My China University TEFL Method

by (Mr.) Clair Lasater

This method -- developed over a ten year teaching career in the People’s Republic of China -- should save those headed

to teach China college or university, years of method development.

It’s all here, in writing. (Add your own personal touches,
of course, yet read this and you’re a genius -- an “experienced” professional, without suffering much painful breaking in.

The first thing to know is that the meet-ups with each class are two hours, not one. There is a ten minute break between each 50 minute session. (It’s easier - less tiring than it sounds.)

A second fact of life regarding China college or university lecturing, is that, nationwide, the powers that be, want the kids talking, at least one of the hours. (I’d rather lecture the two sessions, but I’ve found that the teacher will have no peace, if he or she does not follow this unspoken dictum.)

A third fact of teaching English to Chinese university students is that the classes are large. Usually forty to forty-five students. (Rejoice, it’s better that way -- you’ll see.)

Now that you know these details, I can show you my own seemingly infallible method to teach English in Chinese universities:

The first hour is yours to do what you will. The second “hour” each scholar does a short speech on a fun topic you write on the blackboard. Some will not be able to talk, every week, for lack of time. (If you “grade” each one, each second hour, after he or she speaks, you will know who gets to start the round, the following week.)

What can you do each first session, until the ten minute break? Proverbs are great devices. Aesop’s Fables work. Paste the proverbs and a fable onto an A4 sheet. On this same sheet, I paste twenty to thirty example sentences, written exactly how native speakers say them. These sentences
are on the topic for the week - (chosen by me.) Sample topics:
“American Breakfast," "Western Clothes,” or just, “Clothes,”; and “Directions” - for example, “How do I get to the police station?”, “Where is the beach?”, “Can you tell me how to find the library?” “Go three blocks this way, turn left, then go three more blocks. It’ll be on your right.”

I paste all this onto a piece of paper. I clip and paste manually, using a glue stick. Purchase a printer, there in your China university hometown, for your apartment “office.” You will have internet, at your flat.

Then, I glue a crossword puzzle onto the handout. One I’ve composed myself on an internet free crossword maker site. Print all, from Word, and the crossword site, and the internet fables or proverbs site.

Believe it or not, you will even have room to paste the printed solution, up-side-down, on the handout (you will have to reduce the size of the example sentences).

Now clip and paste your original. Run off enough copies for every student in all your classes, and you are finished with your preparation work
for the week! This costs a little money, but not even nearly
as much as rent would cost you back home. (Your college or university apartment -- usually on campus, by the way -- is free!)

The second hour, each student gives his or her speech. Your only work is to politely make corrections as each one speaks. Correct only egregious mistakes, otherwise you’ll disrupt the flow of the class too much.

Permit me to finalize my recommended system, by offering a very few general directions, that I know you’ll need, to win this game:


  1. Grade high

  2. Teach in a laid back and generally fun way (the administrations want a relaxed, not too strict classroom atmosphere)

  3. Unless at a business school, dress informally

  4. Don’t end your second hour early

  5. Go extremely easy on homework (my homework consisted of honor system practice during the week, of the handout model sentences, and working the crossword puzzle of the week. I didn’t check the answers)

  6. Don’t be a type-A personality perfectionist -- it makes
    too much work and stress for you, and it’s not necessary



Manage your classes in this way, and you are a professional and a sage, from Week One.

Biography: (Mr.) Clair Lasater has taught at Hainan University, Maoming University, Ling Ling University -- now the Hunan University of Science and Engineering, Zhangjiajie College of Jishou University, and Shunde Polytechnic College. He is published in the Guardian, China Daily, The Times of India, and Omniglot.

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