Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making a Difference?

Sometimes I really wonder if I'm making a difference here. I speak tons of English but in short, clipped sentences. Everyday at lunch I try to engage at least one new student in a conversation although those who I find at this late stage in the year are not the confident speakers of the first semester and often freeze at my tiniest attempt to speak English. My goal is to get everyone (teachers and students alike) to relax with the simple questions so they can move on to more interesting topics. Sometimes it works and they speak, and sometimes I think they've slept through the 10 hours/week of English they have had for the past 5 years. I can't even get them to tell me their name.

Here are some pictures and examples class activities to encourage English speaking:

I read Brown Bear Brown Bear to the second grade classes and made masks for the students to act out the story. I knew they understood when I could substitute a child's name for an animal and put only one child in a mask and they could respond. Ex: Furkan, Furkan, what do you see? I see a blue horse looking at me.

I made a conversation game to practice adverbs of frequency (always, sometimes, never). Planning this game ended up being a lucky fluke because one teacher left early and I had to take her class as well. It would have been almost impossible to teach this large group, but the game worked pretty well. I say "pretty well" because the boys only wrestled and climbed on the desks for half the class period instead of the entire time.

These three girls are not my students but they initiated a conversation with me at lunch recess. There are a handful of these "confi
dent" speakers in every grade. Next week I will start a club for confident 7th grade students and we will use the Voice of America Special English pod casts and videos to learn some current events around the world. I wish I could do more world conversation as I think there is a real need for knowledge about things outside of Turkey. For example, a 24 year old friend asked me if I'd ever heard of Afghanistan and if I knew where it is. She was curious because she had seen on the news where a Turkish Air Force helicopter had crashed there. I hope I can help the students understand more English and more about the world.

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of today's lunch/recess volleyball game. A 7th grade girl invited me to join the girls and some male middle school teachers. I should mention that the men substitute in and out when their cell phone rings and/or to sip their tea or hold each other's tea glass. And, like typical male teachers, they were really putting on a show for the girls. But they were also letting the girls serve from about 5 feet behind the net so the girls could feel successful, too. It was a beautiful day and fun to get out of the cafeteria and play.

Back to my self I making a difference? Well, in the fall, students couldn't have asked me to play volleyball speaking English. They couldn't have struck up a conversation about the beautiful sunny day. They wouldn't have understood directions for standing in a line and acting out a play. So maybe I've helped a tiny bit?

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