Teaching English in Rural Middle Schools in the New Century

By Amy Cook,2014-11-16 18:42
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English as a second language in China is more and more important. China will adopt new English books under the new curriculum in five years in primary and middle school. That is a challenge for the students and an English teacher especially that who is in the countryside.

    肥西紫蓬山管委会中心校 赵桂荣

    Teaching English in Rural Middle Schools in the

    New Century


     English as a second language in China is more and more important. China will adopt new English books under the new curriculum in five years in primary and middle school. That is a challenge for the students and an English teacher especially that who is in the countryside.

    As a teacher in the countryside, he is always facing the large class, bad teaching conditions. And the hardest is to change the view from test based

    education to quality education at the same time. In my experience, he should form his own teaching style. The following are some suggestions: 1. learning to be a professional English teacher. First he should love his career and love his students then he can devote himself in teaching and his students will love him and love English. Love is the key to study. Second, he should keep his desirable personal style. One

    s character and patience play fatal roles in teaching. Before he becomes a teacher, He should make himself fit for the situation. The most important and most difficult part of making of a good language teacher is the development of professional competence which is the state or quality of being adequately qualified for the profession, and armed with a specific range of skills, strategic, knowledge and ability. 2. Making the class vivid. Love and high language level are not enough. In real class he should use teaching method flexibly to make the class attractive and interesting. He can use Total Physical Response, Communicative Language Teaching in class and try his best to set the language context with the help of the students or some teaching aids. 3. Developing the students potential abilities. Each student

    has his or her own personality. No two students are exactly alike, even the twins. Each student is different from every other child in heredity, family background, ability, acquired, knowledge. So each child should develop according to his or her each or according to her individuality. In schools, teachers should try to give different students different care, consideration, attention and opportunities so that their talents can be developed to their full degree.

    When a teacher can choose proper approaches and methods, understand the students well, and use their knowledge on teaching language easily, his own teaching style is formed. No matter the need changes; no matter the book changes; and what the condition is, he can meet it easily!


    English as a second language in China is more and more important for the Chinese people. With the development of economics we should contact with other countries by using English in more and more fields, not only by writing but also by speaking. China will adopt new English textbooks


    to improve students’ listening and speaking skills. New criteria will be used in the country’s primary and middle schools within five years. Under this condition, as a teacher who is from rural middle school, what should he do is to face the challenge and forming his teaching style.

    I. Some disadvantages in English teaching in

    the rural middle school.

     First of all, he should find out the disadvantages in English teaching in rural middle school. As teachers of English, We often find that after learning English for six years. (Three years in junior, three years in high school) There is still 1/3of the students who can’t

    pronounce some of the English words correctly. They get high score or even full marks in English test, but can’t communicate with native speakers.

    Even worse there are lots of students giving up English finally. How can this be? Many factors can explain this: First, China is a country with large population. There is large proportion of the population in the countryside. Lack of teachers, large number of students in each class. I had made a research. There are usually 80 to 90 students in one class .In a school, an English teacher has experienced to teach 91 students in one class. He told us that he couldn’t bear it but there are no ways to solve it. For low salary, there are lot of teachers go out to the cities for jobs. Another reason is lack of money; there are no enough classes. So lots of students are crowding together. The teachers always feel tired and exhausted. Furthermore, all those make it difficult for students to be given a chance to show or express his or her own ideas or opinions in English. Even worse, there are some students whom teachers can’t call his or her name at all. Some students give up English just in grade two. Second, the condition in the countryside is very bad. There are no computers or any cards for teaching. That can be used in class is just a box of chalk, two blackboards. So it is a challenge to an English teacher to make the lesson interesting and attractive. And it is very hard for a teacher to create a proper situation context. Always, they teach English follow the grammar-translation approach sometimes and some teachers use it all the time, it is an easy way for teachers. The last factor is that the students are tested on writing. Whether the teachers are successful, or whether the students learn English well is evaluated in this way. Generally speaking the higher marks the better students of course the better teachers judge a teacher who is better or not, just from his or her students can get high score in the test or not. One or two students are enough. So in the class, teachers use grammar-translating approach to teach English all the time. They focus on grammar explanation, and exercises. They present some phrases, sentence patterns, collocations to the students in class. The students just copy them. However, after a certain length of time, some may not concentrate on this. They feel tired


    and may lose interest. So as young English teachers in the countryside, we should change something to greet the new criteria and the new century. Having realized this sharply, I have been putting all my efforts in my teaching and achieved some good result. The following is what I do: II. Learning to be a professional English teacher

    “A good English teacher should have ethic devotion, certain

    desirable personal styles, and more importantly, he or she should have necessary professional qualities”(wang Qiang, 2000) From this we know:

     A. Loving the career

    The teacher should love his career. Just because when he loves his work, he can take his life into it, and can do well in it. The teacher should like all of the students—clever or fool. Teacher’s work is to

    find the glories from them.

