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English Trainers Advise Czech Teachers on How to Make English Classes More Attractive

12. July 2012 - zprá This week, more than 20 teachers sat down in a classroom at the Open Gate private school in Babice, Central Bohemia. For the very first time in the Czech Republic, teachers have an opportunity there to attend a prestigious Oxford University language course. English trainers strive to show them how they should teach children at Czech elementary schools.

Twenty-six teachers, most of them women, are grouped around four desks. An English trainer walks between them and hands out slips of paper. The teachers are asked to write down their guesses as to how much they use only English in communication with students during classes and to what extent they also rely on Czech as support. They should also describe the way in which they encourage their students in English conversation. Trainer Gareth Davies asks the teachers to line up in two rows, always two of them facing each other. These pairs exchange their experiences with teaching. Next activity: using pictures and enquiring in English, they are to find their partner to form a pair. The Czech teachers want to later use the various methods of conversation, which the trainer is showing, in normal classes at elementary schools. “Today, I’ve taken down some six activities that I’ll definitely try out with my students. One of them was, for example, those cut-up pictures, where the kids search for their partner based on a description of the pictures. Once they find each other, they can do the subsequent activity together,” Eva Švecová, a teacher from a school in České Budějovice, describes the approach. Teacher Radek Hampl from the Zdice Elementary School will use this course in a similar way. “This lesson was very useful, especially for me. Because I myself feel that, for example, my kids don’t want to speak in English even though they’re able to. We’ve heard and seen several methods here which can be employed, refraining from immediately correcting what the kid says - just let the kids express themselves and they shouldn’t be afraid to speak,” says Mr. Hampl. Martina Válková of Oxford University Press, who organizes the training, explains that showing the teachers how they should teach English is one of the key objectives of the nearly week-long July course. “It is always a system of 90-minute sessions. Each session specifically focuses on an area, for example, speaking skills. The introductory lesson was dedicated to what kind of a group teenagers actually are. And for example yesterday, teachers had a practical session focused on simplified reading,” explains Martina Válková.

Teachers highly interested in the course

Czech teachers were highly interested in this course. They had to go through a two-round qualification procedure; they also had to demonstrate their level of English in the process. “We have 26 participants. They are older elementary grade teachers from all schools variously in the Czech Republic. We selected them on the basis of a questionnaire asking them to fill in their biographical data and explain there motivation: the reason why they wanted to attend the course and how they themselves and their kids would benefit from the course,” explains Martina Válková.

The Kellner Family Foundation has provided all the training and accommodation facilities for teachers from the whole of the Czech Republic at the Open Gate private school in Babice. “One of The Kellner Family Foundation’s projects is Helping Schools Succeed, geared towards improving the quality of teaching at public elementary schools. One of the points is raising the level of English language teaching,” says Jitka Tkadlecová of the Foundation. Teachers will be awarded a prestigious Oxford certificate after the course.

(Author: Petra Benešová, Kateřina Kozmová, excerpt from the text)

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