Talking about School:

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I didn't like being trapped in a school, but I hated the schoolwork. Even though I loved—and love—to read, the required reading was never interesting. And after every book, a book report was due! Nothing ruins a book like writing about it.

In every subject, there was too much homework. Didn't the teachers know that seven hours of school was enough? Why did I have to do more work at home? And even when there wasn't homework, I had to study, because we took a test in one subject or another every week.

Do you know what I hated most, though? Every time someone complained about how much work we had to do, a teacher would say "right now, school is your job." I didn't see the teachers doing their job for free, so who was going to pay the students?

When you were in school, was there a subject you hated? Was there a subject you loved? Which subject helped you most with your job now? Is there a subject you wish you'd worked at harder? (I wish I learned more when I was in math.) Do you think that homework helped you learn? What books would you make required reading for kids today?

Students in School


Required: In Germany, the law says that you have to have a first aid kit in your car. It's required. In most countries, you can't drive without wearing your seatbelt. They're required, too. The word required refers to something that you have to have, or have to do.

Required reading refers to the books that teachers sent home with us, and said we had to read them. More than books were required in school. Some subjects in school were required, and others were optional, meaning that you could choose if you wanted to take them or not. And Spanish and French weren't required subjects in my school, but two years of one language was required.

Report: After every book we read as required reading, we had to write two or three pages about the story of the book. I used to hate writing these book reports.

A report means any description of what happened, normally one that's written on paper. After a car accident, the police might ask the drivers involved to make written reports of what happened. And today's newspaper is full of reports of what happened yesterday!

Due: Imagine a teacher told you that the book "Moby Dick" was required reading, and to write a report on the book when we were finished. Will you be able to read the book and write the report before tomorrow? Of course not, he has to give you more time than that. Maybe the teacher says you have to finish the report in two weeks. The the report is due in two weeks.

Due means when something has to be done. Homework normally has a "due date" (even if it's the next day). But there's something else that can be due: If my wife is pregnant, and we expect the baby to come in August, then the baby is due in August.

Subject: We learned a lot in school. We learned math (in the U.K, they say "maths"), and English, and biology and. . . and . . and. . . each different thing we learned is a subject. For each subject, we had to go to a different classroom. In school, music was my favorite subject. And I think that gym (where we had to do sports) was the subject I hated most. Math was the subject I got the worst grades in.

Homework: We did a lot of work in school. (At least, I thought so!) But, after school, we had to take our books home and do more work there, too! This homework was normally collected the next day by the teacher and given a grade.

Don't confuse homework with housework. Homework is normally given by a teacher, and you can stop when you finish school. "Housework" is the cleaning and cooking that never ends in a house or apartment. (My mother says that I did more homework than housework as a child, and she's right.)

Study: Can you learn English just by sitting in a classroom? Maybe, but I know I can't learn French that way. I go to class, but I also have to spend a lot of time at home, working with flash cards and doing exercises. I have to study French at home.

Study refers to the time you spend learning outside the classroom. You might hear things like: "I can't come to the movie tonight, I have to study for a test tomorrow." "Toby, your grades are terrible, you'll have to study more."

We also use the word study to talk about the main thing we learn in a university. "I studied German," means that, while I learned a lot of things in the university, I was mainly there to learn German. When I came to Germany, I was surprised that there were people who studied American the way I'd studied German.

Test: I think it would be nice if a teacher taught French—maybe some new vocabulary—and then said "Okay, Toby, do you understand?" I'd say yes, the teacher would smile, give me a good grade, and then move on to the next subject.

But that's not the way it works. The teachers always want proof that I understand what they teach me. So they ask a lot of questions and, after counting how many I get right, they give me a grade. They test me.

Test can be a verb, meaning something like "to measure the quality of." You can test the drinking water, or test drive a new car.

But, in school, a test is normally on paper, with a lot of questions, and too much stress. I used to hate math tests. Now, I'm a teacher, and I don't like giving tests. Students who do well in class get nervous on a test and then they get bad grades.

This lesson was written and recorded by Toby, an American English teacher that lives in Germany. Toby is the creator of Bite Sized English.

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