If you’re going to China and are wondering how to teach English to Chinese students, you’ve come to the right place.
Once you decide to get a teaching job in China, you have to be aware of some peculiarities that might affect your teaching experience.
By this, we mean that Chinese and Western cultures differ a lot.
Thus, some things might be surprising or strange for you when you first step into a Chinese classroom. But don’t worry!
In this article, we’ve prepared some English teaching tips you’ll definitely need at your lessons.
Your successful career as an English tutor in China starts with the understanding of the Chinese education system.
Due to some historical and political aspects, education in China is teacher-centered. What does it mean?
The teacher is an authority in a classroom, no matter where – at a kindergarten or university.
While he/she is supposed to stand in front of a class and talk about a subject, students are used to sitting silently and listen to the teacher.
Writing new information down and repeating it a lot of times are the main methods of learning anything in China. English isn’t an exception.
For a person from the Western world, Chinese education system might seem a bit strange.
The thing is that Western teaching methods see a student as the main participant of a lesson. Teacher’s function is to encourage learners to gain new information.
The western learner-centered approach doesn’t only help students get knowledge of a particular subject.
It also teaches them to solve problems, make decisions, and work in a team.
It develops students’ critical and creative thinking that the Chinese education system leaves with no proper attention.
Anyway, both teaching methods – Chinese and Western – have their advantages (and disadvantages).
Chinese education is a source of wide theoretical and practical knowledge in different fields.
The Western one also develops a lot of skills that will come in handy in real life.
It’s hard to say which education system is better. Perhaps, every student can find something useful in each of them.
So, what contribution can an ESL teacher from the Western world make while teaching English in China?
Teaching Kids in a Kindergarten
Children are the most grateful students, and it’s one of the pleasant things you’ll learn when you teach Chinese kids English.
On the one hand, teaching English to children of kindergarten age (from 3 to 6 years old) seems to be fun. Taking into account the peculiarities of this very age, using games is the best option.
However, for a teacher, it might not be as entertaining as it is for children.
To make games meet your teaching goals, you sometimes need to spend a lot of time for preparation.
Even with short classes of only 20 minutes, you’ll need at least 3-4 activities. Children get bored and distracted fast.
So, it’s necessary to change games often when you work with kids.
Below, there’re some activities to make your English lessons for Chinese children useful and fun at the same time.
Memorizing is an integral part of the Chinese teaching method. It is clear and familiar to learners in this country. And applying this method in your classes will come of great use to your students.
- Colorful flashcards will help you make the process of memorization more enjoyable.
Prepare a set of 10 cards with the pictures of words you’re currently learning (vegetables, animals, colors, etc.). You should have 5 pairs of the same cards. For example, take two cats, two dogs, two monkeys, two elephants, and two crocodiles. Mix the cards and put them on the desk face down. You should get two lines of cards. Now, offer your young learners to turn the cards one by one to find two identical cards. Once they do it, they should say the word aloud.
- If you have a chance to replace flashcards with real objects, the result will be even more impressing. Turn learning the items of clothing, body parts, classroom things, and furniture into a fun game. You can simply ask children to touch the things you name. The kid who touches the most objects right is the winner.
Chinese and English languages have different phonetic systems. For example, Chinese speakers don’t use the [ð] sound and pronouncing words like “the”, “they”, “thanks” is a kind of challenge for them. That’s why it’s important to start teaching proper pronunciation as early as possible. Kindergarten age suits this purpose perfectly.
- Sing songs at your lessons. Luckily, there are tons of children songs online. Moreover, some of them were created to train English sounds that can cause difficulties among non-native speakers. Feel free to surf the Internet and find the songs for your little students to have fun and learn pronunciation. By the way, songs are a great way to teach vocabulary, too.
- Tongue twisters are another method to teach pronunciation. However, it’s better to apply it with elder children. Start with simple sounds and short tongue twisters like “I Scream”. Don’t demand your little learners to say them fast at once. Pay attention to the way kids pronounce every sound. When they do everything right, you can make a small competition and offer young learners to speak tongue twister as fast as possible. Add longer and more complex tongue twisters gradually.
Teaching English in Chinese Public and Private schools
Teaching English to Chinese students at schools differs from that in kindergartens.
The main difference is, of course, the age of students. But no matter how old your learners are, there’re some rules for you, as an English tutor for Chinese students, to follow.
- Bear in mind that students in this country aren’t used to be active during the lessons. Thus, they might be reluctant to take part in discussions, answering questions or playing games. Give them some time to get used to the new environment in a classroom.
- Praise your students even if they make mistakes. Remember that such a simple thing as active interaction with a teacher is strange to Chinese learners. So even if they answer incorrectly, you can praise them for a try. They will appreciate your positive feedback and won’t be afraid to answer again.
