|Friday’s “game” day ! They l o v e Hangman. Yep, Hangman is still around.
This is a very, very long entry about working with student teachers at FLO. I realize that it’s very, very long (even that’s long : ), but there are some of you who I know are really interested in the teaching aspect of this journey. This is for you . . .
And for everyone else, the next posting will simply be shots taken this past week while teaching (Thanks Rick for taking them!) or hanging-out in the library.
Working with the two FLO students who are teaching classes has been a challenging proposition. Why? Well, first of all, it was unclear to me what they were doing, what their objectives were. Communication at FLO is often a muddled affair.
The first day (of my first week) I went to class at 8 a.m., and ST1 (student teacher number 1) was simply writing words in Khmer and English on the board. The Ss were copying these words in both languages in their books. What I was able to gather from her was that they were reviewing these words (sports and foods) for a test that she was going to give the Ss on that Saturday. I then gathered that I was to write a test that she was going to administer. We met one morning after class in the library and came up with test for the Ss that was mostly oral. “How many Ss are there ST1?” 20 “How many minutes do we have to give the test?” 60 “So how much time can we take with each student?” Three minutes per student was the agreed upon response. I anticipated that we needed to keep the other Ss occupied while we gave the test. Fortunately, I had a few games, which did the job partially; I really could have used more and better games for their skill level. It ended up taking longer than 3-minutes per student, so I became more efficient. “Call up the next student please,” I asked when the previous student was at the board writing his or her answer to the few written questions. I would go ahead and start asking the next student the list of questions we had prepared, “How are you?” “I’m fine and you.” etc. ST1 and I then had a nice rhythm working together and were able to test all the Ss in our allotted time.
Working with ST1 was more pleasant initially than working with ST2. Why? Well, ST1was more open to me conducting the class differently. She seemed genuinely curious to see how I could review words without simply writing them on the board. I would draw the mango to elicit the word after asking “*What is this?”
What I found, however, was that the Ss were simply memorizing the words or few word chunks without really understanding the meaning. For example, in the oral test I asked the Ss one-by-one, “What is this?” while holding up my pencil. “That is my pencil” was a frequent reply. “Your pencil?” I asked. They had no idea what I meant. A few of the Ss did respond, however, with “That is a pencil” or simply “pencil.”
In ST2’s class, it was clear that he was in charge. He was not curious as to how I could conduct a review. Since I was stepping into an existing class, I didn’t feel comfortable taking over. However, I did ask him if I could conduct the review differently. “Okay,” he replied in the manner of a polite 20-year old boy, shrugging and generally looking disinterested. I then proceeded to draw the different activities or foods on the board to elicit the meaning. I also put the Ss in pairs and/or in the chain-line to ask the basic questions, “What do you like to play?” “I like to play football/volleyball/baseball.” None of them seemed to really ever get “baseball.” I’m not sure why it was included in their list because it is not (as far as I know) in their world.
From what I could gather by asking these two student teachers and the director, the test we administered on the Thursday of my first week was to determine if the Ss were able to move up in to Gogo Loves 2 or the first Gogo Loves Basic.
When my third week began (August 8, 2011), I was not sure if there were going to be classes or not. When I asked the director about them, he said that he wasn’t sure yet because he hadn’t been able to discuss it with the student teachers. From my conversations with him, it appeared as if I was to simply assist them. As things have developed, I am actually to teach the classes and help teach the student teachers how to teach.
Monday morning on the 8th, I went to ST1’s 8 a.m. class to see if it was going to take place. No one was there. Okay, I guess it’s not meeting.
At 1 p.m. I went to the room to confirm that ST2 was not teaching only to find that he was there with the Ss. Okay, it looks like there is going to be class, I thought to myself. I had brought along a DVD of songs that the director had given to me previously (to have on hand so that I could do something interesting with the Ss if they were there). I showed it to ST2; he looked at me with confusion. “Do you have a plan for the day” I asked. “Review the words from last week,” he replied. Okay, I said and sat down and waited for him to begin. For the next 10 minutes he simply spoke randomly in Khmer and the Ss were just at their desks talking amongst themselves.
