A Use Of Alarming Language

, , , , , , | Learning | March 1, 2019

(I have taught English for a few years in China. One of my classes is late at night and I have mostly young, working professionals in my class. Because the class is late, and we have all had full, busy days, this class can be quiet, and most are very tired.)

Me: “Okay, I’d like to go over the new vocabulary for this week. Are there any words that you need help understanding?”

Student #1: “I don’t understand ‘alarm.’ What does this mean?”

Me: “Oh! Great question! Does everyone remember antonyms? These are words that have opposite meanings.”

Student #2: “This is like cold and hot. They are opposite.”

Me: “Exactly. So, we all know what calm means, right?”

(The students all nod. I continue to explain calm, peace, and tranquility, and make my voice softer as I explain. Eyelids start drooping, and heads began to tilt while I continue.)

Me: “So, I want you to remember what this feels like, because you will all feel alarmed very soon.”

(I walk over to my metal desk and slam my hand on the top, making a large bang. All students are immediately wide-eyed and alert, hearts pounding.)

Me: “That feeling? What you feel right now? That is alarm.”

Students: *laughing nervously* “Oh, okay. I will never forget that!”

Me: “Excellent! What are other words that are similar to alarm?”

(At the end of the year, all of the students from that class told me that I had made English fun and more memorable than any previous teachers. They loved how they had gotten real practice and understanding of the new vocabulary rather than memorizing lists. Several also received promotions due to their improved English opening up new job opportunities for them!)

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