In all honesty, a lot of test-prep classes are focused on passing tests rather than on improving actual English. Students come in looking for ‘tips’ and may spend as much as a year taking practise tests under the guidance of an exasperated teacher who goes blue in the face telling them to think about the material instead of worrying about the ‘right’ answer.
The best writing course for adults that I’ve come across was run out of an outfit called ‘Howard’, I think. They’re next to the post office on Nan Yang, and there’s a guy there called True Black who has a published book on TOEFL writing which he teaches.
He takes a pretty formulaic approach to essay writing, hitting them over and over with the essential idea that writing should be structured. It’s good stuff and I crib notes from it all the time. There’s also a language component looking at comon errors, vocabulary, sentence structures, etc.
The only drawback would be that it’s lecture-style - a lot of people in a big room with teacher pointing at the powerpoint and speaking a lot of Chinese. I guess it depends what he wants.
Going a bit off-topic: I’ve just been handed a business writing class at a company where some of the students cannot even conjugate the verb ‘to be’. Some can hold a passable conversation, so they can at least follow what I’m telling them. Average education level is high school only, average age is 30, female, married with kids and lives to lead.
They’re a branch of an international company and are supposed to do their business in english. The boss has been given six months to get everyone up to an acceptable level or start firing people. I have two hours a week, and someone else is giving them 2hrs a week of ‘conversation’.
I’ve done a couple of classes, using my laptop and a projector plus handouts. I’m thinking of the following format in future and would appreciate feedback:
- a certain amount of goofing around and games, just to keep them happy. (The atmosphere is very good right now.)
- 15-30 minutes of instruction in basic grammar, pitched at the middle-level students using powerpoint and handouts.
- half an hour or so of bookwork, using high-school level material. I figure I could use 2-3 different levels of books and float around the class helping out. I may get the highest level to help the lowest level, and have the mid-level work together.
- Spend the second hour working on some imaginary project that is similar to what they actually do all day, and work up some standard communiques they can modify and use in RL.
Suggestions anyone? Book recommendations? They’re in the travel industry, but most of the specialised books I have seen assume a much higher level of basic English.