ST2’s mannerisms and demeanor in all the classes made it clear that I was the guest, and he was the teacher. He really wasn’t open to conducting the class differently than what he was used to. So on this particular day, I decided to get up and leave since there was nothing for me to do. I felt incredibly frustrated that these Ss’ time was being wasted. I had a fun DVD in my backpack that would at least have given them something engaging to listen to and something for me to work with in terms of teaching new vocabulary, reviewing vocabulary, etc. I got up to leave and then I saw Rob Hail in the adjacent computer room. I expressed my frustration with him and he approached ST2 and asked what he was doing. ST2 really didn’t have an answer, but Rob kept pressing. Eventually the student teacher pulled out of his bag the test that ST1 and I had designed to give the Ss during my first week at FLO (ST2 and I also gave this same test to his Ss).
“Is this what you’re working on?” Rob asked. “Yes,” ST2 replied.
Rob left and I decided to stay and try again. “Okay, you want to review these words?”
“Yes,” he replied. I went to the whiteboard to draw these words and elicit them like I did the first week, but then I stopped myself. It just felt too boring to do exactly the same thing. I wanted to engage the Ss more, to come up with something where they would be involved.
“Everyone stand up. Let’s make a circle.” I said. It took a bit of miming, gesturing, etc. to get them to understand that we were going to do something different. Eventually we (ST2 assisted) manage to get them in a circle. I then began to ask the Ss some of the different questions, which had been on the test. But rather than simply ask the question, I adapted it so that they they asked another student the same question. I kept the pace up so that more and more Ss had the chance to participate. I did this with the questions: “What do you like to eat?” and “What do you like to play?” I then took it a step further and wrote on the board: 1. “What do you like to play?”, 2. “I like to play . . .”, 3. “She/he likes to play.” I wanted them to respond to how the other students answered. It took several tries, but they did begin to understand. Some of the Ss knew the difference between he and she; some did not. But most of them were able to answer in that way.
After the class ST2 said, “They do not know . .” He meant that they did not know the words “he” and “she.” “But they were learning them,” I replied, “This is how they learn them, by using them.” I had pointed to a boy for “he” and a girl for “she.”
Leaving my Elementary level class (different from these classes, these are the classes that I’m completely responsible for) Monday evening, I noticed ST1 in the computer room. I went and spoke with her to find out when she was going to start the class again. “Tomorrow,” she replied. “Do you have a plan?” I asked. She looked at me fairly blankly. “What do you plan to do?” I asked again. “Review.” “Review the words from the week before?” “Yes,” she replied. “I have DVDs of music and songs that we can use for reviewing. Would you like to do that?” “Yes,” she eagerly replied. Ah, I thought to myself, she’s open to doing things differently. Good.
So today I showed up at the 8 a.m. class with the DVD Kidsongs: A Day with the Animals. The class is small (4 boys and 4 girls), so it was easy for them to gather around my computer. I started at the beginning and went through about four songs stopping periodically. For example, the first song was BINGO (as in BINGO was his name o). “Is this about a cat?” I asked. “No!” they replied. “Is this about an elephant?” “No!!! A dog” one student replied.
And I continued, stopping the DVD periodically to ask, “What’s this?” while touching my ear, leg, etc. I wrote the word on the board as feedback. I also used the poster on the wall of animals to ask, “Does its ears hang low?” etc.
One of the songs was “Little Bo-Peep.” I drew a girl on the WB with sheep all around her. I then mimed how she went to sleep and then lost her sheep. Then when the Ss watched this particular music video again, I stopped it to elicit their response and see if they understood. The overall vocabulary was beyond their skill level, but I focused on just a few elements. I think they were able to understand some, and mostly, I think it was a start in terms of introducing them to new concepts and not just the standard practice of listing words on the WB and writing them in their book.
To wrap up the class, I went to the WB (whiteboard) and went through all the different words we had encountered asking, miming, drawing, etc. in order to see if they remembered the words. All in all, it felt like an effective class for the Ss.
