3 Feb

Spice up your class with creative teaching methods!

One of the most interesting questions we get at China Plus about the year to spend abroad teaching is what kind of class you’re gonna teach. There’s not a clear-cut answer to give. A curriculum is provided, but how you design your class is really up to you. We always say that if you want, you can rely for 90% on the curriculum and invent 10% of your class yourself, but we strongly advise to do it the other way around. You’re not just a Western replacement for a Chinese teacher, but your class is all about being comfortable with the language, context, pronunciation, and fluency. There are many creative teaching activities you can carry out with your students, making your class warm, entertaining and effective. The main aim of every activity is letting the students forget that they are actually learning. Some of the students are a bit more willing than others…

1. Games
Everybody loves to play games, from kindergarten to university, if you shape the game right, students will want to be involved. Games with for example visual exercises will make the students energetic, interested, motivated and active. Bringing games to your class has proven to be one of the most effective ways to learn. There are millions of different games available on internet, there are more traditional Chinese games that you can turn in to English games, students can have ideas about games themselves – the possibilities are endless. The great thing about games in the classroom is that if during the game you realise it is too difficult or easy, you can simply change the rules of the game! Tips: Quizzes, word games, ball games, small competitions, ‘Who am I’. Games like that will not only engage students, they also will be looking forward to the your next class!



2. Video and visual materials

Especially primary school students benefit highly from visually clear and attractive materials. There are endless possibilities these days. You can record a ‘Skype-call’ and let other students comment on it, use attractive flashcards, mind mapping, short movies and cartoons (turn off the sound and let the students make their own sounds and voices, sentences), let students make short vlogs as homework, etc. Using these methods will help their communication skills, understanding different concepts, empower their creativity and imagination. Also, seeing or hearing themselves back will learn them to give feedback and will normally create a great and funny atmosphere in the classroom.


3. Acting out and going out

If you try to connect your classes to situations happening in the real world, students will understand quicker why they are learning certain things. Remember, when you were in mathematics class and you thought: ‘Why am I learning about the Pythagorean theorem, what can I do with it?’ When connection learning material to realistic situation, it’s directly clear for what purpose students can use the knowledge they just gained.

If you have a small group of students, take them to the market to learn them about different kinds of fruits, finding different colours and name them in the real world, take them
to the bus station and act out buying a ticket from you there, etc. If you have a bigger class, you can easily act out different situations by changing the background picture on the
screen, bringing a couple of students to the front of the class, acting out situations with a background that speaks to mind.


4. Brainstorming

Something Chinese students will not be used to is a brainstorm session. This is a really great exercise to help students develop more individual ideas and to see how many different ideas and thoughts can be developed on one subject or idea. Make sure that all the students can be involved in the session and that they know there’s no such thing as a wrong or right answer. Brainstorming can be a great start before a game to gain more input. Brainstorm about the different kinds of weather if you’re carrying out a game about the weather, brainstorm about different kinds of clothes if you’re gonna act out buying clothes in the store.


5. Sports

Just like games, sports is a great way to be active with your class and to communicate in English. However, children are smart, if they feel you’re just using the activity to teach, they will be confused. If a game is new, you can use it to teach more, but children already understand the different concepts of for example football, basketball and running and it will make them confused to change these concepts. Just focus on the sports activity and make sure that the communication is in English, as much as possible. Also, this will keep them healthy, active and ready to concentrate better on the next activity in class.


6. Music

Music is a great activity to help students learn English, especially children. Good melodies will be stuck in a student’s head, maybe they will even sing it at home. Songs and music make learning words, grammar, parts of speech, fluency and pronunciation so much more easy and fun. The great thing is that there are many different ways to involve music in the classroom. Music bonds, music warms up (always have some friendly music playing when students are entering the classroom, in case they’re nervous they have something ‘friendly’ to focus on). You can use different songs every class to mark a part of your class. Students will know a certain part is over: for example that it’s time to check homework, or time to stand up and be active, or sit down and be quiet or the class came to an end. Bringing and instrument to the classroom helps to keep students focused, just make sure you play it well and understandable. The possibilities with music are endless really. One tip from us: Chinese love karaoke, just search for ‘karaoke’ on YouTube.

Is creative teaching for me?

As you’ve seen, there are a million ways to bring in variation in all the different kinds of creative teaching methods. Maybe the one that you prefer is not even listed here. Working with teachers and students in China for a while we’ve seen that normally the method the teacher is most passionate about works. Also, creative teaching is all about innovative ideas. There’s nothing wrong with some trial and error, just make sure you always have a plan B!

Written by Bas Kragt, Program Consultant English Teacher Program at China Plus

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