The Evil Shadow and Its Malevolent, Dread Cousin

I really hate :fume: shadowing. [edit] The shadowing I refer to is the practice of a teacher speaking first in the target language and then following that up in the mother tongue, not the practice of having kids read along (just behind a teacher) or the social meaning of shadowing.[/edit] I expect most teachers here already agree that this is a bad practice, but for those who might not, I’ll explain why:

Kids who hear the English and don’t understand then hear the same instruction given in Chinese and do what is being asked of them. When this is repeated, many kids are conditioned to ignore the English and just wait for the Chinese which they understand. They stop trying to figure out the English. On top of that, it reinforces the feeling that English is not really language, it’s like a code to decipher back into Chinese but all real meaning is based in Chinese. :bow:

When my CT’s do this in my class it really steams me up. I generally try to show through my teaching that shadowing is unnecessary, but sometimes I have to talk to my CT about it. Unfortunately, they often persist in this after I’ve talked with them :grrr: and I have to repeatedly ask them to quit. Often there starts to be hard feelings over this. :frowning:

But Shadowing is nothing compared to the diabolical, and perhaps nameless horror that is related. I call it, “Teacher Gives The Kid The Exact Thing To Say And Doesn’t Actually Teach Them.”

I ask the kid a question. The kid sits there looking stupid and then either looks at me or the CT expectantly. CT gives the kid the answer, kid repeats the answer. I ask the same question to the kid. I wait. The kid looks expectantly at me or the CT. CT gives the answer, or gives a one word prompt. The kid repeats the one word prompt. CT prompts the next word. Kid repeats the next word. Repeat until answer is complete. I tell the kid to repeat the answer (CT shadows me and says in Chinese to say the English again), I say ‘this time, no teacher help’. CT whispers the answer a split second ahead of the student, but there’s a noticeable lag between when the CT whispers and the student says the word.

This just burns me up. And during choral reading the CT always speaks with the kids, but actually speaks a split second ahead of them. When practicing individual word “reading” the CT will pronounce the word first, then the kid will pronounce it. But they aren’t actually even looking at the word, or trying to decipher it, they are just waiting to hear the CT say it.

Just writing this makes me :taz:

The problem I face is that these local teachers have been at the school for several years and this is a standard practice by the teachers there. :help:

Shadowing can be a really fun and learning experience it’s done in the right way. I use it every once in a while, but I am careful to use only things that I am sure the kids are going to understand. Whenever I do play the shadowing game, we repeat the phrase at least 9-10 times and the students quickly pick up on the tone of voice and mannerisms I am using.

What I usually concentrate on are common conversation fillers and short expresions and questions. However, I do try to keep it as something new they are going to learn. In other words, a new combination of words they already know or are easy to learn.

Here are a few a examples:

Don’t ask me! (shrug of shoulders)

Are you serious? (blank stare)

I really don’t understand you. (quizzical look)

No way, Jose! (look of surprised consternation)

I’ll check back with you later. (wink and a small smile)

Well, what do you want me to say? (quizzical look, thrust of hand in the air)

What is really fun and gratifiying is to suddeny hear these learned patterns used in our normal classroom conversation a few days or weeks later.

Shadowing is just a small segment of laying foundations of good conversational English. Really, there is nothing wrong with shadowing as long as it is not overdone and becomes a serious crutch for a probably incompetent teacher.

How often do I do this? Very rarely, maybe every three-four weeks for five or ten minutes? It really depends on the age of the class and the tempo of the moment, or when I suspect that they are becoming bored with the daily routine. I just stop the class and throw it in, and they always like it because it is fast and furious. After a while, have each student repeat the shadowing drill a few times. In my experience it usally works best with kids in the 8-12 range. Depending on the level of younger students (5-7) I can throw in things that are appropriate for their level of comprehension and learning skills. Its just one of those little rabbits you can pull out of your hat from time to time.

