Saturday, August 05, 2006

Teaching Children in China

Teaching children in China can be a very rewarding experience for a teacher. After three and one half years of teaching at all different levels and types of schools, I can say for me the rewards are really great teaching the young children. I use the Cambridge for schools books and I find them to be very good books. I usually get a student when they are about 7 or 8 years old. Many are really at the ABC level at that age and that is fine, for these students I use the Cambridge for young learners books. In some ways this is a better book than the Starter book, which usually follows. I now have students who are in book 3, which is really book 4, and these students all speak better than 90 % of my college students did at Li Gong University. So as I said in the last post, if you get them first or early in their learning you can really bring them along relatively fast and most of them should make the top 5 in their classes in English. Many of my students are at the top of their class in English. I was also fortunate to have a student place at the top level in all of China in the national testing by age group. There are 200 private language schools in Nangang where I live and two students received a first place prize, one of them was mine. So that is very gratifying, and one of the perks teaching the young. At this age they are quite eager to learn, the pathways or roads within their brains are not set as with older students, so they learn English just about as well as they learn Chinese.

The types of problems you may encounter at this level are usually connected with the ability to concentrate and pay attention. I conduct classes entirely in English and only have a need for translation sporadically. For this I use my Chinese teacher or my girlfriend whose English level is high enough for the task. The basic flaw in the Chinese system is they teach English in Chinese, so many, after 10 years of English study are unable to really speak and their listening skills are even worse. At an older age they tend to just tune out. With the younger children with the help of pictures and repetition the meaning and usage of the language flow together nicely. Just about everywhere I have been in China for some unknown reason uses "New Concept" English books. Which is really a misnomer as it is old concept and in my view a terrible book. That is why we are here to expose them to Western teaching methods and I can tell you with certainty that it does work. You can't learn English by teaching it in Chinese. You get no skills in listening and the speaking is not much better. In China the teaching style is much like baby birds in a nest, they open their mouths and you regurgitate your knowledge into them. Any teacher in China has heard the phrase "get or gain a lot of knowledge". This is the style the teacher drones on and on with little or no interaction from the students, is it any wonder that the schools have failed in this regard?

To be fair, my last university position had students who could not get into other universities for the most part because of their poor scores and non existent study habits. They had the money, or rather I should say their parents had money. Most of them were just flushing yuan down the WC. Well that is the way it goes sometimes in China, once the student is admitted to a university he will graduate as nobody receives a mark lower than a 60. You could do absolutely nothing and still graduate. Couple this with no work experience and having had virtually no other responsibilities and you get a pretty pathetic picture of what the future holds for most.

Larry aka worldtour

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At 11:58 PM, Blogger Brett said...

I have been enjoying your blog for a while now. I discovered it while googling english teaching in Harbin. My wife and I have been considering teaching english overseas and feel China will provide the best experience for us. Our son has recently returned from Asia where he has been teaching for the last four years. He has spent time in Korea, Hong Kong and for the last two years in Taiwan. This gave us the opportunity to travel and enjoy all these countries. We spent 4 weeks travelling through China and fell in love with the people. I have spent sometime researching where we might go in China. Harbin seem like a good possibility We are Canadian, like the four seasons and a little cold weather doesn't scare us.
I get a sense that you enjoy Harbin and your profession. Any tips for two, soon to be early retired Canucks who want to spend a year in Harbin.

At 8:00 PM, Blogger worldtour said...

Hi brett, thanks for stopping by my blog, yes you are correct, I do enjoy my life in China. Since you already have spent time in China you have a pretty good idea what to expect. I also agree with you that the Chinese people are easy to fall in love with. Even with all the problems they face many find a way to enjoy their lives. I also find many have a wonderful generous spirit. Of course, like anywhere there are some that you won't be inviting over for dinner.

As a couple you have some real advantages over single teachers and that will work in your favor. There are many universities in town and that might be something to explore. It's a bit of a soft landing so to speak. You will have on campus accomodations. If you are looking for something a little more akin to what the natives have then there are the private language schools. I am still on a friendly basis with the owners of one of the better ones here in town and they in the past have employed "older" teachers. They have three locations and a fourth on the way. Probably the salary is about 5,000 rmb per month each. I think it is a bit more regemented than when I was there as I was the first teacher hired other than one that came from Jilin.

I do enjoy Harbin, the people are hearty, I was born in the snow in Minneapolis so it doesn't bother me. In fact, I'm looking forward to the cooler weather, hot is just not my cup of tea. Icelights festival is very unique and the food is great. The cost of living is cheap so you will easily be able to save at least half of your combined salary if you want to.

I would just advise to do your research on the school follow through, try to talk to the teachers that are teaching there currently. If you would like to email me feel free to do that at

Thanks for you kind words about the blog, it's hard to know if it is being read so, hey, you made my day.

Best regards.
Larry aka worldtour

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At 11:32 AM, Blogger Jenise said...

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At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi brett, thanks for stopping by my blog, yes you are correct, I do enjoy my life in China. Since you already have spent time in China you have a pretty good idea what to expect. I also agree with you that the Chinese people are easy to fall in love with.
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