Tuesday, 23 February 2016 04:43

How to Ace an Open Door ESL Class: The 5 P's!

An 'Open Door' lesson is an opportunity for your children’s parents to view a regular class which showcases what the children have learned highlighting the standard class structure.  'Open Door' classes are usually rated by the parents and can have a dramatic effect for your pay and review if done incorrectly or could potentially showcase incorrect material, causing the parents to question if their children are learning enough in your class. 'Open Door' Classes in China are usually held mid-term or more usually at the last class of the course. This is the big chance for Chinese parents to see their kids in action and what they have learnt in your English classes. A strong and fluid Open Door class can really push up re-sign rates in your classes, making you look super cool and possibly get you re-sign bonuses if you have that in your teaching contract.
 
What are the Five P’s to ensure a perfect Open Door lesson?
 
1. Preparation – Lessons need to be setup to make use of all the time in your class appropriately. For example, including book work in your Open Door lesson is frowned upon because it doesn’t showcase what the children have learned and isn’t very interactive for the parents to see their children learning or using the English Language. Your Open Door class will be silent and weird, so avoid using the book too much or even at all. Give your students the opportunity to speak with you, each other and their parents in English.
 
2. Practice – To ensure the children show how much their English has improved in your English course, co-teachers and you should prepare students of the Open Door lesson during the classes leading up to the final Open Door class. This will allow your class to be given more time to practice the material, know what they are doing and give that really polished good impression to parents. It is imperative to avoid highlighting weaker students at the start of the Open Door class.  If you have taken over the class at the end of the term and don’t really know who your weaker or stronger ESL students are, then ask your Chinese co-teacher or the colleague you’ve just taken the class off of. They will know. If all your weaker students go first, parents may think that most of the students aren’t learning the material and maybe you aren’t a good teacher yourself. Start off with one or two stronger students and get off to a belting start! The parents will be impressed and you will look good.

Lastly, practice makes perfect.  As understanding of the material increases, it will be displayed more naturally. Practice any language activity or game you want to use in the weeks leading up to the Open Door class. Very importantly, go through your Open Door lesson plan with your co-teacher if you have one in the class. Be on the same page together and both know what to do at all times.
 
3. Patience – Although you have setup material and have identified the stronger/weaker students, patience is needed during the Open Door lesson because all students must participate equally. Parent(s) with the weaker students may be aware their child struggles, but will be delighted when their child tries and that you have spoken to their child just as much as the stronger ones. Be prepared to help weaker students and finish off sentences with them if they are struggling with everyone watching. Care for your Chinese students always. Sometimes, as a teacher, it is challenging to have the child say the wrong thing but feedback provided has indicated that parents appreciated their child was provided ample time to succeed and participate.  
 
4. Parent Involvement – A sure-fire way to make parents happy during class is to have them participate in the class. For example, during a lesson naming body parts, have the parents stand next to their child and say, “Leg to Leg” (gesturing the child to put their leg next to the parents’ leg).Personally, I enjoy this part of the class because it shifts the focus to the parents and could get the parents laughing if the activity is fun.  In addition, having parents speaking English is the best part because it allows them to learn and get involved in their children’s education.  This is especially true if they have been busy at work and haven’t had the opportunity to do so. However, I believe the key is to provide them the opportunity to participate but do not require that they do so. If they refuse, don’t insist because they may feel that their English ability inadequate and are hesitant to be embarrassed. Every teacher needs to be aware of varying abilities before picking random parents in the class. Importantly, make yourself available to speak to parents after the class. They will have questions for you as you would have for your own children’s teachers back in the west. Respect and understand this and make yourself available. If that means missing your coffee in the office before your next class, then so be it. Help your school always and be there for kids and parents.
 
5. Put on a smile – Regardless if the class has the best and brightest students or the occasional lazy and unmotivated, smiling is the best picture in class. If you are smiling it shows everyone that you are excited and enjoying your job.  Your body language speaks more than verbal communication, especially when being focused upon by parents who may not have significant English knowledge, but can tell whether you are having a good time. SMILE no matter what and always make light of a bad answer.At all costs, have a good time while ensuring your students are as well.
 
I hope these steps make your ESL Open Door a success!  Learning the 5 P’s helped ease my mind and tension. Good luck with your future lessons and teaching and feel free to contact me anytime.
 
by Dominick “Venice” Inzerillo


 
Venice was in marketing for ten years before he became an English teacher. He taught in the US for two years, before moving to China to teach English in 2014. He invites you to add him on WeChat and you can do that by scanning the QR code above.
 
