Monday, July 28, 2014

Taking Readers & Writers Workshop to Public Schools in China

So,  this is what I did last week---introduced some of Panyu's best English teachers to the Columbia readers and writers workshop model as an approach to literacy instruction.  It was interesting, to say the least.  These are Chinese middle and high school English teachers, and 30 of them were chosen from over 12 school districts in the Panyu area to take part in a 3-week course taught by faculty from Brigham Young University.  I was lucky enough to be included as part of the faculty team for the course.

My part was just one of the approaches presented by the various professors, and we all worked together to present a wide range of methods and approaches to these local teachers.  Two of the professors are from the Linguistics Department and they focused on Language Acquisition pedagogy, Vocabulary instruction, and a variety of other aspects of foreign-language instruction.  Another professor focused on the use of journals and the variety of approaches to writing a teacher could take.  My focus was literacy, and I introduced the workshop model structure for both reading and writing, and focused on the power of read-alouds and making connections to our reading, as well as student conferring and giving feedback during writing as highlights.  The professor who came in the week after me is from BYU's Education department. She is having the students look at an aspect of their teaching that they would like to improve upon and making an action-based research project out of that goal. She is looking at bigger issues in teaching, asking the teachers to reflect on what brought them to teaching and what kind of teacher they really want to be.

I feel that the teachers are receiving an excellent course.  It is a lot of information for them, but overall, they seem to be doing well and for the most part, have been very open-minded about trying some new approaches or tweaking others.  I have learned from them as well. We emphasized that the course gives them some ideas, but that they will need to apply the things they feel they can use in their local context.  Most of them have 60 students in each of their classes and they are required to use certain textbooks and prepare for important tests. Therefore, of course, they will need to modify some of the methods we presented, but this gives them a broad overview of several different approaches that they can add to their teaching toolbox.

It was a pleasure for me to work with such wonderful professors from BYU, and to be a part of this teacher-training activity.  Thanks to Ellen, Peter, Ray, Bobbe, and Stefinee.  It has been a pleasure working with all of you!

We had such a fantastic time on our recent trip to Utah.  Our kids have grown up in sub-tropical Guangzhou, so the concept of autumn w...