INSERT KNOT GAME SHOT
Later in the day I was in the office and had the opportunity to speak with the director and Rob. They told me that I am in fact “in charge” of these classes and am to teach (or at least provide an example) the student teachers a different way of teaching. I mentioned that ST2 seemed hesitant to hand over the reins, but they assured me that yes, I am to take charge. When I then went to the 1 p.m. class, I went with more clarity about what my role is. I brought the same Kidsongs: A Day with the Animal DVD to use for reviewing the vocabulary of animals, etc.
The classroom, however, was being occupied by Ben and Molly (Ben founded EGBOK Mission, Everything’s Gonna Be Ok—check it out on the web; it’s a very worthwhile mission . . . they assist FLO kids who go to school in Siem Reap to study hotel management and similar things), so we needed to meet somewhere else. I suggested the dancing pavilion. “Yeah!” the kids yelled as they ran across the courtyard.
Under the open-air pavilion, I tried to have the Ss gather around my computer, but it just didn’t work. There were too many of them to be able to see the screen (and the noise from the **funeral was overriding the audio). Okay, I thought to myself, think of something else. I proceeded to start the game “I spy.” (I first made sure they knew what the word “spy” meant using the word to see rather than spy and asking CCQs . . . ). One of the things I learned from CELTA is that the activities need to be changed frequently for very young students (I don’t the ages of these Ss, but they are young, maybe between 5 and 7), so I switched to “Hokey Pokey.” I had played this with them earlier (in my first week), so they were slightly familiar with it. I found that they needed to be really close to me so that I could drill the sentence and confirm that they said it correctly (remember, the funeral was going on : ). This is really a good activity for teaching body parts and the difference between left and right. Though they don’t feel confident enough yet to initiate a verse, they did start staying the “left elbow” etc. and “in” and “out.”
To make it really clear that they got left and right, I lined them up and made sure each student raised their left arm. I formed the letter ***“L” with my left hand. I was able to show them the letter “L” on the wall because of the sign on the wall about the Worldwide Delegation. “How do you spell left?” I asked. Conveniently all the letters were on the wall and I could point them out for feedback. (They knew how to spell left already. This is part of the pattern I’m seeing; they’ve been drilled to learn all this vocabulary; they just don’t know how or when to use it.)
When I could tell they were getting restless I asked them to crawl back up on the platform and to pull out their notebooks and pens (some of the Ss did not have pens so I shared some). Earlier when I had been asking “Where is . . . ?” I had written it on a piece of paper (in lieu of the WB since we were outside). I had noticed that they didn’t seem to know question words like “Where?” and “What?” So I made it easy and asked, “Where is ST2?” They giggled at my ineptitude as they pointed at him (he was only 2-feet away from me). But I could tell that they didn’t really “get” what the word “where” was all about, so I continued it with “Where do you sleep?” I also drew a bed; they knew the word bed. “Where is your bed?” and they all pointed towards their living quarters. I continued this with “Where are two elephants/a flower,” etc. until I could see that most of them were getting it. One little girl was just bubbling over with her new-found knowledge. She literally wrote a list of about 10 “Where is . . . ?” sentences complete with all the correct words. (She first left out “the” but happily understood that it needed to be included too. : )
I expanded on the “Where is?” to “Where are?” I’ve noticed that when they’re taught phrases, it’s very one-dimensional. I want to do my best to expand it so that they’re actually learning some useful things. Not just “I like to eat mango,” but also “She likes to eat mango” etc.
I then wrapped it up with a “test” of the difference between left and right. And I asked how to spell them. It will be interesting to see if they remember these two words the next time we play “Hokey Pokey.”
A few other observations: 1) They’ve learned “How do you spell?” so when I asked, “How do you write?” they looked at me with blank faces. 2) They’ve learned big and small, but did not know the word little.
There are a few more little tidbits relating to working with the student teachers. On Monday after the 1 p.m. class I was surprised to see Ss entering for a different class. “Don’t you have the 2 p.m. English class also ST2?” It took a while, but eventually I managed to pull out of him that the class he had before is now not taking place. Further inquiries with both student teachers revealed that as of next week, there will be new class arrangements. Some will be studying Gogo Loves English 1 and some will be studying #2. Or, maybe that’s the basic class instead? They don’t know yet, and neither do I. So the rest of the week with the two classes I will continue to use the DVD resources if possible (with the smaller class) and play games that help introduce new word chunks, as well as review what they’ve already studied.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Today with ST1’s class we watched the animal DVD again stopping after the song for an explanation with mime, drawing pictures, etc.
