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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teaching at English First

I teach English at a school for adults here in Shanghai. They organize the classes so that the lower level students get Chinese teachers whereas the upper level students get foreign teachers, so many of my students are pretty good at English by the time I see them. They know the grammar well & have a good vocabulary base. The other day, a student came to class dripping from the rain outside & said, "The weather is atrocious!" Indeed.

So they come to classes not to learn verb conjugations or lists of vocabulary, but for the opportunity to practice the language in "real life" situations. We give them classes with engaging topics so they can use the language as a means to an end rather than ending at the language.

In essence, we're not really teaching English here but instead using English to hold discussions on various subjects. Sometimes they are mildly controversial (Did we really go to the moon?), but they are always thought-provoking. Last week I taught a class on despotic & linear hierarchies, & this week I'm teaching about dystopias & cyberpunk.

The lessons are written as Power Point presentations by a team at the main office downtown & all the schools throughout the country use them. However, every teacher has one class where they can be creative with the content.

I teach a Travel Club which features a different destination every week. I get to choose the destinations, & I research the information that I use to create my own Power Point presentations. This week we're doing Tokyo. It's a lot of work. One 50-minute class takes me about five hours to prepare!

But I love doing it. It's interesting to research the information, & I like the challenge of putting together a seamless lesson based on content rather than language. I feel like I'm learning something too, which is one of the main reasons why I love teaching.


Steve Skinner said...

I agree about teaching -- when I do an educational program at the museum for kids it's just plain fun.

zingara84 said...

Hi Nancy! I see you're in NZ now but stumbled upon this post when looking up reviews on teaching experiences with EF. Would you recommend working with them? I'd love to ask you a little more about your EF experience, if you wouldn't mind. :)

Have a lovely evening!

Nancy Lewis said...

Hi Zingara, I had a great time teaching with EF in China. I still work for them now, but as an online teacher instead of face to face, so I can go anywhere & still work. Where are you thinking of teaching?