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Challenges of Teaching Young Teens

By Oliver Bartman

I love teaching SS and I enjoy HF; however, TB has always been an interesting challenge, and that’s not just because of motivation. What happened was my TB class was getting the content and doing fine on assessments, but they weren’t absorbing the knowledge. They knew how to use it when using it context of the unit, however they struggled to use it when speaking freely.

This could be because of the way we train students to interact with the topics, digital resources and materials.

The Small Stars and High Flyers courses are very efficient forms of teaching, these follow the PPP (Present Practice Produce) teaching methodology, it is a form of the Behaviourist Account, this is because of how we react to topics. This is how we teach students to use language dependant on the topic, for example in HFD we teach students that ‘I don’t like turtles, they are smelly’. It is how we teach students to react.

This is a very similar learning style to students from the Chinese public-school system.  It is very effective for the age range we teach in SS and HF because it focuses on simply memorizing patterns in the unit topic.

Now because of the way we teach students to memorize patterns, the trailblazers book presents us with a new challenge. Our TB books are focused a lot more on the Socio-cultural accounts, it is the awareness of interactions first on a social level, and then on a personal level.

What that means is students need to socially interact with the language we present, and then personalize it and incorporate it into their own everyday language usage.

For example, in TB students to learn ‘So’ and ‘Such’ like in the music unit of TB3. We can teach the function of the language quite simply and get students to interact with each other using the target structure and topic choice, then we need to make it more personal for them. Then take interesting pictures not related to music for students to interact with and allow them to personalize their responses.

Our books are designed around topics to help students interact and engage with it on a personal level, however we want students to interlink it with other topics as well. What we need to do is train our students to react more to situations where the language can be reused, rather than focusing too much on topics.

It is important then when to help students in this transition by getting them to brainstorm not just vocabulary they would use, but also grammar. Reviewing this regularly when engaging new topics will help build awareness of how language can be reused.

So, activities like talk shows, debates, posters, 20 questions, jeopardy, interviews and think-pair-shares are great opportunities for more free language practice. The purpose of this is to encourage our students to transition from personal interests (intrinsic motivation) to take more interest in the world around them (extrinsic motivation).

Playing clips from TED talks every 2 weeks is a great warmer to get students engaged about topics outside of the course. Having Chinese subtitles helps support understanding and engagement in class, this can extend across books. A great website for graded news is I hope this helps.

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