The Way We Learn

While I spend plenty of time pondering how to pass the next 7 months of my life and practicing to become a better yogi, I actually DO spend a ton of time in the classroom. Since arriving in Kerinci, Indonesia, I have navigated the challenging path to finding my place within a shared classroom, begun to piece together the best practices of the International Baccalaureate model and expanded my teaching experiences by volunteering to teach English to students with various mental and physical handicaps.

Whoops!! I laughed SO hard when I was correcting this spelling test. Guess we need to keep working on how to spell "beach."

It’s an interesting balance. Starting November first I really saw my classes take off and I attribute this to the update in scheduling that I implemented with my co-teachers. By integrating more English-specific learning where I am leading the class, I have seen an awesome improvement in my students’ vocabulary retention, spelling exploration and conversational abilities. It’s been an exciting thing to experience.

Hmm, where does this word belong?

I’ve also added some fun elements to my classrooms including a wall of pockets where students write new words they learn to spell on slips of paper. They are working really well and getting my kids EXCITED to learn how to spell words! Each time a student asks me how to spell a word they take a strip of paper, write the word on it and place it in the correct pocket. That way, the next time they need a reminder on how to spell the word they go to the pocket and find the word themselves. In just one week I’ve seen a flurry of new words added to the mix.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes with 3 visually impaired/blind students=a workout!

Working with deaf, blind and mentally handicapped students has reignited my interest in a total physical response approach in the classroom too. After starting at my school I found myself feeling very confined by the British English grammar book that was handed to me for class. It’s boring, the concepts are all grammar-driven rather than function-driven and I felt like it forced me into a style of teaching that I hate. I’m bouncing back and working to take the grammar I’m expected to teach and redirect it into games and the function-driven lessons that I grew to love while teaching in France and New York. The most recent game I developed is a basketball-style game where students are given a word and then have to shoot “hoops” into boxes labeled with the correlating noun type (plural, singular, proper). We play it in teams and the students really get into it. It’s not rocket science, six-year-olds love playing games!

I’m also trying to implement a school-wide reading comprehension resource. Two weeks ago I was invited to join a meeting of the head of the Primary Years Program, the head of my school and the woman who opened the school. They were interested in my ideas about reading comprehension. Interestingly enough, I had recently begun focusing on reading comprehension in my classes after noticing a major deficit in the area. Turns out that it’s a skill that all the students in our school are struggling with. I pitched the idea of creating a library reference of worksheets that correlate with different books. I have already created many activities and worksheets to accompany books in our library and it seems silly to not compile those materials in a place where future teachers can use them as well. How nice would it be to look on a shelf and see a green dot on the spine of the book indicating that there’s an accompanying worksheet already created for that text? Tomorrow I plan to pitch the idea to my fellow English teachers. I look forward to trying to make it into a continued resource for future classes because what’s the point of living in a place where I have so much time, if not to use that time to create something that might have a lasting impact?

For fellow ESL professionals looking for resources or if you’re just curious about the kinds of materials I make, check out some of the worksheets I’ve been creating and sharing on busyteacher! It’s my new favorite place to share ideas with fellow educators across the globe!

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