Below is excerpted from an email to another (native speaker) Mandarin teacher at ALESN, who found me a teaching assistant for this year's Thursday night Mandarin I class. I wanted to explain to her what I envision as a basic structure for my classes that I will be teaching during the 2017-2018 academic year:
- I want to divide my class into 2 groups for the first 30 minutes of each class. The assistant will work with the more advanced students who have better pronunciation and tones, going over the dialogue, vocabulary, and lesson material that we will be covering that class. At the same time, I will take the more entry level students and those with bad pronunciation and work with them separately at the other end of the classroom to drill pronunciation and tones.
- Maybe 30 minutes into the class, we will stop and become one group again, and I will begin the dialogue, vocabulary and lesson for the evening. I would like my assistant to read the dialogue to the students 3 times: super slow, medium speed, and normal speed, while the students just listen. I will ask the students to point out any pronunciation issues that bother them from listening to my assistant.
- Then, I will read the dialogue super slowly one phrase at a time, having the students repeat after me. We will do this a few times. Then, I will have the assistant do the same thing, so that the students can get used to listening to and repeating different voices and different speeds of spoken Mandarin.
- When the time comes to cover grammar, I would like the assistant to read all of the example sentences and the students to repeat after the assistant, and then I will explain the grammar points in between each sample sentence.
- When we break up into groups, I would like the assistant to walk around one side of the classroom while I walk around the other side, answering questions and helping students with pronunciation issues.
I would also like my assistant to be ready to say and repeat problem words and phrases over and over again, as many times as necessary, whenever necessary, during class each week -- whenever I need to correct pronunciation errors. In other words, whenever there is any kind of pronunciation issue, I am going to stop class and say the word over and over, and I would like the assistant to say the same word over and over as well, the students repeating over and over after me and after the assistant.
I am going to drill pronunciation so much this year that any students in my class who can't fix their errors on certain words after x number of weeks of repeating the same errors will become absolutely miserable and quit my class.
I want to be clear that I am NOT going to be a jerk, but I am going to be very firm with my remedial students this year. I have changed my teaching philosophy. Life if too short for students in a free language program to not study on their own, not make concerted efforts to fix their language errors over time, and then continue to show up to my classes each week with the same awful pronunciation in May that they started with in September. I would never try to be a gymnast because I have no talent for doing that. I recognize this about myself and my life is better for knowing this. I would like to help certain students realize this year that they need to quit studying Chinese and maybe take our dance classes instead.
My number 1 teaching goal this year is to help my absolute beginner students learn to pronounce and speak accurate, very basic [Cantonese and] Mandarin Chinese so they can say hello to someone, ask for the time, ask where the bathroom is located at a restaurant, and hopefully be inspired on their own to learn food or clothing vocabulary so they can order at a restaurant or purchase something at a store. My number 2 goal this year is to help bad students realize that they need stop trying to learn Chinese and choose a new hobby.
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