A Review of the Year 2015-2016

A Review of the Year 2015-2016

Guidelines

Reading Leads

Why does reading lead?

Reading comprehension is the biggest chunk of the final exam. Also the ability to comprehend texts is the most important requirement on the curriculum. Not only is reading tested, but also it is a means of teaching and learning the language. The students improve their overall English proficiency by absorbing meaningful, mentally challenging texts.

How does reading lead?

The Reading Project for 2016 is the first item on the weekly schedule. Two periods are allocated for each practice. One period is devoted to reading the passages and answering the questions; the other to re-reading, dictionary use, and reflection on the students’ part and to-the-point explanation on the teacher’s part.

The learners are reminded to heed three items while reading: concentration, speed and comprehension. A good reading habit is the key to comprehension. Thus they are not allowed to eat or drink, chat, or use a dictionary when the reading is going on. After the reading is done and answers checked, there is more work to do, and this work is critical to learner improvement. The suggested post-reading activities are re-reading, using a dictionary, study reading, reflecting on the mistakes, locating good words, phrases and passages, retelling or rewriting. As far as advanced learners are concerned, retelling benefits their speaking; rewriting their writing.

Revision Enhances

Revision is not simply repeating what was done in the first two years of high school. The goal of revision is to refresh the learner’s memory of language items covered in the 8 books: words and expressions and grammar. By revision itself, a learner cannot improve his abilities and skills. Revision helps a learner build up his bank of English knowledge. Without the basic words and expressions, no learner could go ahead in his endeavour; just memorising those words and expressions, without sufficient practice, a learner would have no means to reach the ultimate goal of using English for comprehension and expression. Thus Revision enhances.

Grammar and Writing Perfect

With the changes in the exams in mind, we have to switch to teaching and learning grammar for communicative purposes. The multiple choice questions on grammar have been long gone; the sentence completion questions are obsolete. What is required of an examinee is to use grammar properly in communication, or in a context: in the cloze test, the error correction passage and the guided writing task. Achieving mastery of all aspects of grammar, on the learner’s part, would occupy too much of his time; it would leave his language practice under nourished.

However, the changes do not mean in any way that grammar is of less importance. Grammar helps a learner to be correct in his interpretation of input and to a greater measure in his output. When it comes to Part 2 of the exam, an examinee would go out of his way to be correct in order to achieve a perfect score or a near perfect score. A candidate who scores 145 should lose almost no point in the second part of the paper.

Processes

A Grammar Summary

August was spent in doing a grammar summary. We followed a grammar book chapter by chapter. Each chapter was accompanied by practice in the subject.

Revision

Revision spanned from September to February. We revised Books 1-8. Most of our energy was devoted to a companion. The students read the texts and vocabulary of the Student’s Books in the morning reading session. During the daytime lessons we followed the companion. The companion covered Books 1-8. Almost all classes left out Books 9-11.

Focused Practice

For two months March and April we did focused practice. The exercises were organized based on different categories. One category was the question type. The other was the topics frequently covered by exams. A book by Jiangxi Jintaiyang was adopted for the purpose.

Work Before the Exam

May was devoted to preparing the students for the last exam. Under the grade’s arrangements, six simulation tests were given. Each test was graded.

Fixtures

The Reading Project

The Reading Project was a weekly fixture. Each week the Reading Project took two 45-minute period, the first period for working on the questions and the second for recycling the paper. In the second period, after the answers were checked, the students were required to reread, study read, and research the language in the reading with the help of their dictionaries.

For advanced learners, retelling a passage helped them to develop their speaking; rewriting a passage their writing skills. At the beginning some complaints were heard. However, those who persevered shone.

English Weekly Tests

The coaching paper English Weekly provides high-quality exams. The questions are properly set, language in the questions authentic and material fresh.

We used the paper to give the students a test weekly. The tests were graded and explained.

Handwriting Practice

Handwriting lasted throughout the school year. After each monthly exam, the best samples were collected and printed for the student population to emulate. Some progress was achieved as a result, but this work left a lot to be desired.

The Vocabulary Checker

The Vocabulary Checker was a booklet of over 2,000 key exam syllabus words. Some simple words such as desk and water were not included in the list. The students were assigned to memorise part of the book daily. First thing in each class, the students’ memorisation was checked.

English Cookies

The English Cookies were a daily fixture. Every day the students had 15 minutes to work out some questions focused on a particular knowledge point or on a skill. They were required to answer all the questions in a quarter. The paper was collected, checked and explained.

Lessons

The more, the better?

It seems that applying as much input as possible is the trend. When the students do not perform well enough in an exam, teachers and parents tend to believe that the students have not taken enough exercise.

Input plays a vital role in ensuring student achievement. However, whether it really works out depends on two criteria: (A) the input is relevant; (B) the application of input is well spaced.

Why do we teach and learn English?

With China opening its door wider and embracing the world, a good command of English will facilitate an ordinary Chinese’s communication with the world. In education, tourism, trade, technology and many others, English is often the means of communication.

When we prepare the students for the exam, we should not forget that a high grade in the exam is not the ultimate goal. The truth is that too much energy is spent on teaching to the test and that real communicative skills are left underdeveloped. It is no joke that a candidate who scored 143 in the final exam still does not feel confident enough in reading, writing, speaking and listening when it comes to using the language in real life contexts.

The importance of writing

It is quite easy for a lot of candidates who have laid a good foundation to score 130 plus, but to get 140 or more takes outstanding skills in writing. For one thing, an examinee has to write good natural English. For another thing, presentation is the key to persuading the exam checker to award a perfect or near perfect score. Therefore, it is worthwhile to take time to perfect the examinees’ handwriting and their layout of the composition on the answer sheet.

Sustainable development

It is the plain truth that it does not make sense that to get an egg you would have to kill the hen. A country has to develop and raise the living standards of its people. However, its efforts to do it must be based on the consideration that the future generations will still have resources to tap and that its people must not sacrifice their lives to achieve it.

Do we frontline teachers have to sacrifice our health and to resort to all means possible to ensure that the students perform better and better in exams and that their parents are satisfied? Do we have to collapse at work to show that we own a strong work ethic?

The above questions are raised because in the last school year quite a few colleagues of ours developed health problems. One of the members on our English language teaching team, Mr Zhang Jinping, is still under treatment. May he recover soon and join the team again.

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