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6 posts categorized "Kimberly Newcomb"

My Student-Actors

Today one of my lessons went even better than I could have imagined! I was very hesitant at first because from my (minimal) experience here the students have a lot of difficulty being creative and imaginative. Many students prefer to ask a question, get the answer, and then memorize the answer. There is right and wrong without much opportunity for individual thought within the classroom. BUT TODAY we did an activity that involved watching a silent scene from a movie and then creating a dialogue to match the scene.

Last class we discussed body language, facial expressions, and how to use your voice to carry your meaning (all things that support the actual language of conversation - whether it is in English OR Chinese). For our purposes, of course, we were discussing the value of these tools in English. The scene we watched today was from Harry Potter (duh, I love Harry Potter) and it was rather emotional. Two characters are talking, then a third one joins them, and an argument ensues! It’s very clear that they are having an argument due to their body language and facial expressions (aka good acting). So the students grouped up, we watched the scene, and then I allowed them free reign to create a dialogue - or at least to create an idea of what was happening in the scene. It didn’t have to be TRUE as long as it realistically MATCHED the emotions, actions, etc.

We took some time. We discussed a few words along with their meanings and pronunciations as a class. I roamed the room listening to their ideas and guiding them toward speaking in English rather than the Chinese that they are so used to. AND THEN a few groups were chosen to share with the class. And boy, oh boy, was it AWESOME! They had us all laughing, and smiling, and one group even had a few of us feeling afraid - it seemed like the two boys in the group were actually going to start fighting. The first group decided the argument was about money - the third character in the scene was the next-door neighbor and he came over to ask for some money. The second group pretended that two of the characters were practicing their lines for a play and the third one didn’t believe them because it was so late at night! The third group decided that the two first characters were studying together and the character that entered the scene was a jealous boyfriend that didn’t believe they were “just studying”. DID I MENTION THAT THESE STUDENTS ACTED OUT THESE SCENES?

It was wonderful to watch and listen to. All of the groups seemed to enjoy hearing from one another because they all had different ideas about the scene. Most importantly, as the teacher, all of their ideas matched up with the body language that we saw. It was a great way to watch the students apply their knowledge rather than regurgitate what they learned last class onto a piece of paper in the form of a test or quiz. All in all, a great lesson and highly recommended to future TEFL teachers! (I actually got this idea from another TEFL teacher who had to DO this during her own high school French class.)

Written on November 29, 2017

Published later to see how this lesson fared in the other 3 classes - same results! Excellent lesson. Highly recommended!

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(This photo was taken by a student during our Thanksgiving lesson the previous week. #InTheClassroom)

 

Midterms are coming! Midterms are coming!

It’s midterm season here at Nanchang University. To those of you at home that statement probably seems like a quick jump from “new professor” to MIDTERMS! It is. My fellow Americans and I arrived during the fourth week of the semester, and therefore midterms have arrived very quickly. However, we can’t wait any longer or else we’ll be giving midterm exams back-to-back with finals and that’s just not fair to the students. So here we are.

 

At my university in America midterms meant, “Okay people, here come a few tests to take and papers to write. Make sure you study and write in advance because these are not things that you can cram for the night before!” (I assure you, they are things that you can cram for the night before.) In China midterms mean, “Keep studying! Don’t stop! Here comes an exam that is worth 30% of your grade, so memorize all of the information and spit it all back to me next Monday!” Now, in an English speaking class in China taught by a foreign teacher (me) midterms are somewhere in between my two examples.

 

My wonderful freshmen have been creating dialogues with a partner for the past week and will be presenting them to their classmates on Monday and Tuesday of this coming week. So they are still doing some memorizing, but they also have a chance to be creative in the process. We have been talking about the past and future tenses, pronunciation, and confidence so that is how they will be graded. GASP! “You mean, you aren’t grading the specifics of their grammar?” you ask, horrified at my less-than-expert teaching abilities! But let me ask you this: how often do you use proper grammar in every aspect of your conversations? Grammar is very important, but the students here have spent enough time memorizing grammar and vocabulary! My job is to help them produce their language on the spot. And on the spot? We all make mistakes.

 

It will certainly be an interesting week (I think some of my students secretly hate me) but I’m excited to see what they share! I’ve had a few previews in class and I am impressed with how hard the students are working to perfect their conversations. I am a bit less impressed when they use their phone dictionaries to search for complicated vocabulary that even I don’t know how to use, but all in all I have high expectations of success! That is, until it comes time to do all of the grading… and inputting the grades into the complex spread sheets on my computer… and planning for the second half of the semester…

 

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Though I’ve told you what midterms meant to me in America, and what midterms mean to students here in China, I have yet to tell you what midterms mean for a professor with 5 English conversation classes, one of which has 81 students in attendance. To me, midterms mean: stay up all night grading and don’t stop until you’re done!

 

With all that bearing down on me, I did what any sane person would do: I bought a bottle of wine to sip my way through all of the grading! Happy Midterms, everyone!

 

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11/11

Double 11 is this Saturday and it’s a big day according to my students. It’s the day to celebrate single people (I just heard the echoes of many laughs from my friends and family as they read this)! Due to November 11th being written as 11/11, people here in China think of those individual 1’s as single people. On this day the goal is to bring single people together to not feel so lonely. There are events happening all over the place on Saturday, and most importantly there are huge discounts for online shopping. APPs like “Tabao” (very popular here - similar to Amazon in the United States) are having major sales. That way if you’re single and feeling lonely, at least you can do some cheap online shopping! It’s comparable to what’s become known as “Cyber Monday” in America, but it’s done for a totally different reason. So if you’re single and lonely, come to China this weekend!

