This workshop was overall a fruitful one. It kicked off with a sharing by Professor Grahame. Prof Grahame was humorous. He spoke slowly and very clearly. This is something I can learn from as I sometimes speak very fast. His topic on reading was an interesting one. He covered both the theoretical and practical parts of teaching. He started off with the ways to support reading. He touched on the value of pictures and the importance of signs in helping children learn to read, especially when children are still making print-sound connection in the early stage of reading. Pictures fill in the gap of reading independently for meaning. He shared about the concept of scaffolding and the importance of having scaffolding in teaching reading, in addition to the techniques to support reading through scaffolding. Before disclosing the techniques, he opened the floor to the teachers for a discussion, and amazing ideas came from the teachers. It was good he walked around and involved everyone in giving ideas. He then shared the techniques. For instance, we can scaffold pre-reading by first giving pictures and have the children predict the content. Building up the background knowledge around the theme is another strategy. Explaining genre of the text helps too. During reading, we may use graphic organizers, skimming and scanning, and jigsaw reading, to name a few. Jigsaw reading is good for big classes as a text is broken into a few sections. Each group of students will take a section and read and then tell the other groups about the content of that section. For post-reading, he went on to explain that besides the more common techniques like summarising and generating and answering questions, we may use the answers produced for other purposes. In addition, he shared on the elements of successful reading. Other than phonemic awareness and phonics, we may teach vocabulary using semantic gradients. This is interesting and helpful to teach a range of words within the same semantic gradient, e.g., cold à lukewarm à hot. We can teach words using word webs too, where related words are written out next to one another, e.g., key - treasure – pirates... In a nutshell, I find Prof Grahame’s sharing to be practical and helpful and I enjoyed it very much.
Next up, Miss Adeline Zhang, a trainer of Oxford University Press from Hong Kong, showed us an energetic demo lesson. She used realia to teach vocabulary related to picnic. She engaged all children in her lesson and children seemed to enjoy it too. I like the “jump in” technique she used in reading. She read a few words and stopped and children read the next word after that and she continued again and stopped at a random word and children said the next word and so on. This trains children’s word recognition and attentive abilities. I am amazed at the oral and reading abilities shown but Grade 2 children at Nanshan School. They know words like key ring and rug even before the lesson. I think it would be good if we can learn from the school on how they accomplished this. The next demo lesson on subtitling and speaking was amazing too. The students’ oral abilities were good. The teacher used English movie clips to teach children the intonation. She used a marker to mark the rising and falling tones above the words.
The second half of the workshop began with Professor Huang Zhihong’s talk on lesson design and analysis of participating lesson plans. Prof Huang is the director of the training centre at South China Normal University and is definitely a very experienced trainer. I certainly benefitted from her sharing. New Magic teaching material advocates task-based learning. She explained that the design tasks should be authentic, purposeful, with an activity that has learning in it, etc. Finally, the workshop ended with Professor Tian’s demo lesson and an explanation of his lesson. Prof Tian is a very experienced and skilful teacher. He warmed the children up with songs prior to the lesson. He interacted a lot with the children and managed to engage them. He set the pace and moved through the lesson in stages. He first asked the children to talk about their new English teacher. He then showed a picture and info about himself for a short while and asked the children to tell what they saw. He then showed a picture of his daughter and a narration of what she liked to do. Children jotted down the main points and then shared orally. Prof Tian used a mind map to capture what the children shared and asked them to read the mind map after that. Next, they read the text in the book in chorus. The children read the text almost perfectly. Prof Tian requested the children to read in a natural way, just like how they would when they speak. Lastly, the children were required to ask what their friends like doing and complete the table in the book. Whenever the children produced ungrammatical utterances, he corrected them softly. For example, when a child said “She don’t like ...”. Prof Tian facilitated her into saying “I don’t like; He doesn’t like, She doesn’t like.
All in all, this was a great workshop and I learned a lot.