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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Teaching English at Xing Ping

July 4th, 2007

Today we visited Xing Ping Primary School, where I taught an English lesson for Andy Liang's third grade class. I was slightly anxious about the lesson, since I had no information on the class (other than the grade level) or the students' English capabilities beforehand.

I entered the classroom and presented Andy Liang with a gift. Then, I walked to the front of the room. As I went to my place, the kids yelled a robust "Hello!!!" I, of course, returned the greeting. After asking them as to how they were doing, I began pulling out various 8X10 pictures I had. The first one was of my mother. Pointing, I said, "This is my mother." I then wrote "mother" on the board with the phrase "This is my _____" above it. I had them read the sentence with me. I repeated this format as I showed them pictures of my father, sister, grandparents, and dog (supplementing the list with the words "brother," "cat," and "family"). To finalize this portion of the lesson, I pointed to each phrase and word on the board, while the students would say, "This is my mother," "This is my father," "This is my dog," and so on. I pointed out to them, however, that when inserting "grandparents" into the phrase, the sentence should be "THESE ARE my grandparents."

I wrote on the board, "Do you have a _____." I went around the room, asking various students simple questions like "Do you have a brother?" The student would stand up and politely respond, "Yes, I do" or "No, I do not." Then (while pointing to myself), I told the students, "My name is Megan." On the board I wrote, "What is your name?" and had the kids read this phrase. I went around the room, asking various students this question. Finally, I wrote, "The name of my ____ is" on the board (which they read aloud), and again I asked various students for the names of their brothers, sisters, etc.

Next, we played a little game. I actually had to quickly modify the game a great deal (which I had assessed upon entering the classroom), as the classroom had very little extra space and the desks were all in tight rows. I took out a ball of yarn and walked to the student at the end of the front row. I asked her, "Do you have a sister?" To which she replied, "Yes, I do." I handed her the ball of yarn, instructing her to turn to the next person to ask a different kind of question (using the terms and questions from the day's lesson). This pattern would continue throughout the whole room, row by row. Some of the kids were very shy about their English skills, while others were pretty confident. The students were very quick to help a struggling peer. With each passing of the ball of yarn, the giving student would say, "Here you are!" and the receiving student replied with "Thank you!" (Note: they did this all on their own! Such polite students!). Every once in a while, I would help the students make small corrections with the way they worded a question. For instance, one child inquired, "What is the name of sister?" I gently corrected him by remarking, "What is the name of YOUR sister?" Each student from then on was very careful to include the "your" part.

At the end of the lesson, the youth delegates from Morehead, along with Laura Franzini, graciously came to the head of the classroom. The students were given time to interact with them, asking them questions such as, "What do you like to eat?" and "What did you have for breakfast?" Each person from Morehead would respond and then return the question to the student. After each child had given an appropriate reply, we would present them with a small gift (namely, tattoos donated by MSU Athletics and stickers). The students were very excited to receive such gifts).

I was pretty pleased with the lesson, especially since beforehand I had had no idea of the number of students, the classroom layout, and (most importantly) their knowledge of and ability to use the English language. The children were extremely attentive, eager, and polite... and were very quick to catch on! While the material may have been a little below their level, I think it was appropriate in order to raise their confidence levels when interacting with an English-speaking person.

Next, we headed to an office to meet with the principal and the Blessing Hands students. As I climbed the staircase to the correct floor, I saw about 30 smiling children at the top of the staircase eagerly waiting for me. As soon as I reached the top, they started to excitedly thrust various drawings into my hands, saying, "Here you are!" A flurry of artwork flew in from all directions! As I watched the chaotic stack of drawings pile up in my hands, I laughed and repeatedly said, "Thank you! Thank you!" The artwork had been created by some of Xing Ping's students for their Sister School in Morehead. This moment is probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.

I presented the principal with a present, then gave the Blessing Hands students some small gifts. They were all extremely grateful. We got a photo with these students. After the meeting, we handed out gifts to the students who had created the artwork for the Sister School.

The students then rushed out to the courtyard, where Matt Collins gave a skateboard demonstration. The children were mesmerized as he deftly jumped, flipped, and zoomed past them on his skateboard. After showing the entranced young students what could be done with a skateboard, Matt then offered for the children to try their hand (or shall I say, feet?) at skateboarding. Out of the huge, excited crowd of kids, one little girl bravely stepped up to bat. Matt held the board steady as she climbed on, then guided her by holding her hands as she rolled along the concrete. All of a sudden, everyone wanted a turn! The children rushed to snatch a good place in line, in the hopes that they too might get a ride. Matt's demonstration was definitely a hit!

To close, I would like to take this time to thank Carolyn Franzini, who greatly helped me in planning the English lesson... and even provided the ball of yarn! She has such a great source of knowledge and support.

That concludes this day's school adventures! This trip was our last school visit.

Students at Xing Ping