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How much do kids actually know and retain 
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Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:04 pm
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Post How much do kids actually know and retain
I am an ALT in Japan.

I am new to this school, but I find that the level of English is quite low, even though the students have been studying for several years.

It seems they have one lesson every 2 weeks.

But there is no sign of homework, except for the occasional worksheet here and there.

Has anything that has been taught actually gone in for these students ? Seems like there's plenty of themes taught but subjct matter not very well absorbed/internalised by the students. Is that simply due to not enough lessons and hence by the time they do the next lesson, hey would have forgotten much of the previous.

Even I cannot remember what I did a week ago !!

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Moon


Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:50 am
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Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 4:34 pm
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Hello Moon,

This is a great question. I think that in a situation where students only have 2 lessons a month it is pretty amazing what they do retain. I'm not an ALT but I teach at a few schools twice a month. In this kind of situation I review the basics in every lesson: Basic Questions (What's your name?), colors, numbers, and ABC's phonics. After awhile the kids will remember these well. Then if there is time I introduce a new topic like animals, sports, etc.

I think in this kind of situation where you teach only twice a month if you do a new theme every time you teach, it would be quite hard for the kids to remember.

My concept is to expose the children to the foundations of the English language, and if they have interest they will continue on their own. If you give them a solid foundation it will be very helpful to them.

I hope this helps a bit. MES English is a fantastic resource for this situation, an I have some materials on my sites that may be useful, Good luck!

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:16 am
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Hi Matt
Thanks for your support.
Maybe I am simply a serious person, but I want to make my time here worth it and hope the students come away now or in 10 years time having fond memories. The actual English content maybe not the hard part, but the ability to give it a good image and get students to like it... and that works only if they can do it. A kid will like swimming if he or she can do it well, and another likes basketball, and so on. English is quite a non tangible subject.

Maybe parent pressures and current curriculam expectations such as passing school tests and entrance exams can be dampeners towards learning.


Yes, this mes-english site is really great. Some of the games are awesome, and I would like to have a go at them.....once I get a bit more familiar to the students (so I can be a bit more experimental....:))

[quote]I have some materials on my sites that may be useful,[/quote]What site is this ?

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Moon


Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:45 pm
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Hah, I just found your website, it's in your signature !!

Have not quite got used to using this forum.......

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Moon


Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:46 pm
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Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 4:34 pm
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Hi Moon, sorry, my fault, I should have put my website in the reply. Have fun, you are starting a great new adventure and you will learn a lot. It takes awhile for most people to get used to teaching kids, but once you get the hang, its great. Maybe this page on my site would be most helpful to start, best of luck!

http://www.dreamenglish.com/basickidsenglish

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:11 pm
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Post Re: How much do kids actually know and retain
It's a bit of a problem but I think one that's receiving a bit of attention.

Some places are getting weekly lessons now, but the general aim of the classes is to develop international understanding. It's supposed to be an international cultural awareness period, but what it is supposed to be stands in stark contrast to what they attempt to do. It also makes the English teachers job difficult because the guidelines don't deal with language teaching at all, and as you said there's no fixed curriculum (because you aren't supposed to be teaching English! :shock: )

moon wrote:
Has anything that has been taught actually gone in for these students ? Seems like there's plenty of themes taught but subjct matter not very well absorbed/internalised by the students. Is that simply due to not enough lessons and hence by the time they do the next lesson, hey would have forgotten much of the previous.


I'm not that familiar with what goes on in elementary schools these days, but I think themes are often changed too quickly. There's often the feeling of if we aren't learning something new, we aren't learning. Thus if we aren't teaching something new, we aren't teaching. Chicken or the egg, I'm not sure.


I'd say atleast 3-4 lessons should be taught around one unit before moving on, but that means two months on the same topic or more with vacations. I'm not sure you can get a school to stomach that.

However, there's a really nice theory in the Steiner schools that if something is taught well the first time, it sticks. (They also don't have homework or tests, btw.) Anyway, that's why I believe you're better off teaching the same thing over a few classes. Because even though you review in the next classes, I believe you're just creating temporary recall by teaching the materials again, only to have it forgotten because it wasn't taught well enough in the first place.

I see my students once a week for one hour. I agree that even that isn't enough, since the students have no other English input throughout the week. However, you can do some constructive things with that time, both content-wise and as far as fostering an interest in English. So, I try to do that.

I focus on building understanding of basic structures, simple sentences and simple thoughts. If you can spend a few years just working on the basics, it makes forming complex sentences, hearing them or reading them much easier to grasp when all of the little parts make sense.

Also, I try to make it fun and set students up for success, not failure. So, I go slow and build carefully. We get a lot less content done than test English centers, but I believe what I do here 'sticks'.

Sorry, I'm rambling.

I think the reason they don't remember the content, may of course have to do with the time gap between lessons but more so that not enough time was spent on the theme.

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Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:18 pm
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Thanks for the tips.

It's not that bad actually, after all I feel sorry that children here have to even do homeowrk at such young age, so English classes are a breather for them.
When a curriculum is set .. this luxury cannot be afforded.

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Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:10 pm
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Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:27 pm
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For my students it's up and down with what they retain.

One day they will walk and we will do some kind of review activity, say with mes flash cards and they do great. However, after thatt we start something else using the same vocabulary and they are lost. I'm not sure if it's how I'm presentnig it or what.

I see most of my studnets in groups of up to 15 on my own twcie a week for an hour. Sadly (rarely do all the students arrive on time or even come to class regularly.) As a result they often miss the review or the introcution of new material.

In addition I see my 3rd to sixth graders with a korean teacher once or twice a week for 40 mins. However, my partner speaks lots of Korean in class and allows the students to as well, which I feels hampers their acquisition. I understand the need for some native language, but not to the extent that he permits.

Finally I have some studnets that just get it. Maybe they are smarter, better at languages, maybe they are more excited about learning, maybe their parents speak English or encourage it or a mix of all of these.

On the flip side I have those which are the opposite. As I language student I suck, so I can sympathize with the later.

Anyway, what I am trying now is to use less vocabulary with more structure. What I mean by that is using more of the same flashcards/vocab. while introducing new questions/responses, etc.

I am not sure how it will work, but I've got my fingers crossed.

In closing I have also noticed a big difference in my studnents ablitity from the big cities Seoul/Busan to my present rural location.

Keep your head up, do your best, and have a blast!

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Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:35 pm
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Oops I forgot.

As for homework, I don't give it to the younger ones. They just don't do it.
For my 3rd to 6th graders I give some in form of worksheets, etc. Again some are great about doing and others are pretty bad.

Tests I use to give them, but only a few kis did really well and the others bombed (which did not help their confidence.) Last year I gave up on tests. However, my present school really ants the students to learn more and so do I, so I am thnking of starting them again. Nothing extravegent, just a weekly spelling test or something like that.

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Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:40 pm
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