Rural Training Center, Thailand (RTC-Thailand)

Focus on English

Oct 01, 2006

The Winter 2007 effort will continue the original summer 2004 / 2005 REEEPP efforts with a special emphasis on English. During the summer 2006 program review, the teachers asked for specific help to improve the English teaching effort. ?“I would like to see the students be able to use English in their daily lives more,?” said Mr. Wittaya, Assistant Director at Na Fa Elementary. ?“Can you suggest ways we can do that??”

The volunteers are being asked to consider this request and to help the RTC-TH empower the teachers and students to improve English speaking and listening. In preparation for the trip, volunteers are being asked to:

Make Flash Cards I: These cards are based on the Sight Word Lists used to teaching basic reading. There are two current sight word lists available: the original Dolch 1930 list (220 words; ) and the more recent Fry (2004; ). It is generally acknowledged that the first 25 most frequently used words in the English language constitute about 25% of the words encountered in everyday reading. The first 100 frequently used words makes up about 50% of common written materials. And the most frequent 300 words comprises about 65% of commonly read materials. So these word frequency lists are probably a good foundation for basic vocabulary building. There are 10 teachers in the school. Ideally it would be nice to have 1 set of Sight word flash cards for each teacher. Any easy way to make them is to use your computer to print the words in large type and glue them to old playing cards or to sturdy card stock.

Make Flash Cards II: These can be used separately for vocabulary building, pronunciation and listening practice. They can also be used with the Geographic Systems Model Game the RTC-TH introduced in summer 2005. Try to get a diversity of pictures for each color. [Note for Winter 2007 volunteers: Refer to the papers in your trip CD-ROM concerning the Geographic Systems Model and the Recycling Game.]

?• Cut pictures out of old magazines. Think along the lines of the environmental spheres in the Geographic Systems Model (e.g. Air, Land, Water, Living Organisms).

?• Get a blank 4 x 6 index card. Color a ?½ inch strip across the top for the appropriate environmental sphere relative to the picture you cut out. (Air = light blue; Land = brown; Water = dark blue; Living organisms = Green). The colors are assigned based on the primary grouping?….so all animals and plants would be color coded Green even though a fish lives in water, a bird flies in the sky, and a cow lives on land. First and foremost, they are all Living Organisms.

?• Glue the picture to the card, but leave the color strip across the top uncovered.

?• On the back of the card, print in clear letters, the name of the main object in the picture.

Pick Stories / Books to Read Aloud: Reading aloud gives the students a chance to hear English spoken. When reading the story, pause to ask relevant and simple questions to actively engage the students. Connect an action to your question. For example, ?“How many of you know the rabbit?’s name? Raise your hands.?” We have donated books to the school library, so please take some time to look over the selection there and read a book from the collection. This gives the students the chance to use the same book and read the story later. Books or magazines with pictures are great. Educational research has shown that when students read text with an appropriate graphic they retain the material 60% more than if they only get the text material. Donations of books are welcomed.

Teach / Sing Songs: Educational research has revealed that people seem to remember music for longer periods of time than most other forms of sensory input. Simple songs, short words and combining the music with actions (dancing, gestures, etc.) all work for making English learning fun. For the shy ones, group singing lets them get lost in the sea of voices. They can hum along, lip synch, mumble and fumble and not feel singled out or uncomfortable. Repetition in a comfortable ?“fun?” learning environment will eventually produce results. Think about how music and TV commercials grate on your nerves, yet you sometimes invariable end up humming the tune or jingle?….and drawing a total blank about the product name. In summer 2005, the RTC-TH donated some audio tapes with children?’s songs for the library. Check on the selection after getting to the school or you can bring along you own favorites. Donations of tapes are welcomed.

Talk Abouts: Get the students to tell you things about their classroom, school, cafeteria, the village, food, or just about anything. A key criticism of the English teaching in Thailand (and other countries I visited) is the students can memorize words and phrases but have little or not comprehension of what they are saying. For example, they can memorize to greet you with ?“Hello, how are you??” But when you reply, they don?’t know what to say or don?’t understand what you said. The conversation dies right then and there. With the ?“Talk About?” you need to guide the students with simple phrases. Avoid using ambiguous ?“or?” questions until they get the basics. For example, it is better to ask a simple ?“Yes / No?” question.

Preferred: ?“Do you want to go??” A simple ?“Yes?” or ?“No?” is a clear answer. You can build on it, but getting them to expand the answer more fully by having them say ?“Yes, I want to go.?” ?“No, I don?’t want to go.?”

Avoid (for now): ?“Do you want to go or stay??” A simple ?“Yes?” or a ?“No?” is unclear as to what they want to do. Leave this type of questioning for later, after they have mastered the basics.

Spelling / Vocabulary Building: A fun spelling game can be done on the chalkboard or in student clusters on paper. Pick a common English word with lots of letters such as ?“Thanksgiving?”. Divide the class into teams (depending on how much board space you have available). Set a time limit, save 5 or 10 minutes. The students use the letters in the given work (e.g. Thanksgiving) to spell as many other words as they can. They cannot use the dictionary to find words to spell. At the end of the time, count the number of words spelled correctly by each team. If any team wants to challenge a word on another team?’s list, do so using the dictionary. Read the dictionary entry for the challenged word so everyone can learn the correct spelling and general meaning.

Door Prizes / Incentives: We have been collecting pens, pencils and other small items for use as door prizes and incentives (prizes) for the learning contests associated with learning activities. Please feel free to contribute to the ?“goodie bag.?” As a group, we can decide the different levels of performance needed for different valued prizes.

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