Disclaimer: These are my views and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oh Captain, My Captain...

It's Tuesday morning. For some reason, there are no English classes on Tuesday. My goals for today are to create a poster advertising for a "Beginners English Club" and an "Advanced Club," which I hope to use as a segway to an introduction to critical thinking. Critical thinking is not a skill taught in the schools here. In the few weeks that I've been teaching English, I've noticed that students have had trouble when there is not a clear cut answer. They have mastered the ability to memorize information, but, for the most part (and I realize I am speaking in generalizations), the students are unable to synthesize information or use it outside of the immediate context under which it is given. This has made the introduction of communicative techniques into the classroom very difficult. One of the major components of language learning is creativity. Some of the smarter students in my classes know thousands of English words, and they can explain to me the rules regarding the use of the first conditional and the future progressive tense. However, they are unable to use English in any sort of functional communicative manner. Communication falls apart if it strays from the script that they have memorized e.g. yesterday, instead of greeting the students with the typical [me: "Hello students!" them: "Hello teacher!"(it always makes me smile)] I tried, "good afternoon!" "... *dead silence*". This example is not meant to insinuate that the students are not intelligent, but only to show the depth to which the students have come to rely on scripts in language learning.

Historically, the language education that students here have received so far seems to be a mix between the grammar translation method and the audio-lingual method. The grammar translation method focuses on the form of the language i.e. how we construct simple past tense in English, and the audio-lingual method which focuses on specific scripted uses of a language e.g. I always ask the students "How are you today?" and they always respond chorally with "I am fine thanks and you," without variation, without fail. I have heard from other volunteers that this is the exact same response that they get as well.

The students have never had to use English creatively. So how do I get them to start? I've been experimenting with different methods, some successful, some not. I need to get them talking, but they are forced to use a book that is way over their heads and their shyness is debilitating.

Teaching challenges aside, life here isn't so rough. Here are some more pictures from my Halloween island adventure.

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