 
Hi guys, in my first article I talked about my previous job of teaching kids in a private training school in China, and the pros and cons of teaching in a English language schools in China.

In March 2015, I changed jobs and began working at a college in China, the reason for the change was simple: I was ready for a new challenge and intrigued about teaching English to older students. 
 
At the university I currently teach at, the English classes are divided into four parts: speaking, reading, listening, and writing. The foreign English teachers will usually teach speaking and writing classes, and the Chinese English teachers will usually teach reading and listening classes. Last semester, I taught speaking and writing in university, this semester I only have speaking classes. I am currently in my second semester at the university and I have already accepted the offer to renew my contract for another year.
 
Advantages of Teaching English at a University in China
 
The biggest advantage of working in a university in China is that compared to working at a private training school it’s extremely laid back; I go to class, teach, and go home. There is no dealing with parents, aside from a class register very little admin work, and I have no office hours (I have a key to the office I can go as much or as little as I like....it's up to me). 

Not Set Syllabus
 
As I’ve now been teaching English for several years, another advantage for me is that I have complete control over what I teach in the class. There is no curriculum to follow and as long as I am in class when I should be, nobody will monitor what I teach. The students do have exams to pass, for example, for speaking; they have to have a five minute interview in which they only speak English, but this does not impact each class. This has allowed me to teach what my students are interested in, for example music, basketball, and clothes to name several popular topics. Books are provided but there is no syllabus for me to follow. 

Great Holiday Entitlement at Chinese Universities
 
Another great thing about teaching for a university is the long holidays. For example, July and August are off for summer holiday, half of January and February are winter holiday, alongside various other holidays dotted throughout both semesters. Working for a private training school, I would get one day off for May Day, here I get ten days off!
 
This extra time off is great as it allows you to do more with your time in China, be it playing sports, travelling or learning Chinese. For me, more time to do my own thing in China is always a bonus.

Good housing
 
Housing is also provided by my school, it’s bigger than my previous apartment, of good quality, and if there is a problem help is always available for example my washing machine broke and the school bought a new one.
 
Disadvantages of Teaching English in a Chinese University
 
The biggest disadvantage I have encountered is that there is very little formal training given, nearly everything I have learned working here I have either learned through trial and error or by asking my colleagues over lunch (outside of my department I know virtually nobody as the school is so big and there are so many teachers).

Poor Teaching Materials

The teaching materials provided are of pretty poor quality and not much use to me when in the classroom, I will make the effort to use the books as the students have bought them but I could happily do without them full stop.

Very Large Class sizes in a Chinese University
 
Class sizes should also be mentioned previously my biggest class was 14 students and the average was around 8 students which is very easy to manage. At university in China each class has 25 students, which is very small by Chinese public school standards. Whilst Chinese students are generally not disruptive, students will often try to do as little as possible and with so many students some will inevitably succeed. One thing I recommend is to put everybody’s phones including your own on your desk at the start of every class, I didn’t do this last semester to my peril.

Living on campus
 
My school requires that I live on campus which is by no means a bad place, but is definitely less interesting than living on a campus in the UK or USA. The activities on campus are sports such as badminton or basketball and going to the library. Occasionally there will be a show such as singing, but this is rare.

Activities such as military training and sports day also happen on campus and it gets LOUD.

Your Salary Will be Lower at a Chinese University

Finally you can expect your salary to be lower at a China university than at a private training school withh much less room for negotiation if you do decide to renew your contract. However the excellent free time available can be used to make up for this shortfall in pay.
 
In conclusion I would recommend working at a college on the condition that you have taught before. Teaching English in a China university as a new teacher is much more difficult. Teaching is daunting for anybody starting out so the additional support and assistance you are likely to receive at a private training school are invaluable. For me right now I prefer working at a university. The challenge and the opportunity to teach older students (17-21 years old) is proving to be very enjoyable.

by James Clifford Brown

James Clifford Brown











James Clifford Brown was born in 1990 and is from Manchester, UK. He has been teaching English in China since 2012, first for EF Education First Ningbo and is now teaching College English at a university in Ningbo, China. He loves sports, particularly boxing, basketball, rugby, and cycling. He also enjoys learning Chinese and travelling.
When first coming to China as an English teacher, or indeed returning back to China for another year, many TEFL teachers may just consider clothing and a few other things when packing their suitcases. But there are many cool things which TEFL teachers coming to China can also pack into their suitcases which are absolutely brilliant for teaching English. Below are some items which perhaps you didn’t think of bringing from your home country for your classes that ESL students will love!

