More ideas for teaching the Chinese


More teaching ideas.


Grammar lessons can be dry. Presenting a class with a grammar table may cause many to wilt. Grammar tables should be available to refer to when the pupils feel they need to consult them. But teaching grammar by going through a table mechanically and having the class chant the words is Victorian and incredibly dull.

Teach grammar without the pupils realizing they are learning grammar. You model it by using a phrase such as …’’were they doing… they were taking photos.’’ You then ask pupils questions based on this piece of grammar that you wish them to pick up. For instance, ‘’What was she doing yesterday?’’ The answer may be, ‘’she was jumping on the trampoline’’ . You go through several examples writing them up and having the pupils write them as well. Then you can reveal they have learnt past continuous.

This stratagem can be profitably applied to myriad grammatical structures.


Getting the pupils to speak up can be difficult. If you really want them to concentrate on speaking rather than on writing you might even ban them from opening books or writing anything down.


I drew a picture of a person on the board. I am not dexterous so the image was misshapen. My pupils Cristina interjected, ‘’oh what a horrible man’’. I then labeled the person on the board ‘Cristina’. This Cristina was confident and she was happy with this drollery at her expense.

I labeled parts of the body for them to copy down.


The children’s rhyme head, shoulders, knees and toes is a terrific way to impart body vocabulary. The pupils do the actions with you as you sing the song.


You can ask the pupils who the greatest Chinese person of all time was. They can spend some time discussing this. Make sure they do not all come up with the same answer. They will then have a written exercise to say who they have picked and elucidating why this individual is so magnificent. This is a better exercise for a higher ability and older class.



On youtube there is a tremendous song – ‘’We are going to the zoo, zoo, zoo / How about you, you you? / You can come too, too, too/ We are going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. ‘’

It has images and lyrics about several animals. You can invent dance actions for the animals. This is an outstanding song and dance routine for young learners.


This website advertises jobs. It is an egregiously good means of recruiting teachers. It also has many free resources on it. There is an ideas cookbook there where people share their teaching methods.


Have the pupils write a profile of their family. They can also draw a picture to accompany this.


Have the pupils imagine they are king or queen for the day. They have absolute power. What would they do with it? It might be to give ice cream to all children. It could be they go on a satellite for one day. They might give everyone the day off. They can give several royal commands. Have them discuss this and then do a written exercise on it.


Chinese pupils are not accustomed to giving presentations. This is therefore an exceedingly important exercise to set them since they shall be required to undertake such tasks in the Occident. Explain the nature of the task. Then set them a suitable topic to give a presentation on. You should allow them to use brief notes the first few times. Only require them to speak for a very short period at first – perhaps one minute. In future you can extend this to two minutes then five minutes.

They might prepare in class or for homework. Sometimes you might have a group do it. Three of them standing in front of the class at once giving their presentation which they have divided up. Jimmy speaks for a minute then Jessica speaks for a minute and then Domitiana speaks for a minute. Because there are three of them standing there they feel less self-conscious. They have divided their topic into subtopics about which each of them holds forth.

Eventually you can require them to speak without any notes. Emphasise that they are marked solely on what they say. Written notes will not even be looked at by you in relation to this exercise. You might allow the class to ask them some questions.


This is a good one for littler pupils. They bring a favourite item to school. This might be a toy like a doll, car or phone. They tell the class why they like this object so much and they demonstrate what it does.


They select one land they have never been to. They say why they wish to visit this country and they give as much detail as they can on it. This could be accompanied by illustrations, a map and a flag. They can even write an itinerary of their imagined holiday there. This will require them to use future tenses.


You can write a brief for them about a business meeting where they have to negotiate a deal. You can have one person in each company or perhaps two people in teach company.

For example, two people work for an airline manufacturing company. One of the CEO and the other is Managing Director. Then there is the airline that wants to buy planes from the other company. The airline Non-Executive Director is there and so it their Head of Procurement. Each of them is given a written brief. The Non-Executive Director is concerned with the price and only wants to spend $ 1 billion. The Head of Procurement is concerned with the specification of the planes and does not care about money. The airline manufacturing company wants to receive $1.5 billion. The planes they are offering are not exactly the specification that the airline wants but could be modified for more money.

This is an English exercise and not a business one. It does not matter so much what deal they reach or even if they never make an agreement. The goal is for them to practice their English.

Make sure they have an apposite vocabulary before embarking on this exercise.



With a younger class you can do this exercise. A volunteer stands on a chair so you can all see their clothes and shoes. The other are then invited to raise their hands and they are picked to describe what their classmate is wearing. They must describe it in as much detail as possible i.e. white frilly socks with lime green polka dots. Not every child has sufficient lexis to do this but they will give as much information as they can.

They can write it down and draw a picture.


Point out to them Chinese words that have been adopted by English such as feng shui and chow mein. Ask them any English words that have been taken into Mandarin. Have them do a literal translation  of these words in both directions.


In a multilingual class draw a table. For example on one row I write ‘monkey’ and I gave the Romanian translation for it ‘maimuta’ but not the Farsi translation or the Greek translation. Then on the next one I left the English blank but I wrote the word ‘’cal’’ in Romanian and the Chinese word ‘’ma’’. Then I had the Farsi word ‘’Azad’’ and the English word ‘’freedom’’ as well as the Greek word ‘’Eleftheria’’ but I did not have that word in Turkish or Chinese. The pupils had to go around and find out what the words meant in different languages and fill in the table. Then the table was drawn on the board and we all completed it together.


