TEACHING--Resource Packs, Wikispaces and Generating Interest Outside of Class
By Steve Martin
I have worked for CIPTC in both elementary and middle school positions since December 2012. I currently work at Jingxiu Middle school in Jingtian.
In this article I want to share educational research I conducted and discuss ways we can help our students to access English outside of classes. An issue that I often struggle with is contact time in speaking English in class. This works out at around a minute per student if you divide class time (45 minutes) by number of students (45 students).
Students from low income migrant families are often unable to access private tuition which perhaps students from better off backgrounds can easily access. This plays out with huge differences in ability in the classroom alongside other factors such as natural aptitude for learning English which some students seem to possess. I always try to give every student a chance to speak. Senior teachers like Eddie Ormond offer solutions for this with his lollypop sticks idea.
Last year I developed a student resource pack which my middle school students can use to access lesson materials, listening dialogues and other relevant materials outside of class. It’s important to note that Futian Education boardalready provides an online English resource for all students. However this obviously isn’t tailored to what I deliver as a native English teacher. I adapted an existing technology which was the shared teacher’s drive which was used previously only as a means of saving lessons as opposed to bringing a USB to classes. I added all my Power Point lessons, listening dialogues and movie clips to the shared drive. I gave my password and user name to students and allowed them to download the materials with a USB stick. This gave students the ability to access materials in their own time. I conducted educational research to establish the need and the success of this resource pack. I also ran a Power point presentation on the use of the resource pack.
The results I got back from the educational research were not straight forward. I found students were very busy with homework from other subjects and homework from their Chinese English teachers. They often lacked the maturity to do homework or access the resource pack which perhaps older high school students would have welcomed. Some websites were also forbidden and parents were uneasy about allowing their students access to the internet. Overall I think a resource pack has scope for high school students but due to the age of my middle school students it didn’t work as well as I would have hoped.
I also investigated Wikispaces as a means of helping students outside of classes. Wikispaces is a kind of virtual classroom which allows students to debate and collaborate in learning online (https://www.wikispaces.com/). There is potential for Wikispaces if you are teaching writing however as an oral English teacher I was unable to use this tool effectively. Perhaps it could be used in an English Club scenario. It also requires the use of a computer suite something my school sadly did not have available to me. This is not Wechat or QQ. I personally never give out my personal social medial information to any of my students. I would urge other teachers to look at Wikispaces as it’s an excellent platform for collaborative learning.
Often walking around my school students will say hello and sometimes engage me in conversation. This is something I really enjoyed when I started work in China however it became a little tiring after a while as I found they would sometimes say hello and nothing more and sometimes in a jokey, silly way. I try to encourage my students to ask me opening conversational questions which will help them develop their conversation skills. This is also useful in my experience, as building good relationships with students outside of class often helps with class management in lessons. In my first primary school role I was able to take students for football training at the end of a school day. This paid dividends in winning students over and helped build strong teacher student relationships.
Overall this issue of making English accessible outside of lessons is something I will continue to work on. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe we can all discuss this issue in more detail at the next teacher workshop!