Friday, July 23, 2010

Model School 2nd Lesson

My second day teaching in Model School was Wednesday. I was doing my lesson on modes of transportation. I started off by asking the students questions about what they had covered the day before with Ms. Cross. They were able to answer most of my questions.

Then I switched in to asking them about modes of transportation and whether they could give me any examples. Their examples included: plane, car, bus, bike, train, horse, camel. I said that travelling very far on camel would probably not be very fun. Next I showed them the pictures that I had drawn of different types of transportation, explaining the ones that they didn’t know. The transportation I covered was car, bus, train, plane, taxi, bike, cruise/ship, sailboat, and RV. The RV was the only one I really had to explain.

Next I had them stand up, come to the front of the room, and put their backs to me. I put sticky-notes on each of their backs with a different type of transportation written on it. They were to go around and ask each other questions about what kind of transportation was on their back. They were not allowed to ask “what is on my back?” but rather to ask more probing questions, like “how many wheels does my transportation have?” or “can my transportation go in the air?” Once they figured it out then they could take the sticky-note off of their backs and hold it. Once every one had discovered their transportation, I had them go around and find the person that matched theirs and sit with them.

Next in pairs or groups of three, they had to describe in as much detail as possible the transportation on their sticky-notes. After that they had to come up with as many scenarios as they could for using that type of transportation, tying in Beth’s lesson from yesterday (reasons/types of travel). When they were done, I called them to the front by transportation to present to the class their descriptions and scenarios. To get the students to practice their listening skills, I asked questions about each groups’ presentation (specifics/ ideas that were not presented) and if they offered up a suggestion I threw them a small piece of candy that I had bought before class. When that was done, the students had their 10 minute break.

Back from break, I had the students rejoin with their transportation group to come up with 3 reasons that their type of transportation was really good, and 2 reasons that it was better than another type of transportation. I presented this activity as a debate. To explain the concept of a debate, I used the idea of chocolate versus ice cream, which they thought was funny. I told the students that the best group would get some prize candy. The groups did a good job with this activity, and I told them that they could all have candy on the way out of class.

Afterwards, I switched to talking about idiomatic expressions that pertained to travel/transportation. I first asked them if they knew what an idiom or idiomatic expression was. Some looked confused, some looked as if they had heard the word before but couldn’t remember what it meant. I explained the meaning, and then asked if they had ever heard an English idiom. One boy (who I think has been to America) whispered “knuckle sandwich.” I was very pleased, and explained what a knuckle sandwich was to the rest of the class, as well as black eye, and one more that I can’t remember right now, but the students thought was funny (if I remember I will put it up). Then I asked if they could think of any Chinese idioms, or phrases in Chinese that a foreigner might say that means something to them, but something completely different to a Chinese person (and which would cause them to laugh at the foreigner). They were thinking, and couldn’t think of anything on the spot, so I offered one. I said that I had heard that eating doufu (tofu) means something different to a Chinese person than it means to a foreigner. As soon as I said eating doufu, the class erupted in giggles (particularly the girls). When someone asks what you had for lunch, and you respond that you had doufu it is slang in China to mean that you were making out with someone during lunch. Luckily I knew this one from my TEFL trainer who literally ate doufu and crackers for lunch every day, and didn’t realize why people were laughing until a colleague of hers at the university mentioned the idiomatic meaning.

Anyways, I then turned their attention to the 5 idiomatic expressions on the board: “backseat driver;” “fender bender;” “hit the road;” “on the homestretch;” and “road rage.” I asked the students to draw a picture of what they thought each of the idioms meant. I first gave an example of thinking what “on the homestretch” might mean by drawing a stretched out house. The students came up with some creative suggestions about what each of the idioms might mean (like backseat driver as someone who has control of the car from the back; hit the road means using a jackhammer on the road). I then explained what each of them meant. I had a piece of paper with the idiom, its definition, and a sentence using it. I would read out either the definition or the sentence and have various students do the other part. After, I came up with different scenarios and asked the students which idiom applied. They got them all right. I originally wanted to split them into 5 groups, give each group and idiom, and have them create a commercial (about anything) but incorporate the idiom into the commercial. But I ran out of time, and actually ran over time. The nice thing about Chinese students is that they didn’t complain, start packing up, looking at the clock or interrupt me to remind me of the time. They are such sweet kids (I say kids, even though they are in college).

Anyways I thought it went well on the whole. There is definite need of improvement, so I am looking forward to hearing the other evaluations.

