End of TECC: Reflections on Gansu

Lanzhou Travel Blog

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Reflections on the Second Week of TECC


During the first week both the TECC volunteers and the teachers of the Gulang Training Institute didn’t know what to expect.  With that time behind us, however, the volunteers grew more attuned to the teachers’ needs in the second week. 


We asked for anonymous written feedback to find out what parts of our curriculum were working and which ones weren’t.  Regarding the speaking exercises we had been doing, the teachers altogether appreciated the creative activities, such as the travel agent activity and family skits.  They thought that the pronunciation drills weren’t as useful as tongue twisters, because the former only tested individual words whereas the latter reinforced phrases and sentences more similar to everyday speech.  They did, moreover, enjoy the games that we played.


We previously had the teachers read news articles and write summaries.  While correcting their mistakes, however, we realized that there were many common errors in the teachers’ writing.  So we decided to go over their common mistakes the next day.  I think it was really useful to pinpoint problems in their own writing, rather than spending valuable time on generic grammar points that might not be as useful to them.  For further practice, we chose to do a timed writing assignment on a topic that’s very familiar to all the teachers: the National Entrance Exam.  In thinking about a topic, we anticipated that something familiar would lessen their stress of thinking about content and help them focus on the writing itself.


Something else that the teachers wanted was for me to talk more about aspects of American culture.  I asked my class what they wanted to hear me talk about, and the vast majority desired to learn about higher education in the United States.  Sherry also told me that the primary school teachers wanted to hear from me, so we decided to combine the two classes for my presentation.  I presented on how students in the United States apply to colleges, how they finance their education, and what their campus and academic lives are like.  I passed around the most recent Common Application used at American universities to exemplify the application process.  As we had some spare time after the question and answer session, Jocelyn and Sherry presented about the processes to their respective universities.


In the last few days of the program, I wanted to go over some more advanced concepts with my class.  Before TECC, I read that introducing the fact that English is a stress-timed language can significantly help non-native speakers speak English more “naturally.”  So, I decided to go over this concept of stress-timed language vs. syllable-timed language (e.g. Chinese), exemplifying it with sentences and poems. 


Moreover, I also went over the concept of inductive vs. deductive learning, and how these teaching approaches can enhance the classroom experience.  To really give freer reign to the teachers, we let each one pick a specific grammar topic and asked them to prepare a lesson on that topic using new methods of teaching.  I think that was a success, because this is where teachers got a chance to really use different approaches and receive feedback from us as well as the other teachers.



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photo by: portia