland are quite similar to the ones we face in Hong Kong, but maybe more serious sometimes. For example, the English teaching in the mainland is quite exam-oriented so the design of some textbooks resembles exam practice books with ambiguous learning objectives in each unit. Each practice section has little connection with one another, which makes it difficult for teachers to design a coherent lesson. The school time spared for English lessons is also limited (4 lessons of 40 minutes per week). Added that they have province-wide assessment weekly, they spend most of the lessons on exam-drilling. Therefore, when we shared some teaching approaches together, they showed their concerns with the feasibility of adapting alternative teaching approaches in their context.

In view of such concerns, we are more aware of the driving forces behind adapting new teaching approaches. Teachers in China face much pressure from weekly assessment and various rankings, which leave little space to experiment with new teaching approaches. Teachers in Hong Kong also face problems like long working hours and heavy workload, such as marking and administrative work. However, besides dealing with these immediate challenges, we see the importance of thinking ahead when the dynamics in the field of education is changing rapidly.

Here comes the significance of continuous professional development.  As a fresh graduate teacher from CUHK, we can confidently say we have the up-to-date pedagogical knowledge, but can we say the same after 10 years? Obviously the answer is no. Unless we keep learning assiduously and embracing new challenges, we may lag behind soon. So, as teachers, we hope we can play the believing game more often, trying out innovative teaching approaches, and endeavour to expand our teaching repertoire with more effective teaching strategies.

August 19, 2016   No Comments

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