Drive it into the ground as a paramount teaching tool? You are right. It is not worth squat. BTW, the CT’s have no input at all into what I teach in my classes. Before class I tell them what material will be coverd (so they can tell the parents what we studied) and that is it. In other words, they don’t tell me what to teach and what not to teach. Believe me, they are quite happy with that arrangement.

Shadow on and fear not!

That isn’t the shadowing I’m talking about. I’m talking about the evil shadow, you’re talking about the good one :smiley:

As I said above, I’m referring to the intructor (or CT) giving an instruction in L2 followed by the L1 translation of the same instruction… Not the method of reading and having kids read along just behind you.

I’m afraid the term I used has been taken for a few other meanings than I was originally taught. I’ll edit my original post to more clearly reflect that.

I think got you. Fortunately, my Taiwanese teachers know enough to leave me alone. :laughing: However, I do rely on them for really complicated translations of abstract ideas. That usually follows an after class discussion of the point (I usually have to teach them first) and a claification with the students the following day. Everything works out well. The shadowing you are talking about (if I understand you correctly) is just a TW teaching her poor version of real meaning? As much as I appreciate their efforts, I find their ability to teach English constructively a tad shy of the mark.

I believe you once said you used a point system or a reward system. I have an evil shadow too. I told my kids that anyone getting answers from or talking to the TA would lose a point. I got the kids to start ignoring the TA.

many have had to put up with it …

tell your CT to turn around and face the wall, or even send her/him outside. do it in a nice way, and soon, they’ll get the point. it’ll be easier if you already have some degree of rapport with them (and the students).

or, start giving all the points to the CT when they answer, and apologize to the students that there are none left for them. just don’t give them to the teacher, or she will pass them on. be obvious about it, thanking them for the answer, but keep it light.

my guess is that you’re in a new situation, and the CT’s are either: still figuring you out (do you know anything? lotsa people come here with absolutely no SLA knowledge) or they are like many others who are simply continuing the time honored tradition that they learned under called “ignore the foreigner, and i’ll tell you the answer in a minute”. some of both?

I have worked for the school you are at now (Train has too and, in his case, for quite a while). Some of the CTs there have been there quite a while as well (I worked with one who had been there over 20 years). Granted, they have some methods we might disagree with. Many was the time I grinned and bore it. Sometimes there was even conflict. I came, in the end, to respect and like my CTs.

Remember, the CTs there have seen a lot of FTs come and go, many of them a little less than capable. They are ultimately responsible for most things concerning classes. They shoulder 100% of the pressure from management and parents. Student and parental complaints seldom reach your ear because the buck stops at your CT. In a way, your CT is the boss (or at least is the one ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a given class. If CTs lose too many students, they don’t get new classes. FTs have hours guaranteed in their contracts regardless). If she isn’t giving you free reign in the class, there may be a reason for it. She either may not trust you yet (remember, you are new there), or you are getting complaints.

I think you and I have something in common, puiwaihin. We both arrived at that school with some experience. That school has been around for in excess of 25 years and they have (what would appear to be at first) a rigid, systematic way of doing things. Their way of doing things irked me at first.

I think the answer to your problems, though, is time. After I had been there a while, I earned the trust of my CTs, students and parents. Also, you start to become more senior than some of the CTs after a while (new Chinese teachers come and go quite frequently). After a time, I was able to put more and more of my own stamp on classes, especially new classes with new CTs.

My advice is be patient with that school. Once you’ve been there a little while, you’ll have a lot more control. You’ll be able to do things more in line with the way you want them to be done. In the mean time, try to build good relationships with your coteachers. Communicate with them constantly. Are you having visits from teaching supervisors? That means either parents or your cos are complaining. That’s why they’re coming. Build up the relationships with your cos to the point where they tell you any concerns they or parents have before going to management. Don’t step on your CTs toes. At this particular school, the CTs are supposed to be active participants in the class, even on the FT’s day. If they seem more active than you want them to be, it might be because they have to be. Some CTs like to feel more involved in a class than others. Some will largely stay out of your way. Some make you feel like part of the scenery. You’ll get more control as you gain seniority at the school and trust from your cos.

