Yesterday was day three of our first writing workshop. In our lesson, we focused on how to organize ideas using paragraph structure (topic sentence, supporting sentences and concluding sentences).
When I was writing the materials for this program, the greatest challenge I had was to localize them for the students. In some textbooks, paragraph structure is compared to a hamburger. The bun on the top is the topic sentence, the meat is the supporting sentences, and the bun on the bottom is the concluding sentence. For a Cambodian reference, I compared paragraph structure to a "clam" - something the students see on a daily basis. In Siem Reap, you can see clam sellers pulling their carts with small clams topped with red spices. Hopefully, this was a more appropriate reference.
In the basic courses, one of the biggest challenges for the students was writing the topic sentence. I noticed that students had trouble with Subject‐Verb‐Order and also adjective‐noun order. I can imagine this is due to "negative transfer" (=using the rules from your first language to apply to your second language) from the Cambodian language. When we revise the workshop for next year, this is definitely something we'll have to spend more time on in class. For homework, students have to prepare their outline for their paragraph on an important day in their lives.
In the pre‐intermediate course, the students easily identified the different parts of a paragraph in a model paragraph on "flight attendants". Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to localize this example, and as a result, the vocabulary was a challenge for the students. Words like "obey", "instructions", "cart", "physically strong" and luggage had to be explained. From these vocabulary explanations, I noticed that students need more instruction on how to identify different words forms. For example, they knew the word "physical", but did not know the adverb form "physically". This was an important lesson for me. Since the model was not localized, I had to spend more time on vocabulary and had less time to focus on supporting sentences (supporting ideas and supporting details). For homework, the students have to choose three characteristics of a chosen profession and organize their ideas into an outline. On a lighter note, one student asked if he could write about 15 characteristics. I told him that we were writing paragraphs and not books. Truly unbelievable motivations!
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.