ESL Classroom Tips

What does teaching English abroad to non-native speakers involve? What is the process in the classroom to ensure that every non-native English speaking student is not left behind and is able to acquire the necessary skills both in speaking and writing the language?

First things first, it involves the careful choice of appropriate and simple material to use in the classroom. This applies not only to materials such as prescribed texts, or teacher-generated content, but also simplicity in language used in the classroom, and in instructions given to students regarding class activities. The choice of content for use in the classroom is obviously dictated by the level of the students so what works for an adult class will not necessarily work for a children’s classroom.  Teacher interests in certain topics or themes are helpful in guiding students in the class, but so are the interests of the students themselves. This is particularly visible in classrooms in which discussions take place as the level of engagement increases dramatically when the discussion centres around a topic that is familiar to the students or one they have the most knowledge of. This is also a good way to get the attention and contribution of those students who are usually shy or reticent due to their language competency, to become much more involved in the classroom.

Visual aids work great. I’m reminded of one of Vinston teachers, John, who while teaching, video-called his mother back in the UK to show his classroom of kids that cats in the UK actually do look like those in China since the kids were curious. They were satisfied to observe that cats in the UK indeed resemble those in China. There won’t always be extreme cases such as this one I’ve used here as an example but, always remember the adage, “show, don’t tell”. Students are able to make refences or remember better when a visual aid is present. Showing vs. telling is also a valuable skill to teach to students, especially in writing when teaching tools such as the employment of “active language”.

Language teaching, especially to beginner English speakers requires a fair bit of “performance” from the teacher in terms of approach, and also in inflection of certain words and phrases. The idea is to keep students focused since it is a new area for them and they may easily lose interest if they do not follow what is going on in the classroom. For this reason, it is always important to gauge understanding of the lesson or activities as the class runs. This way, you are able to identify students who may require extra attention, but also, evaluate you own work in terms of what content works, and which does not.

It is especially important to pay attention to student understanding in the classroom since – due to a different culture, especially in China – students may not readily speak out or raise their hands to communicate that they do not understand.

Also important is the building into the lesson practice time, whether for written tasks, pronunciation or speaking and reading tasks. You are working towards the goal of language competency and as such, students must be able to develop skills that will aid them in the acquisition of a new language. A lot of examples here are also important to build confidence in the students at each level. But, it is also quite important to instil in students language, reading and writing skills beyond the classroom and this really is the mark for a successful class.

Teaching English in China is a fun experience for a lot of students and teachers themselves. The ultimate hack to success in the classroom is keeping students motivated and excited about the learning process.

Finding your way around Changsha

Changsha is a city of around eight million people who each day travel from different parts of the city for work, schooling or personal reasons. You can expect to spend  around on average, 20 minutes on the road - depending on the distance you are going - using either the city bus or a meter taxi.

The meter taxis are readily available and will go pretty much anywhere you need to go. Although on days of heavy traffic, most drivers opt not to go to great distances or cross the bridge just to avoid the traffic. These taxis roam the streets day or night and the if the red light on the dashboard is on, it means that particular taxi is available to transport you to your destination. They are fairly cheap, with each trip costing around RMB 6/2KM and RMB 1.8/km beyond the initial 2 km. At night, (23:00 - 5:00 the next day), the pricing starts at RMB 7/2 km and an additional RMB 2.16/km beyond the initial 2 km.
Alternatively, there are the Didis, which are China's equivalent of the Uber. Much like an Uber, you need an app and an active account to make use of these.

Changsha has a fairly user-friendly bus system that operates around the city day or night. You have to figure out your route and which buses - buses and routes are allocated numbers - go there. Certain buses do not make use of certain stops even if they go past them. A single trip costs RMB 2 and is payable in cash or a preloaded card.

Another way to get around the city is through the metro, an underground train service that operates day or night. Around 650 000 people make use of the metro daily. As is the case with the bus, you have to figure out your routes as well as stations you will get on or get off at. Ther are currently two lines; the South to North Line, and the East to West Line. The latter line is the one you will likely use once you are settled in Changsha as a Vinston employee, depending of course on which side of the river you have been placed.

A more informal way to get around the city is riding humpback on a motorized scooter. There are millions of these on the roads and often go anywhere that is not of great distance. Price of the trip is often negotiable and the trip itself is quite refreshing. It is also the best way to beat traffic since their drivers often manoeuvre through stalled traffic, and will often ride on pavements. The great thing is that they are not speed accident prone as their highest speed is around 40km/h.

Changsha is a world class city with modern systems that make each day convenient for residents. There really is no better place to teach English when you are in China.

Teaching in China - A viable career option

Teaching in China - A viable career option

Unemployment rates are up; daily on social media, graduates list their qualifications hoping for exposure to possible employers on their networks. Hashtags such as #Jobseekers or #JobseekersWednesday trend weekly on Twitter, showing the desperation of groups of people who are skilled and qualified but just cannot find employment. This outcry on social media is merely a glimpse of the reality of thousands of people. Thousands more, with qualifications, may not be tapped in digitally. They too are also, daily, on a quest for employment.

For a lot of people, the idea of relocating to a foreign country to teach English is remote..

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Making your way to Changsha

Making your way to Changsha

The flight to China is long, but relatively comfortable and is almost the final leg on your way to teach English in China. Depending on the country you are flying from since we recruit a lot of native English speakers from many countries abroad, you can find flights direct to the larger cities in China e.g. Beijing or Shanghai. In some instances, you may need to fly to another country in Europe or the Middle East, then catch another flight, again either to Beijing or Shanghai, then connect to Changsha from there. Another possible route is to Hong Kong, from where a direct flight to Changsha is possible.

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