Coming here I’d not taught English as a second language (ESL) to children before. Technically, I’d not even taught adults. I was a volunteer, helping teachers in a program in the U.S. So, I read a lot and asked questions before coming to El Salvador. Vanessa, who manages the program where I volunteer in the U.S., and Ariela, my tutor, gave me ideas.
A few ideas stuck. One line of thought suggested that often by the time an ESL class starts, the students have already been sitting for a long time in other classes. If they are given a chance to get some of the energy out at the beginning of class, they may pay better attention for the rest of the class. Another line of thought suggests that different people learn better through different methods. Some learn through hearing, others through reading or seeing, and others through movement.
I combined these ideas and made a set of laminated flashcards. Each card represents an action verb. On one side is an image associated with the action and on the other side is the English word for the verb. I started by showing the class the image, saying the word, acting out the verb and then showing the printed word. Their job was to act out and say the word with me.
Over the weeks, I’ve been getting them to do this with fewer cues from me. About the time this video was made, I stopped showing the image and started pausing a beat or two to see how many can say and act out the word on their own. (Typically once one student does it, the others catch on.) We continue to develop this. On Thursday, I had to prepare some materials for a new game and asked one of the students in 6A to lead the class. We were not sure if it would work, but it did.
We do this activity at the start of each class and then move on to the other material. If I leave here with them knowing thirty four verbs they did not know when I arrived, or even a fraction of them, I’d be happy.
It is not easy to hear what the spoken verbs. I made the cards and have trouble interpreting the video. They are roughly:
Stand on one foot