Introductions (again)

Yesterday was my first class – the second-year culture class. For some reason, all students except freshers begin in week 1 of the semester. Freshers begin in week 2. Their classes will be pretty straight-forward I think; I intend just to do the same as what I did with my classes last year (the class is titled on the system, I believe, as ‘English Speaking’). The second-year classes, however, pose more issues. For a start, the foreign teacher they had last year already did some culture classes with them, and whilst they thought it would be no problem overlapping, I am not so sure. So, I will really have to ‘play it by ear’ and see what happens. I explained to the students about possible overlaps with last year, but still, not knowing what they have already been taught or discussed, raises a few potential problems.

The first class was a general introduction. Next week, I will do an introduction to culture, then a class on US history, and then I want the classes to be more interactive. I have come up with ideas about young people in America, the US education system, festivals (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas), sport/free time, music, films, and social conventions. Whether I can fit all this in, I am not sure. There is not much flexibility, although if I need to drop one topic, such as films, I can, given that their last year was film-heavy with the previous foreign teacher.

Finishing off my PPT on Monday, I thought about setting them some homework to lead into next weeks’ class. They have to go and interview foreigners and Chinese people about what they think when they hear the word culture; whether they see culture as an important thing to study (and why/why not); and what their favourite US/British culture is and why. This should assist them in the discussion about culture next week.

I think they will find next semester more interesting, given I am going to look at Britain and they know less about that. I also have an issue with grading. In their infinite wisdom, the English department has declined to explain exactly how the percentage break-down will be done for this class, so I have proposed it myself. The percentages here always include class participation – including attendance, homework and so on. I was thinking of getting them to do short (no longer than ten minutes) presentations on the topics as a lead in to each subject, but they spent most of last semester doing individual presentations on culture, so perhaps I could get them to do a debate this semester, and next semester give them presentation to do. I will have to see which topics are best for debates, however, and how I would grade them. It could be a debate at the end of the semester, including everything that has been discussed, and whether they think culture is important to study or not. It would probably also require half a lesson – at least – on how to debate, which I have not factored into my class schedule so far. So the debate may well fall by the wayside. I could try and give them short quizzes instead at, say, the half way point (like a mid-term), but I will have to see. It would only be 10% of their overall grade I think, but still…

The first-year students start next week. We have one week of class (week 2 of the semester), then semester weeks 3 and 4, we have no class with them, because the freshers are completing military training, then there is a holiday (national week), so it is not until October when I will next see the students, after the introduction. The freshers last year had similar disruption with the computer system failure; they did not, to my knowledge, then have to complete military training. It’s a bit of an annoyance, given they will miss three weeks of class, after the first week, but not much I can do about it. At least the lessons do not follow each other. I can and will set my own exam for these students which means that this year, hopefully, there will not be the issues I had last year with the listening activities.

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