Monday, August 25, 2014

English Courses

A week after returning from the GLOW Camp, I began three month-long English Courses in Tanambe. My friend and counterpart, Denis, as well as one of my GLOW Camp girls, Innocente, and I designed posters and spread the word among the community.  Almost every day, I had (and still have) people come up to me to ask me about the courses and inquire as to whether they or their children can attend the courses. Innocente agreed to be my assistant for the English Courses and she has been an incredible help not only to me, but also to the students. While I teach in English, sometimes certain concepts are not clear and Innocente helps by translating and further explaining in Malagasy. In addition, Innocente helps me manage the classes and the materials. 
On Monday and Wednesdays, from 8-10am, I have a course for kids. There are usually around 25-30 kids ranging from 5 years old to 12 years old in this class.  We began with the English alphabet, greetings, and basic dialogues, and have since covered numbers, food, and some verbs. In addition, I have been teaching the students English songs, such as ‘Five Little Monkeys,’ ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,’ ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It,’ and ‘The Wheels On the Bus.’ The kids love singing and enjoy watching me make a fool of myself as I sing and dance with them!
Every day, I also prepare a handout for the kids with pictures of different things that start with each letter of the alphabet. So, on the first day of the course, we covered the first four letters of the alphabet and learned three words that begin with each letter, such as boy, ball, and bicycle for the letter B. The kids love this part of the course and look forward to receiving the handout each class. I can tell that the students practice the words at home, as when we review the words, they know all of them. It makes me so happy to see them enjoying English and learning new vocabulary.
A very proud moment was when I saw one of the girls who lives near my house teaching another child who does not attend the English Course the dialogues and vocabulary that she had learned. I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw this! There are a number of kids from my neighborhood who walk with me to the class every Monday and Wednesday morning. Since beginning the course, these kids always greet me or say good-bye to me in English and have encouraged their friends to do so as well.
Immediately after the kids’ class, I have another class for adult/lycee beginner students. This class is much smaller than the kids’ class. It started with 3 students but now generally has around 6 students. This class has been the most difficult, as the students in this class are very soft-spoken and very hesitant to talk or participate. Many times the students would not even respond when I would ask them if they understood something. It was frustrating, but we are doing better now and I usually can tell when the students do not understand something.
On Tuesday and Thursdays, from 9-11am, I have a class for intermediate/advanced adults/lycee students. There are about 12 students in this class. This class has been such a pleasure to teach, as the students are very vocal and I can tell that they enjoy learning English. Some of the students in this class take notes on things that I say, such as directions, as well as random other commands or questions, so that they can improve their English. In addition, I have a student in this class who has come to my house many afternoons to continue learning English through English books that she reads aloud to me. 
In the adult/lycee classes, we have covered many topics, including greetings, verbs, family, question words, and daily activities. In the intermediate/advanced class, I frequently bring texts about animals for the students to practice reading. We review the vocabulary together and the students enjoy learning new things about animals such as elephants, kangaroos, and bats. I try to always have the students practice speaking with partners, as well as with me.
A student from the intermediate/advanced class that I am very proud of is Denis’ cousin, Rosa. Although I have known Rosa for most of the time that I have been in Tanambe, this course has really encouraged him to learn and practice his English. I eat lunch at his family’s house a few times a week, as they live near the classroom and I am usually quite tired and hungry after the courses. During lunch, Rosa will ask me questions in English and ask me to explain vocabulary words to him. I am so happy that Rosa is taking an interest in English taking advantage of the opportunity to speak to me in English and ask me questions in English. It is amazing because before this course, Rosa would only speak to me in Malagasy, but now he is more confident in his English skills and I know that he will continue practicing and learning English once I leave. 
When I was recently asked if I thought that the students that are attending my English Courses are improving their English, my answer was a definite yes. I can’t say the same thing about all of the students who attended my English classes at the lycee though. The difference is that the students who are attending the English Courses want to be there, whereas when I was teaching English at the lycee, the students were forced to be there. In addition, my classes at the lycee were so big, that it was impossible to work one-on-one with the students. In my English Courses, the classes are small enough that I know all of the students and can help them individually if they need extra help. And lastly, when I was teaching at the lycee I was expected to teach to the government’s English curriculum. I may have gotten in trouble for not exactly following the curriculum because I realized that my students still didn’t understand English grammar or vocabulary that they should have already learned and because I thought that some of the curriculum was outdated and not relevant. But that’s a different story. Anyways, during my English Courses, I am in complete control. I create the lessons and if we have to spend more time on a certain topic because the students don’t understand it, then we do that. If the students are very antsy and noisy, I play a game with them or teach them a new song.
On Friday afternoons, at 2pm, I invite all of the students from all three classes to come play games, read English books, do art, or learn English songs. The students have a great time and it’s a fun way for them to practice English and be creative.
These English Courses have been a fun, educational way for the students to learn and practice their English. Although the courses have been keeping me quite busy and leave me very tired, I really enjoy the courses. I love watching the students learn new phrases and vocabulary and hearing them actually use that vocabulary. I hope that these courses encourage them to continue practicing English even after I leave.

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