What do I know about Tahiti?

This was a question a student asked me this week. Now, I welcome students asking questions. On a Friday, after class, one student often stays behind and asks me about various things – usually about Britain or British culture. I don’t mind this, he is a good student and it’s good he is inquisitive. My last English corner of the semester was last Tuesday, at which I spoke about a few aspects of British culture. Although this was more hap-hazard than my previous one, the students seemed to enjoy it. One student told me afterwards that they ‘especially love my cute face expressions’…..Not sure what those were, but okay! Another told me that, after going to English corner for two years, I was the only teacher who had thanked them for coming and that meant a lot to them, which is very sweet.

Nevertheless, ‘What do I know about Tahiti?’ is, I have to admit, one of the odder questions I’ve been asked here. I replied I knew something – Joseph Banks, Captain Cook (and others) stopped there to witness the transit of Venus in 1769. I also said it was perhaps most famous for being one of the destinations of the mutineers from the Bounty. I then asked, ‘why?’ They told me that their project was going to be based on Tahiti.

In last week’s class, I introduced the topics of the speaking exam to my classes. The foreign teachers here are all doing different things – one is getting their students to do presentations, another couple are getting their students to make short films. The students here are probably technically able to make them – far more able than I would be. I contemplated this option too, but decided against it, partly because I haven’t done any film stuff before in my classes, and partly because I would not be confident doing it myself so I wouldn’t know what to grade them on. Presentations are certainly doable, but we haven’t really covered anything about them so far, and I wanted something a bit different (this was my back-up idea). So what to do?? Well, after talking with my folks and other friends, it was suggested I assign the students a group project to do. The project is to create an advertising campaign about either the university, a city (Beijing or somewhere else), or a lifestyle.

I explained it all in detail in the class, and shared my slides with all my classes, and told them what was required. They all have to contribute, use at least three slides, produce a leaflet with information on it (at least one side of A4), and explain how they would sell their topic to their target audience. I also gave them the option of producing a short video to supplement their campaign if they wished. If they make a video, the quality of their leaflet will be scored lower than if they do not. But a video is optional. Because many of my students are not Beijingers, I told them I didn’t mind if they picked another city, expecting them to focus on cities in China. For instance, in my first class of the week (with 11 students), two students are from the same home town (and I don’t think they even knew each other before my class, as they study different subjects), but they have decided to advertise this, as they both know all about it. That’s fine. For lifestyles, some are looking at procrastination, going to bed and getting up early, and healthy living. Others are focusing on different aspects of the university. One group, in my best class on a Tuesday, have decided not to focus on any city but on Tahiti. Quite why they picked Tahiti, I’m not sure. So long as they meet the brief, I’m okay with it. I suspect, and I don’t know for sure, obviously, but suspect that they will produce something pretty impressive.

All the classes have two weeks in which to complete their projects, and so the first week of December I will get to see what they can and have achieved. After this, it’s not long before their listening exams and the semester’s end. I might well get them doing a few acting activities, and prepare for the listening exams (which all the first years’ do). But, after they do present, perhaps in the future, if a student asks me ‘What do you know about Tahiti?’, I can reply, quite a lot!

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