Jason's Live Timed Essay about TEE

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Jason's Live Timed Essay about TEE

Post  Jason Renshaw on Thu May 15 2008, 10:40

This essay was composed and typed live in class on May 15, in response to a previously unseen essay topic (provided by Sujin), with only 30 minutes for the teacher to complete the task. It is meant as a demonstration and example of how to handle a 5-paragraph essay in response to a challenging topic within a strict time limit. Students were also directed to note the way the introduction became a planning device for the rest of the essay (a useful strategy for efficient planning in a timed essay situation).


Topic:

How can a teacher adequately control the students' behavior if the teacher is only using English in the classroom and students don't understand what the teacher is saying?



The issue of teaching English in English has become a contentious issue in Korea in particular of late as the government has announced that all English teachers should be able to conduct their lessons entirely in the target language by 2012. Despite the obvious benefits this may bring to English classrooms, one of the biggest issues for teachers has to do with maintaining control and comprehension in their classes. How can they possibly control and manage their classes well if some (or for that matter all) students cannot understand what the teacher is saying? While this will undoubtedly be a challenge, there are in fact several options for teachers to maintain control in their classes. These include positive reinforcement systems, out-of-class following up with problem students, and the philosophy that classroom management itself is perfectly feasible through the target language if one has the appropriate methods and patience.

First of all, teachers of any discipline (not limited to just language study) are almost always more effective in their roles when they have some sort of clear postive reinforcement system. It would be fair to say that human beings, in all aspects of life, are motivated most by rewards. With positive reinforcement, this means that the teacher will have a variety of systems and strategies to demonstrate to students what is or isn't appropriate behavior, which also reinforce the kinds of positive behavior the teacher wants to see more of from the students in general. For example, teachers may allocate simple things like stars or checks on a classroom chart for students who have done something in the class particularly well. On the other hand, students may miss out on these things (or even receive minuses) for behavior that is obviously poor or not up to the teacher's expectations. Behavior is noticed and rewarded through a simple but tanglible process which doesn't necessarily need a lot of language or explanation. The results speak for themselves, so to speak. When positive reinforcement is upgraded to include actual formal ongoing assessment, the results in terms of student behavior are even more pronounced.

Of course, there will always be situations where extreme behavior needs to be dealt with, or students cannot comprehend exactly what it is they are doing wrong and/or how to go about rectifying it. Teaching English in English shouldn't be taken to mean that teachers must always use the target language with the students at all hours of the day or in any situation. It is perfectly possible to maintain a class in English, and meet with students outside the physical bounds of the classroom or at other times to discuss behavior. This means that the class itself can continue to be maintained in English, while discipline itself becomes an external matter that can be tacked in the learners' mother language. It also generally means that the teacher is likely to use classroom time more efficiently, focusing on activities and language learning rather than extensive explanations about behavior. However, this does of course assume that teachers are willing to dedicate the time outside of official lessons to deal with classroom discipline and student behavior.

Last, but possibly most importantly, teachers need to develop an appropriate philosophy about the role of an all-English classroom. They need to be able to accept that, at first, a good deal of what goes on may be hard for students to understand well. However, through the process of experience and experimentation, students will eventually come to understand what is or isn't appropriate. There are numerous examples of native speaker teachers in public school classrooms who manage and discipline the class entirely in English. A key question Korean teachers ought to be able to ask themselves is, if these classes can be conducted and managed entirely in English, why can't theirs as well? Watching experienced and professional native speaker teachers, a Korean teacher may notice things like emphasis and non-verbal communication devices that are used to inform and control student behavior. Students struggle with this at first, but over the course of time begin to be able to understand and work with it. Of course, the key problem here is that many Korean English instructors automatically assume that students will not understand them and therefore there is no other avenue besides using the mother language. They need to be strategic, patient and positive that the class can progressively become manageable entirely in the target language.

It would be fair to say that not all the reasons for introducing TEE (Teaching English in English) are entirely valid or fair. However, it may be going too far to include classroom control and student discipline as the main detractors from the approach. Teachers can learn how to employ positive reinforcement techniques. They can also apply strategic use of the mother language outside the physical and termporal bounds of the actual classroom. It should also be possible for them to develop an appropriate and patient attitude towards using the target language. Based on these sorts of considerations, Korean English instructors do in fact have a lot at their disposal to make classroom teaching and control of student behavior feasible in English. The overall development and proficiency of their students in the language itself, which should always be foremost in their minds, will assuredly progress as a result.




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Jason Renshaw
Kyungpook National University, Teachers' College, Department of English Education
Daegu City, Republic of Korea 702-701

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