During the last decade, China has made an incredible breakthrough. It has touched all spheres of its life including education. So, lots of English teachers today are applying to the jobs there. And it’s great that even non-native speakers have a chance to explore Asian culture, master teaching skills and try a new way of life.
But what is it like to be an English teacher in China?
I started my work in China in 2017, just after the university. One of my best friends worked in one of the Chinese nursery schools and offered me the position of an English teacher there. I had almost no real work experience with young learners and I was seriously terrified. How would I work with Chinese kids? How to deal with discipline? How to communicate with them?
I started to work part-time (from 8.00 a.m till 1.00 p.m). Normally I conducted 2 or 3 lessons for small groups and then helped other educators with everyday duties. Surprisingly Chinese kids turned up to be almost the same as Russian ones. They were curious, active, willing to study and explore new language. I dealt mainly with really young learners (3-5 y.o) so our lessons were for 20-25 minutes. During this period we sang songs, played games and just had fun. We usually learnt 2-3 words and phrases as well, for example such words as «red», «blue», «pink» and phrases like «it is not black» and «it is pink». Surely, it`s crucial to personalize vocabulary tasks. So, talking about colors you may ask kids to stand in the middle of the classroom and create phrases with new words about themselves or objects around them: «I have blue eyes», «It`s a blue chair», «My doll is pink».
What I learnt about teaching kids?
Any kids really admire active lessons, so it`s a great idea to use such teaching methods as total physical response (TRP), games, to use flashcards, colorful pictures, cartoons, energetic songs, and toys. As homework, you may offer kids to draw new words from the lesson, ask them to learn short rhymes by heart or make some crafts. Most Chinese classrooms stand out for their great facilities so your teaching talent won`t be limited here. Actually, my nursery school offered me lots of worksheets, toys, flashcards, and other materials. But I think it`s much better if you ask kids to bring their own toys to the lesson and make them participants in the activities.
By the way, to vary the work with songs and rhymes you may not only dance and sing, but transform it into vocabulary game. Select an appropriate song, print certain topical words on cards and give them to pupils. Ask them to jump when they hear their word. Your pupils will be excited!
So, here are some of my favorite activities which really amused my young friends:
- Circle time
Mostly I used this activity as a cool-down because it`s a great way to relieve tension and create a positive atmosphere. So, kids sit in a circle, pass to each other a soft ball and complete the sentence, e.g. I like…,I have…It can be graded appropriately to the topic and the age of the kids. You can also change the game. Form pairs and ask pupils to pass the ball to each other «I`m good at…, I like…, I have…».
- Fly swat
I think this activity is a perfect cool-down as well as vocabulary revision. All you need is a fly swatter, whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation. Divide your pupils into two teams. Each team sends up one person to the front of the classroom and they are each given a fly swatter. Read the question aloud, and then the first pupil to swat the answer on the board wins the round!
- Spin the bottle
This game is a perfect activity for all parts of the lesson. Ask your pupils to sit in a circle. The teacher should be in the center. Spin the bottle. When it stops spinning the pupil it is pointing to has to answer a question, e.g. «What`s your name? What day is it today? ». If the answer is correct then that student can spin the bottle.
Don`t forget to use energetic warm-up activities to shake your young pupils up and maybe even to amuse them. Try to use something really funny like mirroring, miming or just singing together. As a cool-down, you may learn certain rhymes or actions and do them every lesson. It`s quite handy to use a certain sequence of tasks and particular classroom language. This strategy can help you to keep a good discipline and pace of work. But don`t forget to add creativity to this process! So, personally, I really admired to manage behavior including a yellow and red card system as in football, or a ‘noisometer’ based on traffic lights: red = Too loud!, orange = Turn the volume down!, green = Our quiet voices!
Most Chinese classrooms stand out for their great facilities so your teaching talent won`t be limited here. Actually, my nursery school offered me lots of worksheets, toys, flashcards and other materials. But I think it`s much better if you ask kids to bring their own toys to the lesson and make them participants of the activities.
However, the most crucial thing while working with Chinese kids is to be optimistic, caring and to really love them. Be sure, they feel it!
So, we`ve clarified certain points about teaching young learners in China, but you may ask «How am I supposed to deal with discipline? They are 3-5 years old and they don`t speak English, what should I do? ». Well, first of all don`t panic! Surely, they are kids and it`s clear that they can misbehave, cry sometimes or feel bad. For such situations there normally two Chinese teachers who can speak English and exactly they are responsible for all discipline issues.
The most important points are:
- There is no difference between Chinese and Russian kids. To work with them successfully you should just be energetic, outgoing, artistic and caring.
- Try to engage kids in games, creative activities, singing songs and rhymes.
- Establish certain classroom language and sequence of activities. It can help to make the lesson productive and reduce misunderstanding.
- Your Chinese colleagues will happily help you to deal with discipline issues. Don`t worry about it!
- However working in the nursery schools be ready to help Chinese teachers to walk with children, play with them and dress them up after the nap time.
So, working with young learners in any country is a fascinating experience. It`s marvelous feedback, curious pupils and just a great incentive to develop yourself as a teacher. Don`t doubt and just try it!
Have you ever worked with young learners in other countries? What frightened you most of all?