I was having a class about celebrities when one of my little angles asked me if I knew who a particular Chinese movie star was. I admitted that I didn’t know who that particular actress was and a flash of disdain came across the student’s face as she declared “…you're out” . I’m out. I admit it. I’m not a fan of pop music. I don’t see every blockbuster that hits the theaters. I don’t know the latest gossip on (enter any celebrity’s name here). In my personal life these things don’t enter into consciousness. But early into my ESL teaching career, I realized that students are much more receptive to learning if you are able to relate to them on some level. So I started to devour certain aspects of pop couture from a professional perspective.
Now, when I see a new TV show I instantly think about how I can build a class around it. If I hear a new song, I almost inadvertently start searching for the lyrics and interviews from the artist to build a class around.
A key part of learning any language is the ability to talk about the things you like. It doesn’t matter if you are a student going to study abroad, and you need to take the IELTS/TOEFL, or if you are a stay at home mom that wants to learn English just for fun. Take one of the most popular TV shows in China last year. Running Man.
Most students have seen this show, but they have no idea how to discuss it in English. So I start the class with introducing the lesson, the lesson goals and key vocabulary (via a worksheet). Then after a discussion period, I will show the class video clips of the show with English subtitles.
I will only show clips that highlight the target vocabulary. Between the clips we will discuss the target vocabulary to reinforce comprehension. The class will conclude with the students modeling the target vocabulary in groups and or possibly in front of the class in the form of role-playing.
This show is just one example. Any show can be used. The key is to keep the video clips short and to get student participation as high as possible.
There are many keys to keeping my finger on the pulse of relevant popular culture, but one integral part is following and interacting with my students on social media.
When I first started teaching I used QQ. Now I mainly use WeChat. I use it to post new vocabulary words, I call it the “Word of the Day”, announce upcoming classes, answering student question, sharing news stories and also to show my kids slices of my daily life. There is a lot of curiosity about the life of a foreign teacher, and it’s my (feeble as it may be) attempt to show the students how similar we are. If you are interested to see the kinds of things that I share with my students you can add me on WeChat. My WeChat ID is “dwight116390”.
Just be sure to include the message “dwightjacksonii blog reader” (I usually don’t add strangers ☺).<!--mep-nl-->