Candice Fang is a Centre Education Manager in Guangzhou.
So the class that comes to mind was a Business English Workshop. It was during the trial phase so I gathered a group of about eight people at Elementary level. The topic was ‘Discussing Profit and Loss’. It was the very first time that EF was starting to do business English, so it was quite a big challenge for students.
Even as I was planning the lesson, I was thinking, ‘Wow, that is a lot of information’, but it was a trial lesson so I didn’t want to change it too much.
Basically, I stuck to the lesson plan, but it turned out to be far too much for the students.First of all, a lot of the students didn’t really have the experience using a profit/loss statement and reading at the tables in their own jobs, so the subject itself was quite new to them.
There were three sets of handouts for different stages in the class for them to look at and use the target language to describe them. So actually, in the class, we didn’t even get to the second and third set of materials. We were only able to stay at the first set because they were lost already. They were taking such a long time to read the first handout, I changed the plan in the class and decided to recycle the same material for the controlled practice and the final task.
The difference between the controlled practice and the final task was how much support they actually got when they were doing the task with their partner. So the controlled practice was with the examples given on the board and with me modelling, and then in the final task I gave them more of a context by saying, ‘You have a goal. You are an accountant and you need to tell your manager about it and see whether you would be able to give them some suggestions or not.’
Those were the changes I made to that class, but I still have to say that it was quite a challenging class to teach and then the students were quite frustrated because of the subject itself. I guess that was the toughest lesson I’ve ever taught so far.
I did teach some other business workshops again, and with that lesson learned… Now, before I go to a class, I will usually think about how likely I am to get students with past experience in this subject, and if the answer is really really low, I will try to adapt the lesson in advance.
Two things to really think about when I am trying to adapt the lesson is One, the materials I’m going to use, and Two, how I can model it better to set up the right expectations in terms of using the materials. I recommend keeping it simple if possible, using the same materials from the beginning to the end so student won’t be distracted by the heavy content. It gives them the chance to see how they can use the same information from different perspectives, like focusing on different target language each time.
The second thing to do is model. I think the teacher doesn’t need to be the only model, but that’s obviously the most simple way to do it when we’re giving instructions. Another good thing to do is basically get the students involved so that you can check whether they understand the instructions and what they need to do. By seeing whether they are able to complete a model of the task with me, I can tell whether the class is on the same page as well.