01 December 2014

What My ESL Students Want to Learn

Last week was the beginning of a new term at our school, which means I was given 500 new students! Every time I meet a new class for the first time, one of my warm-up activities is to have everyone answer the question: "What do you want to do or learn about in this class?"

I find that this question helps me with assessing the English level and interests of a particular class, and helps me plan to meet their needs over the next few months as much as I can. Sometimes their answers are exactly what one would expect, other times they are a little more creative. I thought I'd share some of their written responses with you today:

"I want to improve my spoken English."

"I want to talk well with Englishmen."

"I want to be friends with my teacher."

"Learn some things about USA traditional culture."


"Can we learn Spanish?"

"Watch lots of English movies."

"I want to talk to my friends in English."

"I want to talk with my teacher about many things."

"I want to learn how to lose weight."


"I want to learn about the cultures of all the countries in the world."

"I will learn to be a good boy and study hard."

"Learn to sing English songs."

"Everything is okay."

"Play some funny games"

"I want to stay awake in this class."

"Learn how to be very slim like the teacher."


P.S. My students are awesome. They make me smile everyday. And I have no idea why they comment on my size/weight--I am, I'd guess, average-sized, if not slightly statuesque in this part of the world. 


  1. I love these posts. I'll be very honest and say that the fact that you get to work this closely with chinese students and can give us this insight into their thoughts is SO FASCINATING. I just never pictured chinese people in general as being so interested in North American culture. And maybe because there are just SO MANY chinese I never thought about their individual desires to eventually speak English for their own personal reasons and not just because they are told to learn it.

    Do you think it is easier for them to accept you because you are small and thin instead of overweight?

    Angie from reasons to dress

  2. This is so great!! I agree with Angela this is so fascinating!! I am so glad to have found your blog through the Peony Project and look forward to following along your journey!

  3. That is interesting about the two weight related comments. Do you find that they are weight obsessed over there?


  4. This is so interesting! I have had many friends who have taught in China but have never heard much about what their students wanted and enjoyed learning. What a great way to start off the new term!

  5. Yeah the weight comment stood out to me, lol - I hope she was joking but if serious, I think self-esteem should be monitored. Glad your students make you smile and best of luck with your new group! Have a great one Rachel! -Iva

  6. Some of those are funny! And some of them must think you are great because you are so thin. I am working with a young lady from Korea and being thin is important there, too.

    1. Sorry, I didn't word that very well. :P

  7. I want to stay awake! Haha that's a good one, probably what I would have answered too.

  8. Love your post (what funny questions some of them are!): I'd be really scared standing in front of that many students....!

  9. Haha, some of them are so funny! I loved the 'Can we learn Spanish?' :D

  10. Haha at least they want to stay awake in the class!

  11. Hahahaha! As a fellow ESL teacher, this is seriously cracking me up. "No." "Can we learn Spanish?" I'm laughing so hard... and I wonder what kind of answers my students would come up with!

  12. SO FUNNY. I am grinning ear-to-ear. I love that you have recorded these here because they will be such great memories. :)

  13. So many great things! :) These are the best to look back on at the end of the classes I bet.

  14. Enjoyed reading their answers! Sounds like some have quite the sense of humor...learn!

  15. Hahahahahha... "No." Well said, well said.
    I can't believe you get 500 new students each term! YOWZA!

  16. Thanks for making my evening! You're starting to make me miss my days of ESL tutoring!

  17. This is really cool! It is really neat that you and your husband have such great jobs in China!
    Melanie @

  18. 500 students!? Holy mackerel.

    I'm curious. What is the general behavior of Chinese students? Here in America, I spent so much time mastering classroom management skills to avoid any behavior problems. American high school kids will eat you alive if you don't have a good classroom management plan! I have to say, I was very proud of the way I fostered a good classroom climate despite being a 5'2" spring chicken ;-). When I received the results of my very first Tripod evaluation (survey taken by students evaluating various aspects of my teaching skills), I scored highest in "Control".

    I have heard that in other countries, teachers are treated with so much respect cause the students are grateful for their education. Do you find that to be true in China?

  19. Awww they want to be friends with the slim teacher!! These posts always make me smile.

  20. It's so interesting to see that even in China, there are just some kids who don't really want to learn! It makes me feel a little better about being a teacher in the US. =)

  21. There are some really great ones in there! "I want to stay awake in this class." Too funny!

  22. Very interesting!
    What age range are your students?

  23. this is SUPER amazing and i love it. i hope you are throwing spanish words in every now and then and instructing on how to talk to englishmen :)

  24. My mom teaches English to Koreans, Japanese, and Middle Eastern students of various ages in one-to-one sessions. And you have 500 students @_@

    "I want to be friends with my teacher" is my fave :)

  25. This is lovely! I'm currently studying to be an ESL teacher and I can't wait to travel to meet such precious kids as these!

  26. My favorites were "No" and "Can we learn Spanish?" Both of these students seem to not be understanding the concept of English class. haha! Also, 500 students?!

  27. "No." hahahahaha. I love it! I love those responses!

  28. I miss teaching!! The one about wanting to be friends with my teacher is so sweet :-) Found you via SITS

  29. These are such gems! It must be so much fun to teach ESL. Maybe that's what I can use my linguistics degree for someday.

  30. I think it's just an Asian culture thing to talk about looks/weight like they're just facts and a part of every day conversation. And especially because you're automatically different being a foreigner. Volunteers got told they were fat or skinny or pretty or had beautiful skin all the time like it was just a matter of fact.

    I love that you ask that question every semester, so funny.