Monday, August 20, 2007

"Real Live Kids"

****Playground at the Crab Musuem: Photo Courtesy of K80****

Today we had our first teaching experience with what someone referred to as "real live kids" (as opposed to counterfeit or dead ones?). Class will not start for another 10 days (at which time I will have been assigned to an Elementary school and teach grades 1-6, 2 forty minute sessions per grade each week - reminds me of a fun art teacher I know in Athens who gets all the best of all the grades in her fun class). This was an English day for the winners of a speech contest in Yilan last spring, known as English Easy Go! The children thus came from the top of the English speaking class, and so were not necessarily exemplary of the average class at their age. However, it was a great learning experience, and really motivated me to get into the classroom.

The ETAs (12 total) were divided into two groups (3rd and 4th graders, 5th and 6th graders) and given 3 hours of instruction time in the morning. Our group (5th and 6th) decided to have an hour of introductory lessons (vocabulary, get-to-know-you games), an hour and a half of "centers" (four centers with different topics, all emphasizing certain language aspects - reading, writing, listening, speaking, total physical response/TPR), and then a culminating activity to bring together all of the knowledge from the day.

As aternoon plans involved informal education as we accompanied the children to the Crab Museum (Taiwan has a great marine culture), we chose a beach/sea theme, and thus modeled our activities and vocabulary off of this. Each student was given a "passport" to be stamped when they went to their centers. The centers included a Fun and Games Center (TPR), Mural Drawing, Environment Comics, and a PhotoBooth (like one would find on a boardwalk). If you only know me from the blog, you might be inclined to say I would have wished for a hand in the photo booth, but for those who know me, this should be easy.

My comics involved students appreciating concepts like "environment," (Me -"Why should we protect the environment" Student - "Because some people want to do bad things to it" Me - "Exactly, and since we all live in the same environment, the earth, we have to protect it!"), "recycling," and "litterbug." We all discussed the words, then read a model comic strip I made up (way too late in the evening last night), and finally had the students make their own strips (fill in the blank) in their groups.

****Comic Strips****

Some notes on what I learned and would do differently in the future:
Things that Worked
-Group Discussion (small size) is great. If I cannot sit with every small group like today with 6 teachers in the room (ie, most of the time teaching), it would be beneficial to devise group work that encourages students to talk amongst themselves about a shared task.
-Acting out words with realia, or real life things, is a great way to get vocabulary across. Luckily I had a leftover milktea cup from breakfast and used this over and over during my "litterbug" example.
-Do not allow lesson planning to let you overlook spontaneous classroom environment use for helping with concepts. I had students show me where the recycling bins were in the room (Like I've said before, the recycling program in Taiwan is much more developed than the US, with bins in a semi-outdoor tiled area in every classroom; students rinse out old cups and lunch box materials and sort on the spot), and used these bins with each group during my center.

Things to Improve
-More prep time! Sometimes extensive lesson planning can bog down a lesson or remove an organic feel. However, I need to find that line between rigidity and having a lesson plan that will satisfy both my and the school's objectives despite slight alterations. Even here I'm being difficult. What I mean is: work out what words and/or concepts I want them to understand and know them in and out so that even my "spontaneous" dialogue and ideas encourage this. Things worked out today, as the students all seemed to pick up on "litterbug" and why being one is bad, but realizing how much they learned without as well-thought out a structure as it could have been, I know I can teach them more.

Our culminating activity really showed that the kids learned and had fun (the two most important objectives). They played a version of Jeopardy, gunned for the high points, aced all the answers (using all their new vocabulary), and smiled the whole time. It was a great way to reinforce listening and speaking while reviewing what they did at every center.

So, go "Real Live Kids;" I'm definitely excited for this year. Look for more on lessons soon!

Crab Museum Fun Facts:
****Disclaimer: Being hearing impaired, I reserve the right to withdrawal all statements inaccurately translating facts from everyday speech, even if it is from my own native language; listening is hard****
-2,000 Varieties of Crab around Taiwan
-Portonus varieties are the most edible, with paddle like back legs used for kicking up off the sand
-Dorippidae Varieties have carapice ridges and four legs pointing up (opposite their walking legs) designed to carry stones when building homes
-Claws are used as weapons and for dancing (nature's link between physical capacity for violence and sexual attractiveness?)
-The flying crab, the fastest crab (featured at the museum at least), can hit 3.4meters/second, however can only maintain this speed briefly
-Xanthidae crabs are the most poisonous with no known antidote. However, it is not the crab itself (and thus its pinch or bite) which is poisonous, but the internal buildup of poisonous algae consumed regularly; don't eat them.

****Just for Fun: Easy Rider Does Taiwan****


Sara Mari, Please said...

the caption under the your tawainese easy rider should be "wheeeeeeeee"

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