I spent the morning planning Shally's reading lessons for this afternoon. We're in the last week of our first semester, so we're review some problem areas some of the students had during the semester. A common error I noticed with the basic classes was that they still have difficulty with using the auxiliary forms of "do / does" in simple present questions. I often heard questions, such as "Do she go to the market?", or answers like "She go to the market." I figured a review in this area would help remind students of the different forms.
I was able to find a short reading passage from a very useful site called "Handouts Online" that has a variety of lessons for different levels. However, the lessons are for those familiar with British and American society, so I often have to re-write parts of the lesson so that it is more appropriate for Cambodian students. I was running out of time because I had spent too long on planning the pre-intermediate lesson, so I kept the reading passage and added a vocabulary matching activity. The passage had words such as "a bowl of cornflakes" and "a slice of toast", which of course almost all of our students have never heard of. I've found that having the students match new vocabulary to pictures is the quickest way to introduce such cultural terms.
From Shally's observation notes, the matching activity was useful because he was able to avoid an endless barrage of vocabulary questions from students, which always happens in a reading class. Most of the students want to know every single word when they read, but I'm trying to get them into the habit that it's not necessary as long as you have the key vocabulary to understand the main ideas. If we have more money in our budget next year, I would really like to include dictionaries in the students' supply package. An Oxford pocket dictionary is only about $2.50 in the local books.
Anyways, the students in both basic classes were able to complete the grammar section where they had to write down the rule for using auxiliaries in simple present question forms. As usual, students spent most of their time on the speaking activity, which focused on switching between the use of "Do" and "Does" questions. Shally observed that students seemed to be using the forms more correctly. However, in the feedback sessions after the discussions, he noted that students often have difficulty reporting the main points from their partner's conversation. We'll have to teach the students how to give feedback in next semester's lessons.
For the pre-intermediate class, students also had a reading lesson based on the theme of "Happiness". Once again, I got the material from "Handouts Online", but had to rewrite most of the passage because it was laden with too many American idioms. As usual, I was hoping that I had planned a sufficient vocabulary building activity for the students before they started reading the passage. However, once again, students overwhelmed Shally with vocabulary questions. In the passage, most students know the majority of the vocabulary, but the vocabulary knowledge is vastly different from one student to the next. Ideally, I would have students do vocabulary preparation for homework, but it's still the issue of dictionaries. Shally observed that students were fully aware of the main ideas of the passage and could answer all the comprehension questions, but they still wanted to know every single word in the passage. In future reading lessons, I might break up the lesson over two days. The first lesson focusing on comprehension and the next on discussion.
The students were disappointed that they couldn't completely finish the discussion section, but they enjoyed learning about the different types of happiness. In all my years of teaching, I've never come across such a talkative class. I am almost tempted at times to simply tell the students to discuss their classroom tables and chairs, and then leave the classroom for the rest of the lesson. I'm know for sure that they would still be talking about the tables and chairs when I returned to the classroom.
While Shally was teaching this afternoon, I finished up grading all the final drafts for the second writing workshop. Once I get back to Japan, I'll start writing a journal article the different aspects of Cambodian writing style in English.
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.