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Getting students to use more English

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Interista, Jun 26, 2019.

  1. Interista

    Interista New commenter


    We're looking at ways we can encourage students to use more English at school, in all of the international schools I've been in this has been a challenge.
    Does anyone have any good strategies they would be willing to share or links to any blogs etc on this?

  2. missmunchie

    missmunchie New commenter

    I find explaining to students that speaking English will help improve their level and that this is what parents expect helps. Also, that English is the common language that everyone in our school understands and so we should speak English so that no one feels excluded. I don't agree with telling students off or punishing them in some way for speaking their native language.
    576 and gulfgolf like this.
  3. 576

    576 Established commenter

    My last school had missmunchie's 2nd point as policy.
    I also remind them of the same 2 points.
  4. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    If the students use it in a negative way then there is a cause for a concern. However, every expat teacher must remember that it is natural for anyone to speak in their mother tongue. Our school encourage the use and development of mother tongue. It is not the student's or the host country's fault that most expat teachers are not bilingual.

    Start with the "why?" and ask, "Why are you here?". In my school for example, every child and parent is geared towards getting a western education, more importantly university. That is their big picture. The locals attend international schools mainly to learn English and to get into a UK university. Hit them with reality and question how are they going get there if they can't string a simple sentence. Also use examples of all the affluent individuals in our host country. For which many of them went to the original rent-a-name schools in the UK. In regards to our non-locals, they are also geared into getting into that reputable western university as well.
  5. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Mrs M teaches some of our Spanish neighbours' children. As always, the key is the students' own interests. Eleven-year-old Adan is a British football enthusiast and he's trying hard to turn Mrs M into a Manchester City fan. The fact that she doesn't speak Spanish (or so he thinks) means that he is having to work hard at his English.

    We worked for a time in a 'bilingual' school where the staff were routinely allowed to get away with 'I teach in English but of course I have to give the explanations in Spanish'. English remained a poor relation.
    gulfgolf likes this.
  6. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    "How do your get your students to use more English?" This is a perennial problem in international schools, but of course some schools are more "international" than others. When this old hippo was teaching in Bucharest, there were nineteen different nationalities in my Year 5 class. Therefore the only common language we all had was English. Occasionally I had to tell off one or two of my Romanian students for talking in their native language, as there were probably more Romanians than any other nationality, but this did not happen very often.

    When Mrs Hippo and her overweight husband were in China, nearly all of my students at the green school in the desert were Chinese speakers. Therefore getting them to speak in English was more difficult and of course at break-times the lingua franca of the playground was Mandarin. However, all of the lessons were in English and most of the Chinese Teaching Assistants also spoke good English. In many ways, it is even more important for the TAs to speak in English, even though it is not their first language, as they were models and examples for the students. If a child was hurt or upset about something, then I never objected to the my TA or the child speaking in Mandarin. The important thing was to sort out the problem as quicjkly as possible. I never explained anything in Mandarin because my Mandarin was awful! Occasionally I asked my TA to translate, but not very often as usually this was not necessary.

    Here at a saintly school in Sofia, the Bulgarian-speaking staff outnumber the English speakers by a large margin. As well as learning English, the students also study many subjects in Bulgarian and will have Bulgarian national exams.
  7. Lana55

    Lana55 New commenter

    Hi Interista,
    As I will be in your position soon, I researched this topic and found the following at this site:

    I will be teaching mainly IGCSE classes.

    It has been reported that some very bright, hardworking students overseas are unable to go into top universities in the West because they do not score enough points in their IELTS exam, mainly due to lack of writing skills. SoI would encourage writing in class by making students answer the worksheet questions and homework questions in full sentences. Reward them for good work.

    Personally, I would consult the students' English teachers and work alongside them. They should know your difficulties as subject teacher. Maybe they can be given the textbooks in your subject to get an idea and embed your subject in their planning.

    I would also

    Allow only english as the medium to communicate unless instructed otherwise by the teacher.

    As starter, ask the students to read the pages of the topic in the textbook aloud around the classroom.

    Ask a randomly chosen student ro read aloud the sentence/s on the powerpoint presentation and ask the student next to her/him to speak in their language to explain the meaning, and the language assistant will help to check and improve.

    Make an occasional ppt presentation entirely in their language (with the assistants' help) then encourage students to translate. You can then teach through the English version. These two could reverse too.

    It has been reported that some very bright, hardworking students overseas are unable to go into top universities in the West because they do not score enough points in their IELTS exam, mainly due to lack of writing skills. I would encourage writing in class by making students answer the worksheet questions and homework questions in full sentences.

