What in the wide wide world of sports…

I came up new lesson plans since one of the heads in the English department confirmed a tid bit I learned from another teacher.  I’m not teaching freshmen.  Most people would have clued into this when people kept talking about how there’s a freshmen assembly, the freshmen will spend a month or two doing boot camp, and that their classes haven’t started yet.  And like most people I chalked it up to miscommunication, which I can tell you is practically SOP around here.

Just yesterday I asked to get a printed copy of my class lists because my computer is allergic to Chinese characters.  The secretary said that the printer was broken(or in retrospect she might have said that yes, it’s very pretty outside because, let me tell you, a lot of people keep telling me that) and that I could get them in the afternoon.  Well, I couldn’t because I wasn’t going campus and she kept telling me she would send a student over with them to my apartment even thought I kept telling her that I wasn’t going to be around.  I told her I would get them the next morning, and she finally agreed when I shortened the word count and removed the words with more than three syllables.

Lets just say there was one very unfortunate student who made multiple trips across the campus on foot in the rain because the secretary insisted that I was there to receive the class lists.  I not sure if I should be boggled by the layers of stupid I’m encountering or by the layers of incompetence.  There were other secretaries there that I know can speak better English, but this one doesn’t ask them for help.  And similar miscommunications have happened before on other occasions.  She just keeps on truckin’.

But back to these lesson plans.  I redid them to take their level three English into account, which I have mixed feelings about after testing out this lesson plan on three classes.  They understand what I want them to do, sometimes, it takes some coaxing to get them going, and they understand the technical side of English.  But they haven’t made the flying leap from writing to speaking for many of them.

I gave them an assignment where I had them roleplay.  One student would come up to the front of the class and pretend to be looking for a job, and the other students would ask that student some questions in very specific tenses and the student would answer back in the same tense.  There was no trick here.  I told them the tense to use, which I had written on the board, I had some suggestions on how to ask the questions, and I had examples.

But many of them completely forgot that they were asking questions as if this was a job interview, and others couldn’t think of any words to ask the question.  I told some of them exactly what to say, and they still couldn’t understand with the other students in Chinese telling them what to do.  They aren’t stupid(or, at least I hope they aren’t because that is something I can’t solve), but they haven’t been challenged to try and, I guess, improvise or come up with their own responses.

I concluded this because during the second hour of the classes I got them to write stories, which circulated around the room so that everyone was contributing to at least three other stories.  They came up afterward and read out their stories, in groups, taking turns to read out sentences.  Other than some accent problems and few misuses of verbs and articles, they did very well even correcting mistakes someone had made in their writing.  Technically, they are doing well.  Practically, they have a long way to go.  And this is a journey that might take a lot more individual attention than I can give to a class of 50  students.

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