Friday, October 2, 2009

Advanced TOEIC anyone?

Last semester I had five students, so I was right to expect the same, well actually, I have four this time. This is the TOEIC advanced prep class - the requirement being that you have at least 586 to take it. The main goal, which is fixed is for the students to achieve a score of 730 or greater. In this class I use Bruce Rogers' Reading Guide to the TOEIC test. The text was recommended to me by my former colleague and I have to say that it has been appropriate so far, and I hope it will work this time, too. I also supplement the course with the academic word list. I use Gerry Luton's site's lists and exercises (Thank you Gerry!), and have been satisfied with them. Here is a link to his site if you'd like to use such lists in your class, too.

I also provide the students with Nikkei Weekly articles, which although optional, I encourage them to read in order to build vocabulary and reading skills important for the TOEIC.

Unlike the other more communication-focused classes, I did not have the students ask each other questions or have them work on the classroom English handout. I did however have them write their names on cards, and then I took their photo. I also had them fill out the personal detail form in class since there were only four of them, one of whom had already filled it out because he is in one of my other classes. Next, I explained the syllabus and then I gave them list 1 of the AWL, which I assigned as homework. I asked them to know the pronunciation of each word and also to know its part of speech and any of its derivations, ie analyze - analysis etc. It is a lot of work, but one of the most important components of the TOEIC test is vocabulary in my opinion and therefore it is the focus of this course . We also discussed various ways we can use to help us better understand a word, three of which are listed above. We also talked about example sentences, collocations, meaning, both English and Japanese, and its synonyms and antonyms. I also told them that they did not have to use all the strategies, but choose those which they felt worked for them, but at least they should try each strategy first before deciding not to use it.

Finally, I had them choose which section of the book to focus on first. Since we are using a book that focuses on the reading section, there are three parts to choose from: Part 5 is Sentence Completion, which mainly deals with word formation, word choice, verbs, gerunds, prepositions etc; Part 6 is Passage Completion, which is similar in focus to Part 5, but this time, students have to choose the correct answer to complete a passage, usually an email, or advertisement, something related to business; Part 7 is Short Readings, which tends to be the hardest part because students have to skim and scan for the answers in a very short time frame, and later on in Part 7 there is what is called the double readings, where there may be an advertisement and then an email or letter in response to it, and there will be questions asked on both texts. The students chose Part 5 to begin, which we will do next week; we did not start the book because it has not arrived yet, but hopefully it will next week.

Overall, today's class did not go as smoothly as I had hoped, well maybe that is being too hard on myself, but two out of the four students said they had used the textbook; apparently, they had used the same book, and lists, too, I might add, but in a different course. I was not expecting this to say the least, so you can imagine my surprise at learning this in the first class. I also found this out at the beginning of the class, which meant I had to deviate from the lesson plan because I had to ask them questions about the class in which they had used it to get an idea of how they had used it. Fortunately though, one of the two students did not fill in the answers in his book, so I said he could use that one, but for the other student, it seems he did write in the answers, so I asked him to buy it. I did not want to ask him to, but I did not have a choice, and besides, I did not know that the book had been used in another class. I did tell the two students though, that the way I intend to teach the course will be different from my former colleague, so although they have used the book and lists, it will in fact be quite different.

I guess in the end I should not worry so much about the class not running as smoothly as planned because there are times where unexpected things happen, and it is nearly impossible not to deal with them at that moment, especially when half of the class has already used a textbook that you are intending to use!

Well, I think that is it for this post. If you'd like to leave a comment, by all means please do!


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