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While teaching English as a Foreign Language in China or other Asian countries, you will be expected to help your students learn to conversationally discuss a wide variety of topics. Before I came to China to begin my work as an EFL teacher, I felt comfortable about the teaching component of the profession, but the question of “What, exactly, will I be teaching?” still lingered. In this article, I will provide a general overview of the topics that I teach in my classes, as determined by my region’s education bureau’s curriculum and textbooks. I will also include some of the terminology that is emphasized in each lesson. While these topics will be specific to my region and the grades I teach (fourth and fifth), it is fair to assume that some version of them will also be taught elsewhere and to different age ranges, with varying degrees of proficiency.

Teaching Grade 4 EFL throughout the school year

Like most places around the world, the Chinese school year is divided into two semesters, with a lengthy winter break separating the first and the second. During the first semester from September through December, I was responsible for teaching four distinct modules: “Getting to Know You,” “My Family, My Friends, and Me,” “Places and Activities,” and “The World Around Us.” Each of the four modules contains three independent units specific to the module’s topic.

The first module (“Getting to Know You”) is a logical way to begin the school year. The units in this module consist of meeting new people (classmate, his/her, name, etc.), various action words (run, swim, jump, etc.), and emotions (happy, sad, thirsty, etc.).

Next, we begin Module 2, “My Family, My Friends, and Me,” with a lesson on family members (cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, etc.), then move onto discussing friends and the clothes they wear (T-shirt, shorts, skirt, dress, etc.), and conclude with a lesson specifically on the jobs adults have (nurse, fireman, teacher, etc.).

During the third module (“Places and Activities”), the three units that are covered discuss different key terms at school (office, library, classroom, etc.), at the store (shop, meat, fish, etc.), and at home (table, lunch, floor, etc.).

Lastly, “The World Around Us” focuses on a neighborhood (home, park, supermarket, etc.), shapes (picture, star, circle, etc.), and the weather (rainy, cloudy, sunny, etc.). Once these four modules (and final exams!) are complete, you and your students will be free to enjoy the winter holiday!

The second semester will follow the same pattern: four modules, each consisting of three units. The modules in Grade 4 during the second semester are: “Using My Five Senses,” “My Favorite Things,” “My Colorful Life,” and “Things We Enjoy.” Within the first module, we covered touch and feel (soft, hard, thick, thin, etc.), smell and taste (sweet, sour, strawberry, etc.), and look and see (noon, sky, evening, etc.).

Next, during “My Favorite Things,” the first unit was on subjects (math, science, art, etc.), the second was on sports (football, volleyball, basketball, etc.), and lastly music (violin, guitar, piano, etc.).

The three units that are covered during ‘“My Colorful Life” are “my day” (o’clock, quarter, time, etc.), days of the week (Monday, weekday, weekend, etc.), and “a friend in Australia” (January, February, email, etc.).

Lastly, during “Things We Enjoy,” the lessons are about gardening (garden, flower, plant, etc.), Children’s Day (song, zoo, cinema, etc.), and ultimately a story about the ugly duckling (duck, river, baby, etc.). Then, finally, summer break!

Teaching Grade 5 throughout the school year

You will likely notice that many of Grade 5’s modules and units are similar to those in Grade 4. This is because EFL teachers aim to gradually advance students’ conversational skills. Year by year, the students should be developing stronger vocabulary within similar contexts.

The modules for the first semester of Grade 5 are: “Getting to Known Each Other,” “Relationships,” “Out and About,” and “The Natural World.” The first module (“Getting to Know Each Other”) is again a sensible way to begin the school year. The lessons consist of discussing students’ plans for the future, how they get to and from school, and the fun plans that they make for their birthdays.

Next, as we cover “Relationships,” we dedicate one lesson to learning how to discuss grandparents, one to friends, and one to overall family life. “Out and About” teaches students to discuss a day at the beach, a trip to go hiking, and a walk throughout the city.

Lastly, “The Natural World” has students practice speaking about wind, water, and fire in varying contexts.

The modules for the second semester of Grade 5 are: “Changes and Differences,” “Work and Play,” “Things We Do,” and “Things We Enjoy.” The units of “Changes and Differences” are “tidy up,” (tidy, sock, hers/theirs, etc.), our new home (dining room, study, because, etc.), and the future (will, going to, future, etc.).

In Module 2, we cover different styles of reading (storybook, newspaper, dictionary, etc.), the weekend (stay in/go out, tomorrow, watch a film, etc.), and holidays (vacation, hotel, island, etc.).

Module 3, “Things We Do,” goes over Open Day which is when Chinese students’ parents visit their school (school gate, meeting room, show, etc.), buying clothes (sweater, coat, shoes, etc.), and seeing the doctor (ill, headache, medicine, etc.).

Lastly, Module 4 “Things We Enjoy” has units about great inventions (invent, camera, paper, etc.), Chinese festivals (important, celebrate, fireworks, etc.), and a final unit on the story of “The giant’s garden” (wall, kind, through, etc.).

After all of this, there will likely be two weeks’ worth of final exams, but you will be excused from teaching most, if not all, of your classes. In other words, it’s time to set off on a fun vacation!

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SDE International - Shenzhen

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About the Author:

Brendan O'Shea
Brendan O'Shea is an EFL teacher, freelance writer, and wannabe world traveler living in Shenzhen, China. Between exploring new destinations, Brendan enjoys reading, playing chess, and following sports. Follow his teaching and traveling journey on Twitter and Instagram, or read up on his experiences on his personal blog: Teach and Travels!
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