Meghan and Josh
The formal English program (or programme, to Nick and Loll) is officially up and running at Kurata, so this is sort of a wrap-up post from our experience as volunteers there.
When we arrived at Kurata, there was no English program (or programme, for that matter!) whatsoever, and very nearly no English among students at the school. Although Vebol speaks English, and a few of the teachers speak some, most children didn’t know anything beyond “hello”. And of course, starting out, our Khmer was at exactly the same level! (This was certainly a motivator for us to start learning Khmer.)
|Meghan with the 5th Grade class|
Because the formal program had yet to start, there was no dedicated English room or books, so we went into students’ regular classrooms to teach. We were with each grade for 40 minutes twice a week. When we started, the details of how the English program would shape up were still being hammered out. With this in mind, the instruction was primarily verbal, rather than written, and did not rely on very many teaching aids, since we wanted to make sure that anything we introduced would be sustainable regardless of what resources were available to subsequent teachers. At the time, we had no idea that a generous donation would allow Kurata to hire paid teachers and provide them with books, etc.!
Our main teaching aids were cards with pictures printed on them. Starting out, the language barrier meant that lessons focused on learning concrete nouns (words like “mango” or “spoon”), since these can be taught by showing a picture and giving its name. We used the cards along with games and activities that our wonderful volunteer coordinators showed us, as well as a few of our own. Having two teachers in the room was invaluable for this, because it meant that we could “explain” the games by demonstrating them together, one of us taking the role of teacher, and one pretending to be a student. Without this, we’re not sure how it would have worked out, so we were very lucky to be team teaching!
For the lower grades, most of the lessons centered on learning simple words and greetings, and singing songs, using our laptop to provide the much-needed backup music. It is only for the children of Ang Chagn that we would willingly sing in public! The kids were pretty fascinated by the laptop. There was one little boy in the kindergarten who would run up to the front of the room to touch it literally every time we had class.
As we moved forward, students in the older grades began learning some grammar and phonics. We introduced verbs that could easily be translated based on our growing knowledge of Khmer (e.g.,”have”) or physically demonstrated (e.g., “eat”).
|Josh with the 3rd Grade class|
In Khmer, verbs do not change form depending upon the subject, but of course, in English they do, which presented a real challenge for the students. With practice, though, they really began to get more comfortable with the idea that a verb might behave in such a strange, inconstant way.
Throughout the whole experience, the students were amazingly engaged and eager to learn. The older students went from an English vocabulary consisting of “hello” to full sentences like “I eat fish,” and “I have the blue spoon,” and hopefully the time we spent there has left the students with a base of knowledge that will help them to succeed in their new formal lessons.
Over the past four months, the students at Kurata have worked so hard, and come so far. And now, the students have two wonderful dedicated English teachers thanks to the Spitler Foundation!
|A deserted school with the MegJosh bikes - kindly donated to SSF.|
A sad farewell to the pair of you - and, as they say here: good luck for you! And thanks for the great contribution.