    B. Building his desirable personal style

     The personal style is very important. One’s character, patience and his attitude to the world play very important roles in language teaching. What should he do is not only pass the subjective knowledge, but also gives them good examples. Before he becomes a teacher, He should make himself fit for the situation.

    C. Developing his professional competence

    The most important and most difficult part of making of a good language teacher is the development of professional competence which is the state or quality of being adequately qualified for the profession, and armed with a specific range of skills, strategic, knowledge and ability.

    Teacher’s language level and the teaching competence are the most important factor in language teaching ( 程琳?Trans.2002,). From this we

    know that the development of professional competence and improvement of language knowledge for a language teacher are necessary. All English teachers are supposed to have a sound command of English. Because language is always changing, language training can never come to an end. But we live in the countryside, the condition for study is very poor and we have so heavy works to do. How can the teacher keep language training? My experiences are keeping a diary in English every day and listening English program on VOA or BBC Or CRI. Those ways are more convenient and easy for us can get. The second stage includes three- sub-stages: learning, practice and reflection. The learning stage is actually the specific preparation that a language teacher should make before they go to practice. This preparation can be: 1. Learn from others’ experience .2. Learn received knowledge (such as language theories, Psycholinguistics, Language teaching methodology) 3. Learn from one’s own experience. Both


    experiential knowledge and received knowledge are useful when the teachers go to practice. The learning stage is followed by practice. Teachers can benefit from practice if they keep on reflecting on what they have been doing .As teachers they can study and work at the same time and then develop our teaching skills __ that’s the last stage of development of professional competence for a language teacher.

    III. Making the class vivid

    Let him after a teacher had such good preparation for being a good teacher; now come into the real class.

    A. Using TPR at the very beginning

    When he teaches the students whose memories have no any English words? The students feel curious and anxious on English. How does he deal with it? “Well begin, half done”. In my experience, I used total physical

    response approach to teach. This approach put emphasis on comprehension and the use of physical actions to teach a foreign language at an introductory level. (Richards & Rodgers, 2000) The first period I teach just like playing a game with them. First I teach them some everyday expressions:

    T: Good morning, boys and girls.

    Then let the entire student stand up and say “Do with me” All the

    students stand up and say aloud: “Do with me” with the movement just like me.

     T: Good morning, boys and girls.

    S: Good morning, teacher.

    Then I smiled and said “I am happy now”

    “Happy! Happy! Ha! Ha!”

    S: Happy! Happy Ha! Ha „„

    T: I am crying Mm. Mm„ Crying .mm„

    S: Crying mm. Crying mm

    T: I am angry. Stomp my foot on the ground “en”

    I pretended to be angry.

    All the students do with me excitedly.

    All the students like that day and all of them paid more attention to my action and me. From the first class that I had taught, they like the English teacher and English.

    B. Using CLT little by little


     But the Junior English for China is for the students who had learned English in primary schools; there are lots of dialogues and texts, which can’t be finished only by the use of TPR. The teachers should see that English teaching is for training the students’ communication competence.

    (程琳?2002,Trans ) And in the new century the goal of we learn English is to communicate so we should use Communicative Approach little by little.

    1. English teaching in middle school is a communication between the teachers and the students. The students always want to say something. They have some communicative purpose. They want to give some information or express pleasure. The students also want to give some information or show his feeling to the students. 2. Teaching is an activity; students are somehow involved in activities that give them both the desire to communicate and a purpose, which involves them in a varied use of language. Such activities are vital in a language as classroom since here the students can do their best to use the language as individuals arriving at a degree of language autonomy. 3. In our teaching we will try to reflect the teachers’ competence. If teachers introduce new language they will often want to practice it in a controlled way. After an introduction, therefore, they may give the students a chance to use the new language in a controlled environment. It means that they can check learners’ communication competence by the ways of communication. So in English teaching, first, they should be familiar with the outline of the teaching. They must regard the communication as the main purpose. In English class, if there is some difficult for student to understand the teacher. He can do it with the help of body languages, gesture or some pictures (drawn by yourself or students). Tell the student if they want to study English well, they must forget their native language, especially in class. Second, they apply communicative approach to teach. They should put the students first. The students are the center of the teaching. Teachers only play a role of controlling and guiding in English class. Often, the teachers will work with controlled techniques. Ask students to repeat and perform in drills. The teachers’ introduction or explanation should be kept short, and they must spend much more time on the communicative in class. Third, various forms of drills and practice in English teaching, it is very important for the students to adopt many kinds of drills. They can give students the opportunity for safe practice. Accuracy can be focused on as the students to get a chance to rehearse language. There are many kinds of drills, pair work, group work, chain drills and so on. For example JEFC students’ Book 1A Unit 1 Hello! Nice to meet you!