I found my first little while at that school to be problematic as someone who had some experience before going there. I sometimes wondered if I made the right decision signing on with the place. I found, though, that once I had put in some time, I had more and more control over the way my classes were taught. Give it time. You’ll be able to largely shake the “shadowing” effect from your classes in due time.

Thanks, Toasty, point about giving it time is well taken.

But I would have preferred an incantation and a wand wave that would make all CT’s act exactly how I want them to when I’m teaching. Maybe something like swish/flick + “Noshadowosaia!”, a flash of light, and then all is well.

BTW- the one that made me feel like posting this thread wasn’t necessarily a female CT…

And don’t get me wrong, I generally respect my CT and I listen to their feedback. But this particular practice is something that really bothers me. :fume:

Maybe the CT wants to feel useful?

I’m sure that’s why they are doing that. I don’t think they are intentionally trying to lessen the effectiveness of the lesson. Ah well.

Great idea.


[quote]start giving all the points to the CT when they answer, and apologize to the students that there are none left for them. just don’t give them to the teacher, or she will pass them on. be obvious about it, thanking them for the answer, but keep it light. [/quote] :laughing: :laughing:

I like this too, although I could see CT/TA giving kids points on the sly, otherwise it’s GREAT!

PWH Do the kids know you speak Chinese? Does the CT?

You could explain to TA that you are capable of translating Chinese for them, and explain why it is not a good idea. Youknow she really wants to help the students, but that it is really unhelping them.

If permissable and a little more coniving would be to actually do this in class so that the CT has nothing to say. This would not be good for guanxi though. :stuck_out_tongue:

I had a really nice super helpful TA. She never intervened in class unless I asked her to. (usually discipline issues where I felt Chinese was necessary or I just didn’t have time for.)

However, she would drill the kids after class and before the nest class on the structures we had learned. Result was the kids lost all the intonation I had stuffed down there throats and quickly got back the bad pronunciation I had smacked out of them.

She was really nice and meant the best, but… :wall: :wall: :flog: :flog:

Hehe, in my school there’s a part of the lesson where they are translating English dialogs into Chinese. I have fun correcting some of the bad translations-- basically Englese (English grammar and word order put into Chinese).

But as I said, the shadowing isn’t the worst part. It’s them giving the kids the exact answer to say and not letting the kids think for themselves. I know it’s for the slow kids, but the slow kids become totally dependent on the CT.

I’m going to give the CT’s time and patiently explain why I don’t want them to give the kids the answer, but until then I just feel like venting a little. :rainbow:

Isn’t it all about the Taiwanese teachers, lao bans, books writers, publicists, and Taiwanese academia in general assuming that they know more about English than any native speaker could posibly know?

Won’t get off on that rant!

One of the most bizarre things I have ever seen was a small booklet another teacher showed me maybe 3-4 years ago. This booklet of about 20-25 pages–actually, there were three books, graded level 1,2, and 3.

This booklet was collated so that on page one the sentences were in English. On the next page, the sentences were written in correct Mandarin. The teacher would read from page one and the students would read from page two. The purpose of the exercise was for the FT to read the English sentences from his page in English. The students would look at the Mandarin page and they would trace the mandarin with their finger and reply in English.

In other words, hear English, read Mandarin, translate it mentally, and immediatly regurgitate its equalivent in English.

Is this a commonly accepted form of teaching? Am I completely out of the loop?

I think I know why you are angry.I agree your opinion.But all the ct do the same nephew goes to some English cram school.They always repeat after the teacher.So they do not think how the words pronunce.although they are told no chinese in school.teachers always give the chinese hint.
You should let the article email all the teachers. :wink:
way to go sir.

Well, I’ll talk with them about the problem one at a time. Sometimes it helps things. But it is definitely an uphill battle.

try coughing loudly during the Chinese shadowing phase.