 

For me, this Saturday marks other significant things. First of all, it’s Veteran’s Day in the U.S. (A quick thank you to all the veterans back home!) Secondly, it marks one month of being in China! My way to celebrate: pizza! It’s become a living abroad tradition for me (this is only my second time living abroad, but back in London on the 1-month-aversary of being there I ate an American meal as well: Chipotle) so now it’s time for Pizza Hut! Don’t be mistaken: the food here is great! But having a small taste of home is relaxing and it’s a fun way to celebrate being away from that home. So of course, I will drag some American friends along with me to eat that cheesy goodness.

 

During this first month we have learned our own ways of living and teaching successfully here at Nanchang University. One piece of advice I will give future Teach in China participants is this: The difference between your first day in China and your first month in China is that after a month those difficult moments from the beginning seem very small and far away. The adjustment was hectic and frustrating and I swore in those first days that I would maybe never feel comfortable here, but then I pushed on and made friends and planned lessons and started remembering NOT to rinse my toothbrush with the sink water. I started to figure out how to get places on campus and cross the street without getting hit by a bus. I finally took a hot shower after about a week of cold, military style showers. (My colleagues all had hot water from the start, so don’t worry future teachers! This was just my bad luck.) I learned some Chinese words and I’ve even used them out in the real world (barely, but still). And this is only me! My colleagues have made great progress as well. So yes, we had a tough time jumping into everything at the beginning (it’s a lot!!), but here we are a month later feeling (mostly) confident about teaching, eating, and living in China! So Pizza Hut, here we come!

 

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(Lulu or 龚露, Collins from Texas, Nate from Maine, ME, and Nick from North Carolina after a great dinner out in the city and before watching the Nanchang light/fountain show!)

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(Photo of said fountain show...)

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(Hot Pot! Very delicious, but I still miss pizza.)

Holidays Abroad

We have had a busy two weeks in Nanchang. We taught many classes, we attended the opening ceremonies for the sports meetings that took place on Thursday and Friday (and therefore we had no classes), and we celebrated our first major American holiday from the other side of the world!

I have celebrated Halloween in 4 different countries, but I have to say this one was the most unique! As foreign teachers we were invited to two different Halloween parties on campus: the undergraduate party and the graduate school party (both hosted by their respective Oral English Associations). These parties consisted of costumed guests (we went forth with the motto “fake it ’til you make it” in our heads, so I decided that my Taylor Swift t-shirt counted as a costume), party games, candy, dance performances, singing performances, and a lot of new friends!

The three of us *new* foreign teachers all teach undergraduate students, so we knew a lot of people at that party. One of my students showed me a game where we competed to see if we could get a Pringle from our foreheads to our mouths without touching it with our hands or letting it fall to the ground. There was a balloon popping game as well (stomp on the balloons tied to someone else’s feet before they stomp on yours). The music was mostly English songs with a few Chinese songs mixed in. We also got to hear a performance of “Red” by Taylor Swift from one of the students who played guitar and sang beautifully. 

At the graduate school party we knew almost no one - until about 20 minutes into it… then we had so many new friends that it was difficult to keep track of them all! We heard a performance of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem (the student that did this rapped impressively!) We also saw a pumpkin carving competition and Nate participated in a dance game. It was all fantastic!

At one point, another foreign teacher not from the United States approached me to ask, “Is this what prom is like?” No… it wasn’t quite like prom. But it was absolutely as fun!

We left with ~20 new contacts each on QQ (one of the popular messaging/social media APPs here) and pockets full of little candies that we have yet to try. Of course, Halloween is almost over from where I am sitting, but for those in the United States it hasn’t even begun yet! So, without further ado, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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What do you mean "professor"?

It is very strange to be a college professor when less than two years ago I was a college student. I am now the expert on the subject of oral English (even though I say things like gonna, wanna, and occasionally: y'all). 

 

The students are very kind and eager to learn and it makes adjusting to this new place a whole lot easier. They have given me a lot of positive energy to work with, and they complete the tasks I give them without argument. They seem genuinely curious about America and how to speak the English language as an American would (so yes, sometimes I do say "gonna" in class). On the other hand, they are willing to help me as I cautiously approach the Chinese language. It is definitely a need-to-know item while in China, so they've helped me to pronounce a few words to get started. They laugh kindly when I butcher the pronunciation of Nanchang University. And they also give me great recommendations, such as the Milk Tea that I am currently trying (it's delicious by the way!)

IMG_4524It was not all butterflies and roses as I, along with my fellow co-workers, plowed through this first week of classes. We had difficulties when it came to getting classroom doors unlocked, using the technology (or lack thereof in some cases), and charging ahead without a curriculum by which to plan our lessons. Overall, I think we did very well, and I hope that our students feel that way too! Living on the other side of the world does not come without its challenges, but the experience itself may be enough to completely eclipse those small details. We have 9 months to find out!

One week until Take Off

My passport is ready and so am I! One week from today I will be on my way to the other side of the world. I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you, as well as my colleagues’ experiences. I have been dragged across the United States by my parents, I have traversed through Europe many times, and now it is time for a whole new adventure. Stay tuned for photos, stories, and hopefully a whole lot of fun as we take on the task of Teaching English in China!

~Kimberly

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