    After the Teachers’ introduction, they can ask one student to perform

    with you.


T: Good morning

    Ss: Good morning

    T: I’m Miss Zhao, what is your name?

    S1: My name is Lingling

    T: I’m Miss Zhao, what is your name?

    S2: My name is Yuanyuan

    In the pair work students practice with everyone’s desk mates and another classmate at least two people. Two minutes later ask some of them to go to the front and to perform. After they finish this action. The teacher can stop them and say to one student:

    Hello, x x. Nice to meet you.

    S3: Hello, nice to meet you!

    The student can answer after a pause under the teacher’s instruction then the teacher adds “too”! Nice to meet you too!

    Then. Again.

    T: Hello, X X X, Nice to meet you!

    S4: Hello. Nice to meet you too! More naturally then the teacher practice the dialogue with whole class: Nice to meet you! Ss: Nice to meet you too! Let students practice the dialogues in pairs.

    Forth, we can adopt the interesting games to improve the students’ communicative competence. For example, Unit 12: How many kites are there?

    Lesson 46

    The teacher takes a bag in which there are pencils, erasers, books kite crayons„„Play an guessing game

    S1: Is there a pencil? Yes?

    T: Yes! Give you as a present.

    S2: Is there an eraser?

    T: Yes! Here you are„„

     The students are excited for having a pencil or an eraser and can speak a correct sentence at the same time. Further more, the games are always not very difficult, every student in the class can achieved it. Guessing is an activity that can be used by all levels. It can make students active in the class and can make language inputting into production directly (Wang Cairen, 2001,p221). It can make student interested in English if they were not before!

    There is another example, JEFC 2 Unit 13 where were you born?


T: Do you know how old I am now?

    S: 25 years old.

    T: No, try to guess when I was born.

    S: You were born in 1979.

    T: No, I am not so young.

    S: You were born in 1970.

    T: No, I am not that old.

    S: You were born in 1974.

    T: No, but close now

    S: You were born in 1973.

    T: No, a little bit earlier.

    S: You were born in 1975.

    T: Yes you are right. How old am I now?

    S: You are „

    T: Try to guess in which month I was born?

    The steps just like above.

    „ „

    T: Try to guess where I was born?

    „ „

    At this chance, teachers can find anyone who was not active in class

    before and give them an opportunity! That I will discuss further in the

    third part of this paper)

    C. Setting the language context flexibly

     Improvisation or transfer is the core of a course?That is?the

    students are required to transfer what they learned in the textbook to

    real-life situation as far as possible?And in the present-day textbook of Middle School?the courses are organized in authentic everyday situations in which students can easily identify?So in the process of

    English teaching?it is very important for the teachers to set the language contexts correctly and flexibly?

    1. Using all kinds of teaching aids

    In the classroom?students should be provided with a chance to experience the language in meaningful ways and try out their skills?

    so the teachers should try to use all kinds of teaching aids to set the

    language context for the students?And teachers should not only be


acquainted with the use of flash cards and wall pictures?but also they

    need to learn to collect and make visual aids?such as pictures from

    magazines?used objects like can and boxes, and stick-figures?So with

    a piece of chalk?objects?people?animals?settings are created on the

    blackboard and the studentsinterest and attention are aroused?A

    relaxed atmosphere is created?Another technique is to use lantern slides?

    not to tell a story but to create situations when the students are asked to act out their dialogue or play their roles against the background of a restaurant?street?playground. They can use an over-head project?

    then the students can talk like realnative speakers”. And when they

    use the pictures?they should know the picture with accompanying voice ?sometimes with music accompaniment?will impress the students greater

    than a printed text or the voice alone?

    2. Designing all kinds of activities

    The role of the teacher in a communicative classroom is not an informer or a supervisor but a manager or helper?The teacher should try

    to design all kinds of activities to help the students perform or interact among themselves as much as possible?But designing a course, which

    prepares students to interact in specific roles in real-life situations, requires that the course designer first discover that what part is played in these activities by the language of different kinds. He must find out what topics come up often enough to be worth discussing in class?and we

    must also bear in mind the kind of people the pupil will eventually have to deal with?So we should let the students have the opportunity to learn?

    and become proficient in the games and diversions of English-speaking people. They should be able to participate in verbal competitions?where

    there are special activities to be associated with festivals or national holidays, students should be able to engage them at the appropriate time, decorating the Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols, celebrating Guy Fawkes Day?rolling eggs at Easter?dressing up for trick-or-treat?

    preparing a Thanks-giving dinner etc?

