A REVIEW OF THE LAST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL 2009 – 2010


A REVIEW OF THE LAST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL 2009 – 2010

 

STAGES

 

Stage One

 

Duration: August 1, 2009 – December 10, 2009

 

Book Three was processed at this stage. The focus was on Reading Text A and Reading Text B. The key purpose of doing the book was to expand the students’ vocabulary by means of the context of each unit. Six periods were spent on one unit and a test was done for every two units. We used the Book SHIJIJINBANG as a companion to Book Three.

 

Stage Two

 

Duration: December 11, 2009 – June 1, 2010

 

A revision of the three course books and focused practice were combined into Stage Two.

 

For revision, most effort was devoted to a book titled jintaiyangkaoan. This book reorganised the units of the course books into modules. The students went over the relevant units of the textbook in the morning reading slot. In daytime classes, we followed the steps provided in the jintaiyangkaoan.

 

We did focused practice by using the exercises provided by the coaching paper Student Times. The paper presented exercises on Vocabulary, Cloze Test, Reading, Sentence Completion and Writing.

 

MATERIALS

 

The Course Books

 

Senior English for China Book 1A, Book 1B, Book 2A, Book 2B and Book 3

 

We treated the course books as a foundation of the last year’s work. The role of the five books should not be exaggerated, however. To achieve the final goals, we should go beyond the course books. The students’ skills in comprehension and writing had to be built on practice in new contexts.

 

The Companions

 

SHIJIJINBANG for B3

 

The companion to Book 3 was SHIJIJINBANG for B3. The book provided systematic learning aids for Book 3. By reading the book, the students got a good knowledge of the language items—words and expressions, patterns and grammar.

 

JINTAIYANGKAOAN for Hubei

 

The companion to revision was JINTAIYANGKAOAN for Hubei. We highly rated this book. The book was organised in a concise and compact manner. Key points were highlighted and excellent exercises of reasonable amounts were included. Compared with other revision books, its practice, delivered with the right amount, very few errors and meaningful contents, impressed the students and teachers alike.

 

The Coaching Paper

 

Student Times was used throughout the year as a learning aid.

 

The coaching paper, Student Times, provided high-quality practice in all areas of the language. The contents were strictly edited and difficulty was scientifically controlled. Some users initially dismissed the paper as too easy, but as time went by, its value stood out. The questions became more and more challenging, and average learners got an uplifting result from each of its comprehensive tests. Its best advantage over papers from other sources was that the English language in it was authentic and questions scientific.

 

The Listening Books

 

Two listening books from Victor English were adopted for the two semesters.

 

Papers from Outside

 

Various papers from other schools and agencies were available for reference.

 

TEACHING PROJECTS

 

Cloze + Reading

 

Duration: 45 minutes a week; one academic year

 

A Cloze + Reading paper comprised one cloze test and five reading comprehension passages. The students were required to get the paper done in 45 minutes. Throughout the year Cloze + Reading was done 30 times, one practice a week. It was cut out if there was a BIG test scheduled for a week.

 

This project benefited the students in several ways. First of all, the biggest chunk of the NMET is Cloze + Reading. Success in this part means success in a whole exam. Secondly, almost all the practice questions were chosen from the past national exams. The questions were well controlled and scientifically written. Students learned about the nature of the Cloze Test and the Reading Comprehension by experiencing them hands on. Thirdly, they helped boost the students’ confidence, especially after they scored low in the almost monthly diagnosis tests, which misled the students more than guided them in that they failed to follow the syllabus and many questions in them were illogical.

 

Listening Practice

 

LP was conducted the same manner as before. It was done three times a week every other evening, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each training session lasted for 20 minutes. The English assistant was in charge of the job. He played the audio and helped get the answers checked. The students were encouraged to read the relevant script if a mistake was made.

 

PMP

 

Practice Makes Perfect (PMP) lasted from the beginning of Grade One until December, 2009. Each and every member of the team was responsible for editing/writing learning aid for the ongoing teaching. It took various forms—multiple choice questions, sentence completion and cloze, and others.

 

Revision

 

Revision was started where PMP came to an end. Revision focused on Sentence Completion and Cloze Test. Still the members of the team shared this job. Ten Sentence Completion questions were based on the key patterns from the corresponding unit.

 

Writing Guide

 

A Writing Guide was prepared by Mr Wang Yanbing. It contained detailed guidance on writing, covering grammar and sentence structure and how to develop a paragraph.

 

Basic English Vocabulary

 

In October, 2009, a booklet Basic English Vocabulary was prepared and handed out to the students. The contents were based upon two lists—Oxford 3000 and Longman Communication 3000. The official vocab list for the 2010 Exam Syllabus was not released until February 2010. In the run-up to the exam, more focus was put on difficult and key items on this list.

 

Ten Sentences

 

Duration: ten minutes a class; one academic year

 

About 10 minutes was devoted to Ten Sentences in each period.  The teacher selected ten sentences before class. In class the teacher presented a Chinese sentence and the key words before he asked a student to put it into English orally. After the student gave the answer, the teacher made necessary modifications. Meanwhile all the students set the sentence down in a notebook. Since this project was done on a daily basis, a lot of language items were repeated and recycled. Most students responded positively to it and hence their grades in Sentence Completion improved a great deal.

 

Small Talk

 

Duration: five minutes a class; three academic years

 

At the beginning of a period, a student spoke to the class in simple English. He could speak on any topic. He could also ask questions. Or the class could ask him questions. Sometimes it was a conversation between the talker and the teacher. Five minutes of speaking served as a platform where the spoken word was experimented. The Small Talk was of special significance in the last year, when stress and pressure tended to shut the teens up.

