I'm somewhat relieved that today is the last day of our two week writing program. The teaching, of course, was an incredible learning experience. I now know the names of all our students, which makes it much easier to put a face to a name when I have skype meetings with Shally once I'm back in Japan. In addition, I have a much better direction in revising our school's curriculum for next year, as well as tweeking the one for the second semester, which will start mid-March.
The most frustrating part of this program was that there were absolutely no materials whatsoever available here in Siem Reap nor in all the other resource books I brought from Japan. Although I've been teaching academic writing at the university level in Japan for many years now, I've never had to completely design an entire program from scratch. Usually, I am able to pull different ideas from a number of sources to plan a lesson. What I had to do for this program was to use a writing concept, such as brainstorming, and then design all the materials around that concept so that it would be appropriate for a Cambodian classroom. I'm hoping to organize all these materials into a workbook for our program next year. In addition, I'll also make it available through our website with step-by-step lesson plans for Cambodian teachers. I can truly understand their frustrations when they have to teach writing in public school. How do they do it?
Anyways, we had our editing classes for all our courses today for our second writing task. The basic courses had to write about their partner while the pre-intermediate course had to write a cover letter a CV. Once again, most students in the basic courses did not have any trouble with grammar correction. They were able to identify simple grammar errors in their partner's draft. Most of the errors they identified had to do with spelling, capital letters, punctuation, dropping the 3rd person "s", the past tense and plural forms. One student was even able to identify missing subjects in her parnter's draft. Students still had trouble with identifying irrelevant sentences in their partner's draft. This is not surprising since they are still at the basic level, and this type of "critical thinking" activity is usually a challenge for basic level students. In next year's program, I will definitely have to have an entire lesson on identifying coherent and incoherent paragraphs.
While I was editing their drafts the night before, I came across some interesting sentence structure forms, which I would like to further investigate. These are two sentences that caught my eye:
(1) "When he studies already, he cames back home."
(2) After he finished dinner already.
These sentences were from two different students, and what surprises me is the use of "already". It is usually used with the present perfect (e.g. I've already studied), so I'm interested in where this error comes from. As I said, it's something I'll have to look into later on.
In the pre-intermediate course, most students have shown a lot of progress in giving feedback to their partner's on their drafts. Similar to the basic students, they were able to give corrections on errors, such as tense, spelling and punctuation. However, they could identify the incorrect use of word forms and prepositions, as well as point out missing words. Some students were even able to show their partner where they needed to add extra details to support their ideas.
During the editing lessons, Shally was helping me with individual feedback. I noticed in the pre-intermediate class that students didn't seem to favor me over Shally when it came to giving feedback.
For homework, all classes had to review their partner's comments on their drafts, as well as my comments, and write their final draft for Monday's class.
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.