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Thursday, October 02, 2003

 
Elementary School
Yesterday, I took my students to teach a special class of elementary school children. The ELC is working with the Holt county elementary schools on a series of Wednesday afternoon programs about countries around the world. My class was the first class of ELC students to go to the school.

For the past several weeks, Pat and Alissa, instructors in the ELC, have been preparing the elementary kids. They made "passports" for the kids, complete with pictures and having to fill out pretend applications for travel visas. Apparently, the kids were rather disturbed by the idea that some countries require you to get shots, and didn't want to fill out any more applications after that. After our visit with Pat and Alissa, it was pretty obvious that they don't really have much experience teaching children. Their standards of attention spans and group activities are very much set at the level of high school and adult ESL learners. There is most certainly nothing wrong with that; teaching to each demographic has its own challenges. But it still made me smile, thinking about my summer at the daycare center, working with preschoolers.

My students were going to teach a little bit about their own countries and languages. When we started the project, our class had representatives of 5 different languages and 4 countries, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and French and Bambara from Mali in West Africa. (I say "when we started the project" because the very next week, both of my Malian women got moved up to Level 2, which made practicing for the presentations something of a challenge, with two of the group leaders no longer in the class. *sigh*) We had two weeks to get ready, and for Level 1 students with limited time, they did a good job. They were supposed to give a very brief and general overview about their country, and then teach greetings, introductions, and numbers 1-10.

ELC students don't usually have classes on Wednesdays, but we are required to give them another 5 hours outside of regular classes. This was my class's first 2.5 hours. We met at the classroom at 12:30, got the minivans from the MSU transportation office, and off we went. We successfully made it to the school, amazing all the Japanese students by driving on the highway for such a short trip. We trooped into the school just in time to start getting the room set up before the kids started arriving. We only ended up with 6 out of the 8, but this is apparently not unusual.

The general consensus afterward was that it was good the Korean group went first, because no one's standards had been raised too high. My poor Korean guys were somewhat hampered by not having any girls in their group to help them relate to the kids or make their visual aids very spectacular. They did, however, have handouts, which none of the other groups did, and which the kids seemed very appreciative of. Their bit of cultural interest was to tell about Ch'usok, or Korean Thanksgiving.

Next up was Sansanee, my new Thai student. She did an excellent job, all on her own. The Thai script is very intricate, and looks very decorative. Sansanee is also a very personable, and came well supplied with Thailand information, including a book with pictures of the water-splashing holiday. I think it also helped that Thai is easier to speak that Korean.

Then came the star group, Japanese. All of the girls in this group are from Nagoya Women's University, and I think most of them want to be teachers. They really interacted well with the children, plus had very colorful visual aids. They had made origami namecards for each of the children, and then showed each of them how to write their names in katakana. They had even written out a simple greeting and introduction script for the students to perform in pairs.

Then the kids got a short snack break. Pat and Alissa had brought them little flavored gelatin cups and seaweed rice crackers from Japan. The gelatin cups were a hit, but the idea of seaweed on a salty-sweet cracker was not so appealing.

After the break, it was time for Kadi and Marthe to take the stage about French and Bambara. The other students in their group had made lots of visual aids for the French presentation, and perhaps could have taught it on their own, with the script I corrected for them. However, they didn't have the native speaker aspect, so Kadi took over the French part. They did get to teach numbers, though. Marthe and Kadi together taught about Bambara as the final language, but I think the lack of visual aids let the kids get too distracted by the idea of the romantic French language.

After the elementary kids left to go home, we took the ELC students on a short tour of the school. I think they found it very interesting. It was quite new and modern, on a sort of sprawling, single-story floor plan, and certainly very different from what any of my students in their countries. Then we drove back to MSU, whereupon Pat and Alissa decreed themselves exhausted, but said that the kids had been the most attentive ever.

Today in class, the 9 students who went to the elementary school told the other 6 Japanese students all about it. The other students are from Hosei University and their program has them very highly scheduled during days when they don't normally have ELC classes, so they had a different extracurricular activity they had to do that day, namely a tour of .Greenfield Village. Unfortunately for them, the weather was crappy, and they went to the Henry Ford Museum instead. Now, when I was 11, my grandparents took me to the Ford Museum, and I found it fascinating. I didn't want to leave. Japanese college students, though, apparently do not find historical American cars and appliances to be very fascinating. They all wish they had gone to the elementary school instead. Neener, neener.

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