Just a simple idea …

IMG_20150912_105330In one of my previous posts, I talked about a new student from Hong Kong who’d recently joined our class. He speaks next to no Czech, but he can communicate in English pretty fluently. He doesn’t get all the grammar stuff perfectly right (for example, he constantly omits the -s in the 3rd person singular verbs), but he can clearly express most of his ideas. From a perspective of an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic, there’s still a lot he can learn grammar-wise, but fluency-wise, he’s far more proficient than the rest of his peers.

The class he joined is divided into two groups for their English lessons (let’s call them Group A and Group B). When Group A has an English lesson with me, Group B has a Russian lesson. When Group B has an English lesson, Group A has a French lesson. Chi Kit’s ‘surrogate parents’ (the folks he’s currently staying with here in the Czech Republic) thought that taking up another foreign language (apart from Czech) would be too much for Chi Kit. So they asked me if he could only attend the English lessons. I asked the administrators and found out that it shouldn’t be a problem.

The only problem is that Chi Kit attends 6 lessons of English per week, three of which are just a repetition of what we already did with the other group. I don’t think it’s something I should panic about, still, I do worry a bit. As I mentioned above, Chi Kit’s English is quite good and I suspect that the lessons are not challenging enough for him, especially because he hears the same thing twice. I don’t think he really minds because all the unknown stuff he has to deal with every day is overwhelming anyway. However, I feel I could do more for him – both as his English teacher and his homeroom teacher.

Not that I don’t try to keep him engaged; when the kids are doing a coursebook exercise Chi Kit has already done, I sometimes give him English magazines or a Czech-Chinese dictionary to keep him busy. Alternatively, I give him a piece of paper and ask him to write about his feelings, insights and things he has learned so far. He’s already written a short paragraph about the differences between the Czech Republic and Hong Kong and it was a really interesting read. He also wrote about a project day we had had at our school the other day and I truly enjoyed reading about his observations.

Anyway, earlier today, I came across a post called Interview with ptec Members: Mike Griffin. For some inexplicable reason, when reading about the benefits of reflection and blogging, I suddenly thought of Chi Kit. And a simple idea occurred to me; I might well ask him to start writing a journal! Whenever he can’t work on something the others are doing (when the kids are translating something from Czech into English, for example), he can open his journal and write a paragraph or two.

I believe that to a certain extent, such a journal could reveal what he’s going through and how he’s feeling. As I don’t actually need to give him grades or provide any type of summative assessment, which, by the way, is extremely liberating, the journal could be a base for the final formative feedback.

I’m surprised that the idea didn’t come to me earlier. The only excuse could be that I wasn’t familiar with the context in advance, i.e. Chi Kit’s level of English was completely unknown to me, as well as the fact that he might wish to skip the French (or Russian) lessons.

So, I’m going to give him a notebook as soon as I see him next week and I can’t wait to read about his reflections and insights. I should stress, though, that Chi Kit comes from a culture where people don’t tend to sulk and complain too much. Moreover, he seems to be very polite and reserved, so I don’t expect him to delve into the depths of his soul. One way or another, it might keep him busy and it will certainly give him an opportunity to express what’s on his mind.


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Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages and levels for almost 30 years. You can find out more about me and my passion for teaching here on my blog.

6 thoughts on “Just a simple idea …”

  1. The journal sounds great. You might also use him to collect data: the class need to talk to him in English for a survey or something, which he then reports at the end of the lesson.


  2. Hi Hana,

    I was looking forward to hearing more about the HK student as you might recall from one of my earlier comments, so thanks for the post. 🙂
    I’m sure you’ll find ways to keep Chi Kit involved – the journal is a really good idea. I’m wondering though – since he’s 15 – isn’t there anything else he could do during the repeat lessons? Like go to the library? I’m curious about school policy in such circumstances; is there one? How flexible can individual (homeroom) teachers be?
    This is by no means to suggest that he’d be better off doing something else, of course!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for you comment, Vedrana. I carefully considered your advice and decided that I could lend Chi Kit some graded readers. He’d read them in the repeat lessons, though, because I can’t leave him unsupervised, even though he’s already 15. Anyway, meanwhile, he’s written some interesting stuff in his diary, which I’m really proud of.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great – I hope he enjoys the readers and I look forward to reading more about the diary some day. I’m glad if my comment was helpful; I do hope it wasn’t out of line as you know your context best, of course. I was just curious as to whether school regulations allow any options in addition to repeat lessons.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, repeat lessons are something we actually never do. This is a very special case and the boy’s surrogate parents chose this option to make things easier for him. Every student must always be under supervision, so there aren’t any alternatives. Anyway, Chi Kit doesn’t seem to mind; he’s here to primarily learn Czech, which is a real challenge under the given circumstances, so I don’t think it’s too bad if he has a rest in the repeat lessons 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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