It's been a while since our last updates from BEA. We don't mean to ignore you, but it's that time of year when all the marking starts to pile up, and everything else goes to the bottom of your list of things to do. Despite all the marking, the BEA kids have been kept very busy in November and December.
In mid-November, both Shally and I were kept very busy with mid-term tests for all of our BEA courses. Based on Shally's recommendations, I revised this year's curriculum to mid-term and final tests, and to have these tests run for an entire week. One of the challenges Shally had with speaking tests last year was that there wasn't enough time to test all the students in only three days. For this year, students had four different tests to take for their mid-term exam. These tests included a three writing tests (vocabulary, grammar and paragraph writing) and a speaking test. While students were taking one of the writing tests, Shally would call one student at a time to the office for his/her speaking test. Our testing period was much more manageable this year, so we'll definitely keep these revisions in our curriculum for next year.
One of the biggest challenges I had was the actual writing of these tests. Test-writing is indeed one of the hardest teaching skills to develop. This is because it's not possible to test everything that has been taught in the classroom, so you have to pick-and-choose the most important elements from the course to test. In addition, you also have to decide how to test the content you've taught in the course, such as multiple choice or short answer questions. I used a variety of testing methods, and as a result, it took me three entire days to finish writing the twelve tests for the Basic, Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate courses. I really felt that I made the test more challenging that the ones from last year, but there were a few students in the Intermediate course that finished the vocabulary test in less than 10 minutes!!!
Shally has the hardest part of the testing process, which is marking all of the tests. He's finishing up the last of his marking, and he's planning on returning the tests this week to students.
If you interested in how we test the BEA kids, you can see a sample of the Basic Writing and Speaking Tests at the end of this blog entry.
Cambodian-Japanese Writing Exchange Project
The Cambodian Writing Project between the Intermediate and Pre-Intermediate courses with my students at Aoyama Gakuin University is coming to an end. My students just finished up their third letter to their Cambodian writing partner. For this letter, students had to explain a Japanese tradition or festival to their partner. In last week's lessons, students got the chance to discuss their letters with their groups. Japanese New Year traditions and the Star Festival were two of the most popular topics written about in their letters. In many of the letters, students included photos and drawings to help their Cambodian partners visualize parts of these traditions.
I've noticed that the length of the letters have lengthened a great deal during this projects. Many students are now writing five to six pages to their partner. This may be a response to the length of the letters from their Cambodian partner, which have been longer than those from their Japanese counterpart. It also could be the result of increased motivation towards their English studies since students are able to have an authentic communicative experience in English. Regardless, I'll find out more next week once I collect the project surveys next week from all the participants. Although this is the last letter for the Japanese students, the Cambodian students still have one more letter to write (Cambodian write four letters while Japanese students write three letters due to more flexible scheduling on the Cambodian side). Their last topic is the different types of education in Cambodia. My Japanese students will get their last letter in their last day of our course in January.
From this small project, I've collected over 1000 pages of research from both the Japanese and Cambodian students. One of my biggest challenges for next year is to start going through all of this research and publishing a few articles.
Back to the books ...
The Bayon English Academy (BEA) is an NGO school that provides underprivileged youth with quality English language education in a safe, clean environment in Siem Reap, Cambodia.