As in many countries, Valentine's Day is also celebrated among the young. In Siem Reap, you can seen rose sellers along the side of the road for the entire day. Even though we had special Valentine's Day lessons at BEA, there were quite a few students missing from today's classes, which is quite unusual. Perhaps the holiday was the reason.
Anyways, I planed several Valentine's Day activities for the basic and pre-intermediate courses. I was able to get a few good ideas from some EFL websites, but many of the activities often have students working on crossword puzzles or word searches. I've used some of these in the past in my classes in Japan, and students usually end up working quietly. Therefore, I had to make them more interactive among the students and the class as a whole.
At the beginning of each class, I elicited the meaning of Valentine's Day and symbols associated with the holiday. I brought up the word "cupid" and explained how this Roman god of love makes unlikely couples fall in love with his arrows. This was the first time I've ever taught a "holiday" class in a Cambodian classroom. Although we focus most of our curriculum on Cambodian customs and cultures, I still feel a little hesitant at times introducing western holidays, especially if they're religious in nature. Since Valentine's Day is celebrated in Cambodia, I felt it was appropriate to start with this holiday as part of their cultural awareness.
For one activity, students had to work in teams to write down as many words as possible from the expression "Happy Valentine's Day". I was a little surprised because the Basic (A) class found a few words that I didn't have on my own list, one of them being "papaya". Students then worked in groups to complete a word search of words associated with Valentine's Day. Before I teach, I always make sure I'm prepared for vocabulary questions from the students, especially since that they often have an endless list of questions concerning vocabulary. However, I overlooked the term "saint" in the word search. When one student asked me to explain this word to her, I was caught off guard because the explanation would have to involve a historical explanation of the legend of St. Valentine's Day. I bumbled through my explanation using the map in our classroom to point out ancient Rome, and some of the students got the gist of the explanation. For next year's lesson, we'll definitely have to have a short reading activity about the legend of St. Valentine. I had actually wanted to do a lesson on St. Valentine, but was pressed for time last week because we were finishing up our second writing workshop. Regardless, it was another valuable learning experience for me.
By the end of the day, I had received a cornucopia of Valentine's gifts from the students. I got a yellow rose and several keychains, along with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, a roasted cob of corn, and a box of oatmeal cookies. However, the best present was the head of cabbage and bunch of red chili peppers. Truly the most imaginative, and thoughtful, gifts I've ever received.
I managed to find a small bottle of coleslaw dressing in the market last night, so now all I have to do is chop up my head of cabbage, and I have coleslaw for my lunch this week.
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.