The first song was about birds (Rockin’ Robin).
I asked, “What is this song about?” First, I needed to elicit the meaning of song. Then came “about.” CCQs: Are there elephants? No. Are there dogs? No. What are there? “Birds,” one student replied.
This class had not been introduced to “Where is?” and “Where are?” so this song was a good segue into these questions. I elicited the meaning of those questions, modeled and drilled them and then extended them to other things in the room and at FLO. I also added, “How many?” as in “How many boys are here?” and “How many girls are here?” This brought: “There are 3 boys here.”
By the end of the class, I had this on the board for them to write in their notebooks:
How many boys?
There are 3 boys. There are 4 girls.
There are 7 students here. (I mimed for them to count, first the number of boys and then the number of girls. Then when I came back to it I extended it to all the students; they counted the 7 students).
Where is the chair? (one)
The chair is here.
Where are the fish? (1+)
The fish are in the water. The fish are in the ocean.
To elicit water and ocean I drew on the WB.
There were many more examples than these on the WB that I asked and they replied. This short list was simply a recap for them to put in their notebooks.
Since this week is a technically a week of review for them and their “official” class begins next week (when the director decides what that will be and how it will be grouped according to students, as in how many, who, etc., then I will have a better idea of what their long-term aims are), I am using these few days as an opportunity to experiment with CELTA methodology and principles. While I was attending the CELTA course in Bangkok this past June, our focus was on adult ESL education. It is different with children for so many reasons. Their attention spans are much shorter; the activities need to be switched around frequently, etc. This is a completely new experience for me, and I want to do my best for these Ss. I feel that this is such a wonderful opportunity for all of us. I am learning, and I am also providing them with a different type of learning, a more student-centered learning experience. I’m doing my best to keep my teacher talking time (ttt) to a minimum and their student talking time (stt) to a maximum.
The timing of being here is absolutely perfect. Rob Hail arrived at the end of my first week, and he is focusing on improving FLO’s English and Computer programs. Since he’s been here, I’ve had more clarity on my role due to his vision and connection with the school. As a volunteer and guest, I didn’t feel comfortable “asking” for certain things. Rob is one of the main financial contributors and visionaries of the school and has a completely different role than me. One of his main objectives at this time is to hire a consultant to advise them on how to create an appropriate and rigid curriculum. The Cambodian gentleman who runs the vocational program wanted to add more to his function. “No,” Rob said, “We need to improve the existing English and Computer programs to make them top-notch. If the FLO kids have a really high skill level in English and with Computers, they can do any vocation.” I agree with Rob. From what I’ve seen in my short time in Cambodia, being able to speak English well opens so many doors for Cambodians. I imagine that it’s the same for computer skills in today’s world.
Rob agrees that the timing of my 8-week stay at FLO is absolutely perfect. He says that I’m teaching my classes differently than any other volunteers have (with the one exception of a lady named Donna, she apparently made noticeable contributions as well). For those of you who have been following “Susan Jane’s Journey,” you know how the flow or timing of everthing has been working out very naturally . . . : )
At the graduation program this past Sunday morning when 20 FLO students graduated from high school and 22 graduated from the advanced education program (2 from the University with a degree in Accounting and 20 from different vocational programs), it was so inspiring to see how FLO’s teachers, administrators and volunteers envision this orphanage (and its educational program) as the foundation for creating a better Cambodia. They teach the kids to always say thank you; they require the children to contribute to the school’s operation (as in the Ss are cleaning their rooms, helping to prepare meals for themselves and the guests, they are sweeping the grounds, watering the flowers, etc.) They are teaching the children to be good, responsible people who will make the world a better place, and specifically, will make Cambodia a better place. After the incredibly high percentage of educated Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge (over the course of 4-years: 1975-1979), the country has been floundering without its intellectual and cultural base. ****Nuon Phaly who founded FLO has used her knowledge of Cambodian dance and silk making to educate the students and not lose these valuable cultural skills.