- Learn some basic phrases in Mandarin. Knowing how to greet, thank or praise your students in the local language will be of great advantage for you. Showing your students you are willing to speak their language will encourage them to learn yours.
- Create any pressure. Don’t force your students to answer, play games, sing songs, etc. if they don’t want to. It can make them more reluctant to take part in a lesson. Of course, they have to participate and you need to check their progress somehow. So think about personal approaches to very shy students.
- Shame your students. In western countries, teachers can sometimes use this method to make the learners behave well or study harder. However, it won’t work in China classroom. The thing is that being ashamed in front of others means to “lose face”. Such an unpleasant experience at a lesson might have negative consequences. Be wise. Don’t discourage your students from learning English.
Younger children are often open-minded. They haven’t experienced much of traditional Chinese education system yet and can perceive new information eagerly. Use this peculiarity to your advantage and feel free to bring your teaching methods to life.
We’ve listed some activities that can make your lessons informative and interesting at the same time.
- Pictionary is a great game to revise vocabulary. Divide the class into two groups and give them lists of 10 words they need to guess. One child draws the words and the others should name them. The team that names all the words first, wins. You can change rules and offer your students to show or explain the words.
- 20 words is an activity to revise vocabulary and train children’s memory. Prepare 20 flashcards (or objects) to show your students. Let them look at the objects for a minute and then cover them. Give your students some time to write down all the objects they’ve remembered. Then tell them the full list so they could check themselves.
- One more vocabulary game is called In this game, students are given 3-6 categories, for example, animals, vegetables, and furniture, and a letter. Let it be “l”. Their task is to write down as many words starting with “’l” in each category as they can.
If you’re going to teach Chinese students English in a middle school, you’ll face more challenges than simply looking for suitable games for your lessons.
Unlike younger children, the ones of 12-15 years old can be somewhat suspicious of a foreign teacher. And it will take them some time to get used to the new atmosphere in a class.
If you want to make contact with your students as soon as possible, here is a couple of best practices for you to use.
- Create a routine. Make up some “traditions” for your lessons. For example, start every lesson with a short game and finish it with a song. You need this to make your learners feel more comfortable with your lessons. They are used to following a certain plan while they study, so give them the plan. But make it meet your teaching goals.
- Another great tactic is inviting more active students to take part in a lesson first. There will definitely be some children willing to play rather than sit still. Once you understand shyer kids see it’s OK to be active during the lesson when the teacher asks, encourage them to join you.
Chinese teens at high school are going to pass an important exam soon, so they’re interested in studying. They might not appreciate a lot of games at lessons as children at elementary or middle school do. Choose more “adult” activities while teaching English to Chinese students in high school.
Think about using tasks that require students to work in pairs or groups.
It’s a great way to make them cooperate with each other. Plus, it will benefit shy learners.
As they might often be reluctant to answer the questions of a foreign teacher, they get a chance to express their thoughts with peers.
Another advantage of such activities is that they can develop students’ creative and critical thinking. It’s possible since pair/group discussions often imply problem-solving tasks.
Thus, you teach your students English as well as prepare them for real life.
One more useful thing you can do to encourage your students to study is set goals.
Tell them what they need to know and understand at the end of a month, for example.
Give them tests to check how successful they are. It will help you and your students understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Teaching English to Adults
Speaking about teaching English to Chinese students who are over 18 years old, the first thing to be mentioned is that adults usually have lessons in private English schools, also known as training centers.
Taking into account the fact that adults normally work in the daytime, they have their classes in the evenings.
So, if you’re going to give English lessons for Chinese speakers who work, be ready for this schedule.
As for the practices to apply during your English lessons with adults, we have some tips for you.
- Role-play tasks are perfect at elementary and pre-intermediate levels. They teach English speakers in China to use vocabulary and grammar properly.
- Watch short videos and films so your students get used to English rather than Asian pronunciation.
- Show your students what they learn by the end of a lesson or term so they see their progress and want to continue. It’s especially important for adults of high levels. Upper-intermediate and advanced learners know a lot and it’s difficult to surprise them with new information.
Teaching English in China, a tutor from a western country often experiences some kind of uncomfortable feeling caused by cultural difference.
Be ready to face some lack of willingness to cooperate while teaching English to Chinese students for the first time.
Being used to teacher-centered approach, your students might be reluctant to participate in your lessons actively.
But don’t let this habit call your professionalism as a teacher into question. You’re a good teacher.
You just need some time to get used to another culture. So do your students.
Do you have any experience teaching Chinese students English?
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And if you’ve made up your mind to go and teach English to Chinese students, feel free to fill in the application form on our site and we’ll do our best to find a suitable position for you.