Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Interrupt Vietnam…

I had THE most fun experience today that did not involve an airplane, TSA or body searches!

After my first 7 months here, I went back to the US for 6 weeks. After back and forth and some great travels (details still to come)…I determined that I needed SOMETHING to do that did not involve…well, lunch.

Enter the “English Conversation Program” that the AWA coordinates.

This program involves volunteers (ME and others) to go to local schools, and urge, cajole, draw forth…English from students who want to improve their English speaking skills.

Our students are 3A students, which I understand, are the top of their class (like Junior year of HS?).

There were MANY more girls than boys. It IS a volunteer program for the students. I think the boys are able to see a “target rich” environment. (smart guys)

The school is only 10 minutes by MTR from my house. We walked about 7 minutes to the school where we were met by the IT guy (not the English speaking expert).

After we arrived, we took roll. Each student picks an “English” name…(examples? Suki, Karen, Bruce, Mark…Zita?? – you get the idea). We then had them line up alphabetically (by English names…this only took 5 minutes) THEN…count off and into groups. We made sure that we changed things up so the kids could not put themselves into groups and hang with friends. The whole point of this is to push them to speak English, and they tend to be shy anyway, so we try to mix it up!

The first part of the hour we had them interview each other. Questions such as “Who is your Idol?” and “What annoys you” inspired some enthusiastic answers. Each person had a different questionnaire so they cold not “copy”

One coordinator in each group had to be interviewed..and I was that person. Sigh. Poor Suki…My idol? John Adams (at least it was easy to spell…but she still has no idea who he is). Favorite music? (rock n roll) After we did the interview, we had to introduce the other person. Least favorite subject in school is STILL math!

Suki likes green tea (favorite food) and Avril Lavigne. After school she wants to see an Avril Lavigne concert and travel to France!

The thing about language, is that when we wrote the questions, we thought it was SO obvious what they meant...like "what do you want to school when you get out of school?" Many of the students answered "sleep" or "play a video game". WE thought long term, their "out of school" was short term! I have lots to learn!

There was lots of giggling and really really quiet voices, and the group did a terrific job talking about each other...but it did NOT fill the hour!

hmmm…what to do?

There is a game I played as a child. We would sit on our porch in PA at night, catch lightening bugs and play this. It’s the “Store” game. You had to run through the alphabet…name what you would buy…then repeat each thing until your new letter was up …For example…”I went to the store and I bought an apple. I went to the store and bought an apple and a banana. I went to the store and bought an apple, banana and a carrot” ETC

Well, this group good naturedly played the entire game…funny, they would help each other when one person stumbled on a letter (Nametag)…but when my partner and I had trouble and could not remember a word ... (well, my partner…not me) not a PEEP…we were on our own.

The kids played the game…they seemed to be good sports. They came up with great words (elephant, yo yo kitty - I wanna shop at THAT store!) and the game DID make them use the English alphabet and apply words..Mission accomplished? Yes... My guess?

My students will be defecting to another group!! :)

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