I highly recommend that you read Phaly’s Story. You can find it here: http://emailfosterparents.org/PhalyAutobio.htm
. You may want to copy and paste it into a word document (like I did); it’s 26-pages long. Be forewarned that she writes about some horrific experiences with the Khmer Rouge. Her writing is very eloquent and touching; she’s an extraordinary person.
Back to my notes on teaching with the student teachers . . .
On Wednesday this past week, we had access again to our classroom for the second of these two classes with the student teachers and much younger Ss (whose English level is very, very basic). I decided to continue the theme of “Where is?” (or rather “Where’s?” as we were taught to teach it in the CELTA course since that is how native English speakers really talk) and “Where are?” I did the same thing today (Thursday, August 11th) in the morning class. I’ve also added “How many?” It was satisfying to see them starting to really understand the concepts and be able to use them.
For some of the Ss, the ravine they have to jump across in order to change from saying “Where is? to “Where’s?” is quite wide. One little boy kept trying and trying. First, he was able to say, “Where’s is the . . .?” And then lo and behold, he yelled out a, “Where’s?”
I questioned myself as to whether I should persevere or just let them say, “Where is?” But as I thought about it, I decided, “Yes, it’s appropriate.” These Ss are just beginning to learn English; they’re very young, and I think they can adapt to the English that we native speakers really speak. Also, I found out yesterday that they rarely ever speak English in their state school (when they’re first learning). Apparently, it’s quite common for Ss to make fun of other Ss’ pronunciation. As I understand it, they’re only expected to begin speaking English when their writing and reading skills have reached an appropriate level of proficiency. I found this out AFTER I told my two afternoon (and more advanced) classes that it’s okay to make mistakes. They looked at me with BIG eyes. Yes, it’s okay! That’s how you learn!
As far as teaching the younger children goes . . .
INSERT THE TWO SHOTS FROM THE LIBRARY WHEN I LET THEM LOOK AT MY SHOTS FROM THE BEACH TRIP.
Well, this is completely new for me. When I graduated from The University of Tennessee with a B.S. in Education eons ago, it was for secondary education, not elementary education. I received a certificate for teaching 7th
graders physical and foreign language education. (Yes, I agree, those two things just go together! : ) And some of you may remember that I did teach younger children at the local YWCA for a bit. It was a very basic level gymnastics/tumbling class. I managed to find a way to successfully muddle my way through each lesson; I made sure each student learned one skill that they could accomplish and show the adoring audience after class. And who was that adoring audience? Their parents, of course! I asked them to stay out of the class during the lesson; it was just too distracting for the small toddlers; I think they were about 4-years old. Hmm, that was in 1986, they would be about 29-years old now. If one of you is reading this, give me a shout!
Okay, I digress.
Point is, this is new for me. Next week I think I’ll have a book to work from (for these 2 classes of younger Ss, I have 4 classes total per day), but I want to enhance the lessons with activities that really engage the Ss. Fortunately, there are some resources here to draw from. One of my biggest challenges may be getting the student teachers to simply not speak so much Khmer to the young Ss. It’s distracting when they do that (unless it’s for a very specific reason when I’ve asked for their assistance). Why? Because it draws the Ss attention away the lesson, from what we’re doing.
In the one class, I could see that they were starting to get the concept of “Where’s the . . .?” when the student teacher began a blow-by-blow college dissertation on what “Where’s the . . .?” means. Looks like I need to come up with some very helpful things for the student teachers to do during the class so that they too are actively participating . . . Any ideas from the vast peanut gallery spread literally around the world?”
And with that, I’ll sign-off.
For those of you who read this far, mahalo.
*Realizing now that I should have been asking, “What’s this?” rather than “What IS this?”
**funeral – for t h r e e days there was non-stop music, chanting, drumming from an adjacent property . . . it dominated the air waves for t h r e e days.
***I first learned about the “L” trick and holding up your left arm and making an “L” with your hand in highschool. The joke running around at the time was that the football coach had to do this exact same exercise with the players to make sure they knew the difference between left and right.
**** Nuon Phaly, family name first, her given name is pronounced Polly.