#1. Menus
 
Menus from western countries can be used to introduce cultural differences with food and diet, while also giving students an indication of the cost of living in your home country compared to living costs in China. Students could practice ordering from the menu in a ‘restaurant’ with a partner acting as the waiter. Higher-level students could practice complaining to staff, for example about dietary requirements not being met or poor service.
 
#2. Newspapers and magazines
 
It gives students a wonderful confidence boost to know that they can understand ‘authentic English’ from the real world. I’ve used British tabloids and broadsheet newspapers covering the same news to highlight differences in formal and informal English. Students particularly enjoy reading over-the-top ‘Agony Aunt’ letters and then writing their own reply before reading what the magazine columnist came up with. Advertisement language and techniques could be analysed - there’s endless activities within the pages of the same newspaper or magazine. 
 
#3. Tourist brochures and leaflets
 
To help my students prepare for the writing section of an upcoming exam I used real brochures for a historic activity centre in my hometown. They revised the features of an effective leaflet by critiquing this leaflet in pairs. Students then wrote a tactful letter to the designer outlining their opinions regarding the current design and any revisions that should be made. My students loved it! Another possible activity would be getting students to write a persuasive letter begging your parents to take them somewhere e.g. Disneyland. I recommend laminating the leaflets so they can be used again and again in classes.
 
#4. Photos of your family, hometown or special occasions
 
When teaching students in China about traditional festivals or special occasions like weddings, it would be great to show them photos of yourself or family getting married. Photos can be used as a topic lead-in to gain interest. I have awful pictures of myself going through my ‘rocker’ phase as a teenager that I plan to use in lessons about fashion! Photos like these are also great for physical description practice. Only show as much as you are willing to, but I think this is a great way for your students to get to know you and to build a relationship with them. When doing a Cultural Studies class about housing in the West, I showed my students a photograph of my family home. Students then discussed differences between homes in China and Western countries.
 
#5. Snacks from your country
 
I stock up on Irish chocolate or sweets which are excellent rewards at the end of a semester or can be used as prizes during school activities. Aim to give something unavailable in the country you are teaching in - I used Tatyo crisps with my Chinese students. They’d never even tried Cheese and Onion flavoured crisps before!
 
#6.  Children’s books in English
 
I find that very few language learners have the attention span, dedication or vocabulary range to read a whole novel in a foreign language. It is a daunting task; I waited years before reading my first novel in Mandarin Chinese.  In China, students are busy literally from morning until night with packed study schedules- they rarely have time for recreational reading. For these reasons I recommend children’s books to even my young teenage students. These books are short and easier to finish and although simple, often contain lots of new vocabulary for Chinese language learners. I like to use the Horrid Henry series by Francesca Simon- I loved reading them to my young cousin even as an adult. This is a way to increase your students’ confidence in their reading abilities slowly. They can progress from these books to longer articles or short stories for their own age group before tackling novels. This doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money- I pick up books very cheaply in second-hand stores or charity shops whenever I go back to Ireland.
 
#7. Forms
 
You can pick up job application forms, university applications or bank forms easily. It’s great to give ESL students real-life practice of filling in information like their contact details and address. Applications can be used in mock interviews in pairs where one student is the interviewer. Check your local bank or university’s website- many have PDF application forms you can print out and use.
 
#8. Maps
 
You can get free maps of cities from tourist offices. Students can practice giving directions and reading a map in English, as well as see the kind of street names we have in the west and features within the city. 
 
#9. Apartment listings
 
This is particularly useful for students who plan to go abroad for further study. Many Chinese students are now going abroad following IELTS study to do degree and post-graduate programs in English speaking countries. Finding an apartment could be something they need to do. They can practice talking about housing and using vocabulary around finding an apartment. I take these directly from western renting sites.

by Gillian Bryan

Gillian Bryan






Gillian Bryan completed her bachelor degree in Commerce and Chinese Studies in University College Dublin, Ireland. During this time she completed an exchange programme in both Peking University and Renmin University in Beijing. Gillian is currently living in Jiangyin city, where she works as a General English teacher. She dreams of one day opening her own café.
 

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