Well, we're into the second week of our writing program, which means we've started a new task for both the Basic (A), Basic (B) and Pre‐intermediate courses.
Last week was an incredibly learning experience, and I have a really good sense of direction on how to develop future writing programs at the school, and in the future, our own textbook.
For the two Basic courses, I decided to make the writing task a little easier this week. Last week's task was a bit too challenging because I decided to introduce the use of the simple past so that the students could write about an important event in their lives. Regardless, most of the students were able to complete the task well beyond my expectations.
For this week's task, students are going to write a "descriptive paragraph" about their partner's life. In our lesson yesterday, we completed a brainstorming activity. Students had to work together and make a list of interview questions, and then they had to interview their partner and note down the information. A few pairs came up with some interesting questions, such as "Who do you like best in your family?" and "Why do you like Cambodia?" Almost all of the student had no problem with making questions forms in the simple present tense. In yesterday's class, there were two noticeable observations. First, stronger students seem to automatically help those who are much weaker. They are very generous with their help. We have a few students with very little knowledge of their own native language (Khmer) and no previous English language experience. The stronger students will often play the role of "note‐taker" for them because their ability to write Roman letters is still very weak. Second, I have yet to tell the class to "stop speaking Khmer". I am somewhat shocked that for a Basic level course, I never hear the students use their native language.
For the Pre‐intermediate course, we're learning how to write a cover letter for a CV. I'm actually basing my upcoming conference presentation (CamTESOL) in Phnom Penh at the end of February on this workshop. I'm hoping that the lesson plans and materials I develop this week will help Cambodian teachers in their classrooms.
Similar to the Basic course, we spent the lesson brainstorming ideas, but there was a much greater focus on vocabulary acquisition. Although many of the students have quite a fluent level of speaking, I often forget that Cambodian classes need to have a larger vocabulary component than in my Japanese classes. This is mainly because almost all students do not have access to dictionaries, so it is not possible to give them "vocabulary homework" to prepare for the next day.
Similar to last week's brainstorming session, we used a "cluster" diagram. Students had to choose a job they would like to have in the future, and note down the different types of qualifications necessary for that job. Before the activity, we went through the vocabulary needed to write about qualifications. There was a bit of confusion about the differences between diploma, degree, certificate and license, so I'll have to make sure to review these terms again in today's lesson. Once again, I was very impressed by the high hopes the students have for their lives. Most of the students are between the ages of fifteen and twenty, and they aspire to be managers, doctors, journalists, teachers, and lawyers.
The students in all the classes were quite relieved when I didn't assign homework for last night. However, they'll be plenty of homework tonight. I also have quite a bit of homework myself, especially after collecting the final drafts for the students' first writing task.
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.