    Embedding English Effectively In Plans: Ten Top Tips For Teachers
    Posted on June 11, 2015 by joannemilesconsulting
    • Identify naturally occurring opportunities to embed English – don’t fake it!
    • On your plans, note down the one or two aspects of English you are actively developing in that lesson/module – don’t overload it.
    • Pick out the 5 most useful key words for a lesson and clarify them (match up the words with definitions; dictionary definitions race; gap fill exercise)
    • Get learners to practise the S.U.M aspects of the words during the lesson and in revision slots – S for spelling and how you say it; U for using it in a sentence; M for what it means in a definition
    • Identify whether reading and writing skills form a key focus in the lesson and which ones are being developed – focus on those specific skills.
    • Think about how to prepare learners for reading (a few prompt questions, some visuals, a predication task)
    • Think about how to prepare learners for writing (model essays; a writing frame; guidance sheet on how to structure it)
    • Develop your approach to correcting written work (peer review stages; common errors list; correction starter activities)
    • Remember that speaking and listening are part of embedding English – consider the specific skills learners are practising in group discussions, debates, presentations etc. Give them some “how to” advice plus some feedback for development.
    • Thread these approaches through your Scheme of Work so skills are developed over time – you don’t need to do this in every session or wrench things in where they really don’t fit….
    576 likes this.
  8. kpjf

    kpjf Occasional commenter

    Yes, I agree. I teach English in France and although I definitely encourage a high amount of the target language I know that it would be silly to enforce a 0% French rule. Sometimes my students help others by explaining a grammar point they didn't understand or simply translate a word,

    I think if some teachers had to learn a foreign language 100% in that language with English banned they would soon realise how frustrating it can actually be. Of course in theory it won't be that bad given that in most international schools their English ability should be quite high.

    I remember my students had a problem saying "How do you say x in French / English?" or "What does x mean in French / English?" so I kept telling them how to say that in English, to get them to stop asking in French, but then some kept mixing up the how and what or saying something like "what does mean in French x?" So I created 2 posters with a little cartoon character and a speech bubble with each expression. Now, every time they say it in French or make a mistake I point to the poster and it's been very effective.

    Lana55, I'm a bit confused by some of your points and their actual use / benefit. For example your first point is essentially don't allow them to use their L1 then next you're saying let's teach in their L1 and get them to translate. It's a bit contradictory and would be confusing to the students. Could you please tell me why this is useful to create a lesson in their L1 and translate? I don't see the benefit to be honest.

    How common is it for international schools in Asia to have a local teaching assistant in the classroom?
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
  9. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    In my experience, lots of international schools in SE Asia have local TAs. There are various reasons for this, I think. First of all, they are relatively cheap to employ and the school fees are outrageously expensive, so the school can afford to employ them. Secondly, so many laowai teachers have virtually no Mandarin and so there really is a need for lots of bilingual TAs. Thirdly, a lot of Chinese teachers would jump at the chance of working in an international school, even as a TA.

    I might be wrong, but I had the impression that if a foreign teacher made a mistake, then they would probably be given another chance. A local TA would not be treated with any sort of leniency.

    My first TA in Shenzhen was fairly useless, as she was always chatting to the children in Mandarin, on the phone or disappearing and never bothering to tell me where she was going or when she would be back. Usually I found it quicker to do things myself, rather than asking her to do it. My second TA, Miss Y, was absolutely wonderful: kind, sweet-natured, so good with the children and patient with the parents. Usually I would tell her to go home at four o'clock and she would say, "Yes, but I just want to get this finished..." Unlike me, she never complained about boring meetings. Miss Y always spoke to the children in English and she even told them off if they talked to her in Mandarin. She spoke very good English, unless a child was upset or because I asked her to translate. For parents' meetings, Miss Y was an invaluable help.
    kpjf likes this.
  10. krakowiak6

    krakowiak6 Occasional commenter

    Yeh that's right the TAs do all the translating at parents day in China as most parents can't speak much English. Don't think the school fees were outrageously expensive though. 15-20k I think in pounds sterling.
  11. doteachershavesuperpowers

    doteachershavesuperpowers Occasional commenter

    Give them a house point if you hear them speaking English, or making a massive deal out of it.
  12. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Well, krakowiak6, the school fees were astronomical, if you take into account the lower salaries that most of the locals get in China.
  13. Lana55

    Lana55 New commenter

    'unless instructed otherwise by the teacher'
  14. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    Our school in East Africa had a pupil-led tradition that only English was used, even between siblings who might already be working in their third or fourth language. No staff intervention. It worked surprisingly well.

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