Two in Thailand

After raising three children and watching them graduate from college, Bob and Carol decided to leave the educational field and pursue a dream that had been put on hold for 35 years (since graduationg from the University of Northern Iowa). "Two in Thailand" is the journal dedicated to that dream - to serve in the Peace Corps. This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed within do not necessarily represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bob's Evolution of Teaching English - New Techniques

I soon discovered that I was only reaching the brightest or most eager students. Many Thai students are very passive when it comes to learning English (and other subjects). They have the unique ability to "parrot" the responses of the class when answering in union. I was tricked into thinking that all my students were able to answer the questions I was posing. For example, I would ask, "Where are you from?" and 36 voices would answer in unison, "I am from Thailand." But when I went around the class and individually ask students, "Where are you from?" I would get the response, "Huh?" or "My name is .....". I also discovered that giving class time so that the students would embellish their English sentences with art work was a waste of time for the younger students because they would spend the entire hour perfecting their artwork (see below).

My first step was to find out who the leaders were (usually about 8-10 students in each class). I then rearranged the seating charts to include one leader in each row. I would teach a question and appropriate answers (e.g. "How many brothers and sisters do you have?") and the leaders would proceed down the row, individually working with each classmate. Another advantage of this arrangement is the team leader knew if their classmate was giving the right answer since village kids seem to all be connected. In the second picture below, the team leader on the left is asking her team member a question and the student on the right is looking at the board at the possible answers.

After some practice, we would line up the students in pairs and have them interact and then rotate the lines so that they would continuously have different partners (see picture below).

My next step was to introduce "paired- learning":

Students with difficulty learning English were paired with better students so it became a one-on-one learning activity. The girl above is asking the boy, "Do you have a bicycle?" The boy looks on his sheet for a picture of a bicycle and if one is pictured, he replies, "Yes, I have a bicycle." This allowed everyone to participate and not simply "parrot" what everyone in the class was saying.



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