During the month of January, I am blessed with the opportunity of giving English classes to primary students at a Catholic school here in El Sauce called San Luis Gonzaga. I have two sections of class, and we meet every Monday to Friday. The first class has about 23 students, and they are the younger class; the kids are entering 2nd through 4th or 5th grade this school year (side note: the Nicaraguan school year starts in February). The second class has 15 students currently (I started with 10 and keep getting new ones!), and these students are entering 4th grade through their first year of secondary school. This class is definitely more mature, and they’re a blast!
Each of the classes is two hours long, which makes planning very important! Imagine trying to keep 15-25 primary school children busy for 2 hours every day! I have to say, though, I absolutely love it! The students are precious and SO enthusiastic! I don’t really have a problem with participation; there are a few shy students who need to be encouraged to participate, but mostly I’m asking them to calm down and not all shout out answers at once! Not such a bad problem to have, right? And for all of you teachers reading this, Nicaraguan children also beg to play games every day!
In fact, a lot of the activities I plan are games/activities that focus on speaking or action. Why, you might ask? Well, I don’t really have a choice. The thing is, the only materials I have to work with are a whiteboard, a few markers that don’t always work (because it’s so hot and dry), and whatever I brought with me. (Kelci – those colored pencils have been used every single class. The kids love them!). That’s right, no copy machine, no textbooks (though they do have workbooks for their regular classes; this is just a special program we’re offering that I'm creating), no worksheets. Everything we do is activities I’ve done or used in classes in the past, or something from the top of my head that I think will get the kids to use English and hopefully get it to stick in their brains! It sure makes you get creative as a teacher!
The thing is, I actually like it this way. Yes, it is annoying to make the kids copy sentences down for homework when I want to give them something to practice, and yes the kids complain. But it really forces you to come up with activities that will get the students to use the language instead of just filling out worksheets. Additionally, I have to be very conscious of how much I have them write. I have to keep in mind that I have to write everything on the board, and they have to copy it all into their notebooks. Considering they're still elementary students, I don't want to give them pages and pages of notes! Plus, for all the vocabulary I give them, we have to write it in English and Spanish AND the pronunciation. Why? Because if I don't, they end up pronouncing cucumber as "coo-coom-bray", or grapes as "grah-pays". So in their notes, in addition to "cucumber", they write "kiu-cum-ber" and "greips", and the number 5 becomes "faiv". It's quite amusing!
Now, I’ve only taught them for a week and a half, so I can’t say for certain that they’re learning better this way, but I do know that getting them to communicate in real life is a huge benefit for them. Check back later and we’ll see how things are going…but for now, enjoy some pictures of my older class! We were making flashcards for fruits and vegetables, and I let them use their creative side to draw the fruit/vegetable to act as a visual aid for learning the new vocabulary!
The two Ashley's! Sra. A - she joined our class a couple days late, and when she walked in, I could've sworn it was Analisa! She is definitely a favorite student. She's one of the youngest, yet so conscientious about her work and is such a hard worker! She's brilliant, too!