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Back to school!

For the last three days we have be volunteering at a local Primary school teaching English to the kids there.
Each grade has 6 classes and each class has 53 students! So the school is HUGE and there are 100s of kids everywhere!


We each chose a grade to work with and were given a teacher to assist. My teacher was called Rosie and we were teaching in Grade 1 (6 year olds) and Dan was working with Sarah in Grade 2.


Every Monday the school has the flag raising ceremony where the whole school marches out to the playground and stands in formation to wait for the flag to be raised. This is the only day of the week when the pupils have to wear uniform, other than open days or if another school is visiting. Select pupils have the honour of marching with the flag and raising it whilst the whole school turns in unison to watch the hoisting of the flag and sing the national anthem to the music being blasted over the loadspeakers. Rosie told me this was when the students get to mimic the military and we found that a lot of aspects to school life seemed to reflect the order of a mini army such as standing to attention, shouting replies as one and group exercise. After the flag was raised there was a presentation of certificates and flags to the class, pupils and teachers that had done well in the previous week given by the headmaster of the school. After receiving the certificate the children would salute. Rosie addressed the school with a summary of the good things from the last week and any bad things that could be improved on.

Depending on the teachers schedule that day you were either in class assisting in the lesson or in the staff room preparing for lessons or helping with marking.



In Grade 1 we were teaching how to greet each other. I was introduced as Rosie's new friend and we demonstrated how to say hello, how are you, nice to meet you and how to ask someone's name. The class all chimed in learning the phrases and jumped at the chance to come to the front to greet me and shake hands. Parts of the lesson were taught in song and on one day I was thrown in the deep end, complete with microphone headset (Britney style), to teach the kids the hello song with actions! It was great fun although a little embarrassing to begin with. Rosie took some photos and video so there is evidence but we can't open the file she sent at the moment so that'll have to wait for another day!


One of my classes, so cute!


I was very impressed with how Rosie managed to stay in charge of 50 six year olds at a time. There was not one class that didn't listen to her. She would shout 1,2,3 to get their attention and they would chant back A,B,C, or she would say "listen to me" and they would respond "listen to you". Each class sits in 4 rows and each row was allocated stars if they were participating well, listening and paying attention. If they were naughty a star would be taken away. The row with the most stars at the end got some biscuits. When I went into my first class they were in the middle of doing their 'eye protection' exercises, they do this mid morning and mid afternoon to give their eyes time to relax as their school day is long from 8am until 7 pm on some days!


Some of the kids had great English and had great confidence in coming and speaking to me, particularly for 6 year olds. They each choose their own English name and one girl in my class was called Panda which is sooo cool! Another was called Berry and after class one day she came up to me and said "Sarah your nose is long" :) I didn't take offence though as they have not had many western volunteers in the school and after lots of giggling she took great delight in naming all the colours on my earrings, clothes, eyes etc...


I'll hand over to Dan to let you know about his school experience....

My lessons were very similar to Sarah as we were teaching a similar age group. However my task was to teach the kids about plants and their features as well as how it is planted and different names of flowers and vegetables. Much like Sarah's teacher, mine was very good at keeping The attention of the kids. However her methods were far removed from what I would expect a school in England would work. That being said, controlling 50 6 year olds is a job in itself and to get them to learn needless to say was difficult.

I was impressed by some of the kids as their English was very good, Sarah my teacher said that there were very bright kids in her classes who could sometimes speak better English than her. For the majority that weren't so good they had to keep up with the military style approach to learning by shouting back the word with the teacher incessantly until they got it. The first lesson plan was simple enough, get them to look a parts of the plant and try to put the word to the part. The teacher conducted the class and I helped in parts by getting them onto shout back began to get quite annoying and I wasn't sure if many of the kids were getting it. I tried to walk around and show to some of the kids but I think they were more interested in me.

She would shout PLANT! LEAVES! FLOWERS! And they would shout back, then we would try and use little games to get them to think about the words and parts as well as chuck in little songs and sentences for them to repeat which again was all repetitive.

They were all very cute and cheeky as you should be at the age which made my first experience a fun one but then she said that I would be leading the next one ! ....Bugger!!

I have better respect for primary school teachers in China and in England now I would say having conducted my own class. To keep up the energy levels and enthusiasm so that the lesson doesn't trail off and start to bore the kids is something I didn't gel with straight away. I wanted to try and help some of the kids who seem to just sit and by drowned out by louder kids but it just became more and more difficult to keep their attention. I was able to get the lesson across regardless however I couldn't say for definite whether tomorrow they all would be able to tell me where the root of a plant is but all in all it was a fun experience and the kids were very sweet.


As a side note to this I experience probably the weirdest gig I have ever done. Firstly it was me singing solo, it was to the whole school (about 1000 kids) and I sang "if your happy and you know it clap your hands" .... It was a good laugh and I had some backing dancers to take some of the limelight and later the kids too who all jumped at the chance to get onstage.

I subsequently found out that I was volunteered by Jo to step up and so was asked by a teacher "you sing" to which I replied " er, yes..why?" ...the why was not really answered, it was more like "good,easy song, you follow me now" ........ so I did... After all the karaoke had warmed me up to singing again and I followed the motto of group 'why not'?


Thanks Dan :) .....your singing was great, definitely think you could get a number one with that classic!

On my last day I had a free afternoon and so Jude, Sam and I sat in on the class that Jackie was taking in Grade 6, so 11 year olds. It was very different from the classes I had been doing singing songs etc... She had had to prepare a class to teach about the different types of Chinese fan in English. She was great and it wasn't only the kids that learned something new. We were suddenly put on the spot though when Marbrain (the teacher) asked us brits at the back of the class to speak to them about the "hat culture" in England! We were a bit stumped but had some breathing space to come up with some ideas as we were put into teams with the kids and started to play an odd game of musical statues, only problem was if one of the kids on your team moved then you had to go to the front and talk about "hat culture", I think we pulled it off...just!


And how could we forget...the skipping!! P.E. class is a huge affair as 100s of kids are split into different groups to do various sports - ping pong, Kung fu, badminton, football to name a few. As Jackie pointed out if you stopped and look at the playground it was like everything was in fastforward with all the kids rushing about in some kind of ordered chaos! Skipping was a highlight and we all gave it ago. It was amazing all the moves they could do and we struggled to master just one of the 'basic' moves much to the amusement of the teacher and the kids! We even tried to practice the moves in the flat but it didn't help much!


Although I think Dan is nearly there and we have plenty of time in the next year to practice, just need a bit of rope...


Posted by doyledan 06:37 Archived in China

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