 

Journal

 

Duration: an entry a week; three academic years

 

In the Journal project, the students tried their pen on paper. They were encouraged to focus on a topic related to their everyday life. They were not expected to write perfectly, but recurring and conspicuous errors were highlighted by the teacher. The teacher commented on an entry after reading it.

 

The project went beyond the language itself. It ended up functioning as a channel of communication between the students and the teacher. Thanks to the journal, some problems were nipped in the bud, and the teacher got a balanced picture of how the students were faring in their academic life.

 

REFLECTIONS

 

The Quality of Home-grown Materials

 

Over the 3-year rotation, we have collaboratively produced learning materials for the students, such as PMP and Cloze + Reading. They were shared across the grade and helped very much with the students’ learning. Nevertheless, a number of issues should be highlighted as follows to better such materials in the coming rotation (2010 – 2013).

 

Relevance

 

The best learning material is relevant to the students’ needs. If the materials are to be used across the grade, we have to make sure they suit the different learners—snail classes, rocket classes and super-rockets. When one-size-fits-all contents do not work, we have to come up with materials customised to the different learners. Irrelevant materials waste time and kill efficiency.

 

Proofreading

 

Some materials were copied and downloaded from the Internet. In this respect, the technology helped cut down on our workload and improve the efficiency. However, one conspicuous and prevalent problem was there: Proofreading was not done properly.

 

When we copy a text or download a doc from the web, the first step is to de-format the text. This can be achieved by copying the text into the notepad or by using the button “Optional Paste” in WORD. The next step is to read through the text and correct the errors. At the same time, necessary formats are re-placed. Before having the material printed, we should polish the text by reading it through again for any errors and inconsistencies.

 

Proofreading takes time and patience. Without proofreading a professional document would be out of the question. A carefully prepared doc is a great aid to the users.

 

Innovation

 

Materials are greatly appreciated if they result from an individual educator’s originality, research and expertise. It is hoped that in the next round of three years we spend more time researching the subject and coming up with our brainchild. With dictionaries, online encyclopaedias, the course books and the national curriculum, and exams from across the country, we will surely innovate relevant and learner-friendly contents.

 

Teamwork versus Individuality

 

We contributed to the collective effort by sharing the workload—writing PMP and Cloze + Reading materials, comparing notes on thorny issues, and working toward a common goal. Teamwork also shone when we did the utmost to look after the class we were entrusted with be it a rocket class, a bullet one, or a snail.

 

Teamwork has been overemphasised despite the fact that it plays a key role in any organised activity. Teamwork does not work where individuality is crucial. When we do classroom instruction, we have to tap our own talent and creativity. The best teaching is customised to the learners; therefore it is impossible that one solution solves all the problems. In the next round, we still need to collaborate. But we also need to maximise our individual efforts for better results.

 

Critical Thinking

 

Critical thinking is disciplined intellectual criticism that combines research, knowledge of historical context, and balanced judgment. (Encarta Dictionaries)

 

We frontline teachers should never lose it no matter what directions we may receive from all levels of “authorities” and “experts”. To put it simply, we think on our own about an issue, research it using our knowledge of historical context, and come to a sound conclusion.

 

A sound conclusion originates from being well-informed about the subject matter and the teens we work with. In the run-up to the final exam, all sorts of exam papers poured in. Some purported to be written by STAR teachers; some from a STAR school. What approach should we take to such papers? Should we take them all in? Should we really subscribe to the claim that they contained information which could help the students excel at their exams? Critical thinking is the key to solving the issue. As long as we knew well the exam syllabus and the learners, we would differentiate pearls from fish eyeballs. To take the matter one step further, we frontline teachers, with critical thinking, CAN make wise decisions and sound predictions, which benefit the learners.

 

A successful learner does not follow his teacher blindly. Without critical thinking, he would fall victim to the failings of the system. Results have repeatedly shown that disciplined and independent learners shine in the final exam. Those who lack critical thinking go mediocre or fail.

 

Should we help cultivate in the learners critical thinking? The answer is obvious.

 

Confidence

 

The last year of high school is a difficult period of life for most students. Depression, suspicion and diffidence are prevalent among them. A teacher’s confidence and optimism helps to boost up their morale when a worsening performance in a test has plunged them into an abyss. A lot of the tests they took in the last year did them more harm than good where the questions were not scientifically controlled and therefore misleading rather than inspiring and uplifting. We teachers should keep the ultimate goal in mind and not get ourselves distracted by the misleading tests. A clear picture of where we are and where we are going builds up our confidence, and our confidence in turn rubs off on the teens. When confidence is lacking in the teacher, his students tend to panic anytime an obstacle crops up.

 

Boredom

 

Experienced educators are familiar with this pattern: the students are fired with enthusiasm and passion when they enter the last year of high school. As time goes by, however, their enthusiasm is gradually replaced by boredom owing to the lifestyle.

 

We frontline educators should not be the cause of the boredom. A regular life, without variations, tends to lead to boredom. We do not need to disrupt their regular life; in fact we can’t. But including fresh elements in our day-to-day work helps to reduce the boredom and to make their existence in the last year easier and more productive.

 

The Noticeboard

 

A noticeboard played a positive role in the office. Every Monday morning the team leader chalked the schedule on the board, highlighting the common teaching activities. Members of the team did not need to follow the same schedule to the letter, but the posted schedule was a reminder to the members of the progress. The presence of the noticeboard added to our efficiency and helped avoid misunderstanding.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

Our thanks goes to Mr He Wei (researcher from the City Teaching & Research Institute), Ms Shi Bin (from City High School), Mr Sun Rongming (from DF High School), Mr Liang Guomin (from DF High School) and Ms Zhou Daofen (from Che Cheng High School), for their guidance and advice.

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