Where would you dine? Would it be your house or a restaurant? If so – which one? You must design a menu for a three course meal. Even say what the background music is. Who do you invite and where do you seat them? Write in as much detail as you can.


What do we call meat from cattle? Mutton comes from which animal? Write this as a table and leave some blanks to see if they know the answers. Then do it together with them.


What are the rites of passage in the West? They are baptism, first communion, confirmation, a prom, graduation, marriage etc… Some of these rites of passage are not undergone by everyone. Some are only for religious people.

What are the rituals associated with each one? What do people wear on these occasions? What are the rules associated with each one? What are the presents involved? Do you give money or a couple getting married or not? Explain these ceremonies to the class and have them tell you about the equivalents in China.


Have them sing their national anthem. See if they can translate it. Eventually give them an official translation and they can see how well they did.


It is good to get them to do some stretching on your instructions. This livens them up when sluggish. They enjoy it. They learn vocabulary by the words you use. Write the instructions as well as saying them. This reinforces the learning. Have pupils lead the exercise once they know they drill. They can do Swedish drill which is also known as jumping jacks.


What is this program? Why do you like it so much? Who are its stars? Can you act it out in the classroom?


They have to write a play in small groups and perform it. You might help them by suggesting themes. It could be a prize giving ceremony. It could be a scene from history like the murder of Julius Caesar. It might be about good parents etc…. This play can take only five minutes to perform.

This encourages creativity and makes them grow in confidence. It can also be enormous fun.


Bring real money into the class. Tell them about it and write up the key words from the bank notes or coins on the board i.e. ‘Bank of England’ or ‘legal tender’. Ask them if they know what this means. You may need to help them. Have them look at the water marks. Make sure you get the money back.

You can do role plays where they have to buy things and receive change back. Habituate them to recognizing the coins and banknotes by their colour and shape.



Celebrate your pupils birthdays. Give them presents. Sin Happy Birthday and have tasty food. Check that no one is allergic to anything and that parents do not object to cake. Ask them about birthday customs in their country. Tell them about birthdays in the English speaking world.



It needs to be a good learning environment. It should be bright and clean with plenty of eye ctaching wall displays. If someone’s attention wanders she or he should be able to see things on the wall that are educational. These could be posters, maps, flags and superb pieces of work. It needs to be welcoming and child friendly.


Beware of sensory overload. Too much colour and too many displays can be off putting.



Pupils like catch phrases and running jokes. Anything zany and light hearted jollifies them . This makes them more eager to work. Make sure your humour is not too controversial and does not distract overmuch from education.




You do not want people to score zero. Likewise it would be foolish to have a test that is so ridiculously easy that everyone gets full marks. If everyone is all clustered around half marks then again this is not a very useful test. Test is self-defining. It is a means of checking how much information has been learned and to what extent skills have been mastered. There ought to be a few Noddy and Big Ears questions right at the outset. These very simple questions will be mere factual recall questions and even the dimmest pupil will get them right. The questions should then become harder by small increments each time. There should be some reasoning questions and explanation questions towards the end. The trickiest questions will be right at the end. Those who take a long time will not reach these questions. This does not matter since the slowest pupils would be unlikely to get them right anyway. You might need to allow extra time to those with dyslexia or a similar learning difficulty.

A test should tell people apart. There should be a bell curve of results.


Ask yourself what the purpose of the test is? Is this chiefly about information or more about skills?

You can go over the test later and have them say the correct answers. This really drives home the learning.

You could even rerun the test a week later and see the results improve drastically.

Those who score under half marks should be made to write out the correct answers. You should aim for the majority of pupils to score over half marks.

If someone gets 100% perhaps the work is not taxing enough.



With young pupils you can have them volunteer to sing to the whole class. You can count them in with ‘’a one, a one, a one two three four…’’

Make sure people applaud at the end of the rendition.



A student chooses an English word. Have them write it on paper for you to see so that you can check the spelling is correct. If it is an eight letter word, for instance, then the student draws eight underscores on the board thus: ________. The pupils now know it is an eight letter word and they guess letters. Supposing the word was ‘permanent’ then the pupils guessed ‘e’ then the student who has chosen the word will write _e____e__’ . If the class guesses the letter ‘f’ then the one who picked the word will write an ‘f’ in the corner of the board to show that letter is wrong and can be excluded from future guesses. She then draws a line for the gorund. A second wrong guess would lead to drawing th upright post of a gallows. A third wrong guess would lead to drawing the cross bar of the gallows. A fourth incorrect guess would lead to the diagonal being drawn and so on – then a hanged stick man would appear. After about 11 wrong guesses the man is hanged and the game is over. But if the class guess all the letter then they win.

This might be too upsetting for young classes. The trick is for them to guess vowels first and then the consonants commencing with the most frequently used ones.

Best word to select is ‘’rhythm’’. Oftentimes a class cannot crack this word.



Discuss what would be fair classroom rules. Have them write them up on posters in big letters and make them colorful. You will have given them the text first so the spelling is right. These will then be put on thw walls. The pupils have helped to make the rules and they understand why the rules are needful and just. They are more likely to obey them. They can be things such as ‘’I am polite to you and you are polite to me.’’; ‘’Please do not shout out.’’, ‘’Listen to others respectfully.’’, ‘’Arrive on time and bring the things you need.’’, ‘’I always behave as though my parents see and hear everything I do.’’



When there is about a minute left of the lesson this can use up time if you have nothing left to do. If there is no clock this works. They are not allowed to look at their watches. They must sit in silence and stand when they think a minute has expired. The winner is the person closest to the real time.


About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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