Sorry it’s been such a long time since our last BEA blog posting. I’ve been back in Siem Reap since mid-January, and it’s been non-stop for both Shally and I. The end of the semester is always the hardest mainly because we don’t have enough staff to over part of our workload. What I wouldn’t do to hire a full-time test-marker and a website manager! Anyways, we’ve been making regular updates on our Facebook page, so that’s another way you can keep up with everything that’s been going on at BEA.
Writing Workshops: Teacher & Student Challenges
I wasn’t able to blog daily about the writing classes this year because most of my time was spent revising our workshops from last year, and marking first and final drafts. However, I think we’ll be able to produce our own writing textbook for next year’s writing workshop for the Basic and Pre-Intermediate courses.
Rather than having two writing tasks this year, we decided to have just one, but spent more time on classroom instruction. One of the biggest challenges students had last year, as well as this year, was logically connecting their ideas and details in their paragraphs. Although we spent four lessons on paragraph structure, this still wasn’t enough time for the students to fully understand the structure of writing in English. For next year’s lessons, students definitely need more classroom practice on differentiating between supporting ideas and details, as well as choosing appropriate details for ideas. This was a challenge for students in all of our courses. One of the reasons for this is that most of the students are not taught writing in their own language in public school. Most writing classes end at the end of primary school. As a result, this becomes quite challenging for the kids since they have to use critical thinking skills for the first time, and in a second language!
Regardless, the majority of the students were able to produce a well-written paragraph. Some of their writings will be uploaded to the Journals and Writing Workshops on the website in the next few weeks. I’m also hoping to make the lessons and materials from the Basic and Pre-Intermediate courses available on the site for other Cambodian teachers. The Intermediate lessons won’t be available until next year since they need to be revised and re-tested in the classroom so that all the kinks can be worked out.
Writing Workshops: Teacher Training
During last year’s writing workshops, I taught almost all the classes. However, for this year’s workshops, Shally taught the majority of the lessons. This is part of Shally’s on-going teacher training program as part of his professional development. We have set up a system in which I plan his writing lessons, as well as the lessons in the Intermediate course, and he teaches them using my plans. We have found this to be an effective training technique because these model lessons help him with his own lesson planning. Since writing is the most challenging to teach out of the four skills, this was a challenge for him. Although it was his first time teaching writing, he did an amazing job, especially in his explanations of paragraph structure. One of his strengths is that he’s able to give concise examples to get the point across to the students – all in English. Even the students in our Basic course, who were complete beginners at the start of the school year, were able to follow in English-only instruction. In the end, most of students did indeed use correct paragraph structure and wrote on topic for their tasks.
End of the Semester:
The end of the first semester is coming to an end this week for the BEA kids and staff. We’ll be holding student conferences, as well as having semester wrap-up activities in class. Since lesson planning won’t be as demanding this week, I’ll be able to blog a bit more about what we’re up to before our break.
In the meantime, it’s 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.