The first person who evaluated me was the site manager at Sichuan Normal University Main Campus. She observed me the first half of my lesson, from yesterdays review until the descriptions/scenarios of each transportation group work. Her observations of me are as follows:

Constructive/advice: I talked a little too slowly; I should correct the students’ on their grammar mistakes at the end of class; should tell students to speak up when they are presenting to the class; and some misunderstanding with the word ‘scenario.’
Positive: she thought the students were engaged; the students did most of the talking; I taught as though I had been teaching for years, even though I have only taught officially for one semester; I praised the students well.

The second person to evaluate me was our TEFL trainer. She observed me the second half of the class, from the debate through the discussion of idiomatic expressions. Her observations of me were good and fair. She had a few recommendations for when I teach at my site in the future. Her advice is golden since she is finishing up her 2 years with the Peace Corps this August.

That’s all for that. Next Monday Beth and I will be teaching the primary school children. I will probably be very tired at the end of every day next week, but I think it should be fun. I will miss the college students I was with, though. Friday I went by to say goodbye and got a picture with them, and one student asked if he could give me a hug. They are all so sweet!

Other adventures? Not too many that I can think of. I did go swimming with my host brother and his best friend twice now. We went to a public swimming pool that is Olympic size in length, but only about 5 feet deep. It’s fun, but so crowded. There are so many people swimming or splashing around. Some swimming vertically and some horizontally. You always have to watch out for other people in your way, which is especially difficult for someone like me who can barely swim. Oh it was also my first experience with a communal shower. First time it was really weird, second time not so much.

Also my host mom is a PE teacher (think I mentioned this already) and students have to pass a PE test in order to advance from middle school (I think that is what was explained to me). So the mom has been tutoring a middle school girl in PE, I believe once a week. The first time the dad, their son, and I just watched from the stands. This time my host brother said he wanted to exercise, so I joined in. First we both just jogged around the track. Oh I forgot to mention that we meet the student at one of Sichuan University’s tracks. On the track are many people: guys playing soccer; babies walking around followed closely by parents or grandparents; children riding their bicycles or skateboards, walking, throwing a ball around; women and older people walking around the track, and more. It is very busy. So after we ran about 3600 meters (a little over 2 miles), we joined the mom in her class. Mostly what we were doing were squat jumps. As a result, today I can barely walk down the stairs and I wince every time I use a squat toilet. In other words, I am so sore.

Oh, and last thing…on Thursday we learned about air and water pollution in China. The 5 major air pollutants in China are: ground level ozone (which consists of VOCs and nitrogen oxide—no I do not know what VOCs are, although they did mention that in the session); particulate matter (like dust, dirt, and other construction debris); sulfur dioxide (the result of which is acid rain); and carbon dioxide (more common in winter and on busy roads). There is also an inversion problem here (not quite sure what this means, but I wrote it down in my notes from Thursday, so it must have been important).

The provinces with the most problematic air are: Shanxi, Gansu (only the capital Lanzhou—Peace Corps volunteers here); Hunan; Henan; Chongqing Municipality (Peace Corps volunteers here); and Sichuan (obviously Peace Corps volunteers here; this is where I am currently). Lanzhou and Chongqing are two of the worst places in all of China, as a result all volunteers from this two regions are issued air purifiers that must be used for breathing for at least 8 hours a day. I also learned about some very polluted cities in America—some the equivalent to China (Pittsburgh and Los Angeles are two that were named).

But that’s all. Until next time. Have a good day today!


  1. Pittsburgh is one of the most polluted cities in America? Really, I am going to have to break the news to my sister Sarah! It is hard to believe because when I was there in May it was green and beautiful and the air was fresh! p.s. great lesson on transportation! So proud of you Katie!

  2. Katie,

    What an amazing story you are telling. I'm very interested as my niece and nephew are both from China. I look forward to reading more!

  3. I believe an inversion refers to a temperature inversion. This is where a mass of denser cold air pins the lighter warm air to the ground as a result air pollutants stagnate and are not carried away.

  4. Katie! Zack wanted me to tell you that VOC's are Volatile Organic Compounds. To quote wikipedia: "Industrial use of fossil fuels produces VOCs either directly as products (e.g. gasoline) or indirectly as byproducts (e.g. automobile exhaust)."
    so there ya go! you learn new things everyday =)

  5. Thank you both Ben and Zack c/o Maria. You two are so smart!