    3.Using paralinguistic features

    Sometimes when we set the language context?using paralinguistic

    features such as gestures?facial expressions and some actions will be

    more convenient and vivid than using teaching aids such as pictures or slides,e.g. In Unit 11 of JEFC3?when we explain how to plant trees?

    if we use the teaching aids such as pictures?it will take us a lot of

    time to prepare the teaching materials before class?But if we act out

    the process of planting trees in class with a few actions?the students

    will understand the process more vividly in a short while?So no matter

    when teachers present?demonstrate?drill?practice the teaching material

    we should pay attention to using paralinguistic features flexibly and


    appropriately?And paralinguistic features are complementary to the teaching aids in the English teaching.

    IVDeveloping the students potential


    A good teacher not only can control the class very well, but also can know that develop every students’ special talent is very important. In the rural middle school class there are always 1/3 students can keep their interest on study. One of the factors that because this is they lost interest in English. A little of things can make them good result. At the same time, a little clue can make them give up study. So the teacher should try his best to develop their special talents. Students vary from person to person. Every class has some top students who are quick on response and who are often eager to learn more. The less advanced students often find it difficult to catch up with the better ones. How do we give students different care, different attention and different chances? I do as following:

    A. Designing Classroom Activities for all students.

    Classroom atmosphere should ensure that both introverted and extroverted students feel confident enough to participate fully in class. In teaching language function I often design more activity. In Student -centered classroom activities, they will think actively. And in which more students will get involved, so that their interest, hobbies as hell as their special talents .can be discovered. For example, we practice the dialogue in pairs or do the guessing game. All the students do well. B. Finding their interest and give them encouragement.

    To understand the students better, the first things for the teacher to do are finding their interest and hobbies and give them encouragement. Before doing this he should do more survey in the students then he will find every student has his own special merit. The teacher can speak high on that they have. And then tell them that they can do even better in English.

    One of my students draws well. But she is shy and dare not speak a word in class .So I often ask her to draw pictures on the blackboard for me. That avoids being short of pictures and enriches the teaching aids for class. I always praise her pictures in class. Then she can speak in class little my little, at last she become an active student in English. C. Asking different levels of Questions.

    When I ask questions. I try to ask different levels of questions. The easier questions are for the less advanced. The more difficult ones are for the tops. A famous German educator once said: The art of teaching


    doesn’t lie in passing on knowledge but lies in encouraging waking up, inspiring. We shouldn’t compare students to others, but praise them for

    what they have managed to do, regardless of what others around them have produced. We all need to know that our contributions are of value (Diane, M.Enerson.2004). It is necessary to design two or three challenge questions for bright students. In real class, I gave all the students the equal chances but different. Some assignments are difficult and some are easy. And all of them can get high praise when they do well in their questions. So all the students in my class are interested in English. D. Designing group work for students.

    Group work provides a psychologically positive, an affective climate and develops a move flexible learning style, which facilitates language learning (Xu Fang, 1998).

    I think group work proved to have a great interaction within students. It means participation, competition and cooperation. In teaching the text different methods are on the basis of understanding the text. For example, for one question or one topic, I ask four students as a group to discuss. Then they elect one to represent their opinions. In this way, all the students take part in the activity, and all of them express their own opinions. Even some introverted students who can find a stage in discussion with his or her group member.

    I gained some experience in teaching and developed the method as my own way, then achieved success. All of my students left me with their high interest and good achievement. Four of them gain high score in National English Competence. One gained the first situation in the national examination for high school. Some of my students who were average in their class are the Representatives of English subject in her or his class in high school. One of my students told me her ideal was to enter Beijing Foreign Language University and serve for the 2008 Olympic Games. Conclusion:

    In a word, new curriculum and quality education sets higher requirements for a teacher. In language teaching the teacher’s jobs are to try to arouse the students’ desire to acquire knowledge and have their eyes keep

    on English. As a teacher in the rural middle school, the condition, which can support him in teaching, is very poor. So the teacher should make himself fit for teaching. Furthermore, students have his own character and abilities. Trying to know them well is very important in teaching. So the teacher should improve their language level and professional competence in teaching and put heart into the students and try to understand them well. Only when the teacher does these well, can he teach flexibly and vividly in class, and can the students always keep their


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