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colegio penalvento 2

Learning a second language requires a variety of teaching methods for the language to be learned well. While learning new vocabulary through texts and studying grammatical rules can help one to learn a new language, the value of learning to speak conversationally with a native speaker is something indispensible to learning a second language. School teachers often do as much as they can to provide a variety of learning tools to their students, but most educational systems are lacking in that they do not spend sufficient time engaging their students in natural conversation. This is often because the teachers are not native speakers of the language themselves. By providing their students exposure to weekly conversation with a native English speaker, Colegio Penalvento is providing its students a valuable opportunity to improve their conversational skills.
            Now that Colegio Penalvento has had its first semester of Conversational English class with a George Washington University student, it seems worthwhile to assess the merits of the program as well as recommend adjustments that can be made to make this program more successful in the future. Particularly important questions to ask are
  What can be done to improve the Colegio Penalvento internship program?
  Which teaching methods will best facilitate English learning among students at the Colegio Penalvento?
            To answer these questions, a thorough assessment of how the program *functioned in its first run is critical. As the colegio's first internship teacher I feel very comfortable saying that this program has had a successful start. Using a variety of teaching methods, I had ten minute sessions with four to six students in my own classroom. The environment was close and communicative as there were only 4-6 students in each group. I taught 32 sessions per week to almost 200 hundred students. The students ranged in age from 6 to 12 years old and were diverse in their level of English mastery.
            In my first week of working at the colegio I was introduced to the faculty and shown around the school. I was given my own small classroom where I would instruct. The faculty was incredibly helpful and always approachable whenever I had any concerns or doubts. I was shown where English resources could be found: a series of Cambridge activity books containing material on which students take an annual exam, short stories, and English workbooks. Before I started teaching classes the goal of my work was clearly established. I was expected to engage students in English conversation in a comfortable environment to help them gain confidence in their speaking abilities. It was very easy to establish such an environment with each group since they were comprised of so few students. I had complete freedom to select any topics we would discuss on a given day and was welcome to use any teaching method I saw fit. This set up was advantageous in that it allowed me to alter my lesson plan according to the interests and speaking levels of my students.
            While having so much freedom made for a constantly evolving and chat-filled teaching environment, I think that more structure would make the program more effective. During the period in which I worked at Colegio Penalvento I was always thinking up new topics to discuss with the students and different teaching methods to try out. Many times I had success, but other times the topics I had selected were met with blank stares. To prevent this, I would recommend that Colegio Penalvento English teachers meet with the GW intern for at least 5 minutes on a weekly basis to information interns on which topics are being studied in class. Even though Penalvento students were usually quick to inform me on what they had or had not learned in class, it would be great to begin each week with some sort of curriculum related agenda. I have confidence that with just a 5 minute discussion between the Colegio Penalvento teacher and GW intern that the GW intern will be able to reinforce the material students are learning in class and help them resolve any doubts they may have. I found that speaking about topics students were learning in class was met with as much enthusiasm as if we had been talking about their favorite toys, presumably because they were acquainted with the vocabulary and felt that they could better express themselves. The benefits of regularly updating future GW interns about the colegio's English curriculum are threefold: it will help reinforce and clarify class material, motivate student involvement, and better prepare students for examinations.
            I would also recommend that Colegio Penalvento teachers provide input on how students should be divided into groups within any given class. This is not to say that students necessarily need to be placed by English level (Group 1= Beginners, Group 2= Intermediate Level, etc.) because a bit of diversity in a group can be encouraging to students. Instead, I would simply recommend that teachers use their judgment to adjust groups as they see fit. I say this for two reasons. First, there were groups in which language levels were so diverse that the most proficient students were doing all of the talking while the less advanced speakers were prone to tune out. Not knowing the students beforehand, some time was lost in the first couple of weeks gauging student level of English proficiency. Especially since Colegio Penalvento is a new school with students coming from an array of educational backgrounds, I would recommend that the language-level extremes that can be found among students in a class be taken into consideration. Second, there were some groups in which there were minor conduct problems or where students simply wanted to chat with their friends in Spanish. Given the brief period of time that the intern has class with each group this is something that must be avoided. I imagine that with a quick glance by Colegio Penalvento teachers of how students are grouped they will be able to spot obvious groupings where there are drastic differences in language level or where there are students placed in the same groups that may cause a distraction. Of course, I believe making these judgments is as much the responsibility of the intern as it is the responsibility of Colegio Penalvento teachers. Realistically, it is up to the GW intern to judge which groupings are most conducive to learning in their ten minute sessions. It is for this reason that I was incredibly appreciative of the flexibility I was allowed with regard to reorganizing student groups. The freedom I was given to reorganize groups was invaluable. I would absolutely recommend that Colegio Penalvento remain open to this flexibility as it allowed me to tweak class organizations to facilitate students that needed the most attention.

Teaching students from 2nd through 6th grade was enjoyable as I got to interact with students at drastically different levels of development and it was interesting to see differences in how different age groups used English to communicate. This said, I think that students would get more out of their conversational class if future GW interns either teach fewer students, less grade levels, or both. Seeing 190 students for ten minutes a week made it difficult to develop a strong student-teacher relationship with my pupils, let alone learn all of their names. Having fewer students will allow future GW interns to get to know their students better. Two suggestions stemming from the same concern are the number of grade levels and time constraints. While these two things can remain the same so long as the number of students is reduced for the next GW intern adjustments could be beneficial. Reducing the number of grade levels to two or three would be especially helpful as it would give the GW intern a very clear idea of what students are learning in school and what level they are at.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
As far as learning a second language is concerned, can I put in a word for Esperanto?

Although it is a living language, it helps language learning as well. Four schools in Britain have introduced this neutral international language, in order to test its propaedeutic values.

The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester, and the initial results are very encouraging. These can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf

An interesting video can be seen at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU. Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations. A glimpse of Esperanto at http://www.lernu.net
Dec. 12th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Esperanto
Interesting! First of all, that when I post my homework on livejournal that it gets a response, second of all of course Esperanto.
You got my attention, but I'm still skeptical. If this were somehow able to spread, it could be useful, but I can't possibly imagine that it is actually developed to be easy to learn for all language speakers - especially considering pronunciation. Considering that one's ability to pronounce different sounds decreases exponentially after the age of one, I have a hard time believing that this is a language easy for all people of the world. If it was, it would be a lot more bland sounding. Furthermore, I can't imagine a language like this picking up until people have a necessity. The resources we have thus far for resolving communication issues are already in place so that Esperanto as a necessity will not be something that our children experience. Maybe I am wrong. But what I would like to see before a whole language being constructed (which I actually think will make people - like myself for example - shy away) is an emphasis on coming up with a few universal words, like "help!" as the most obvious one. This would be much easier to implement and spread and most universally useful. It could also help people open up more to the idea of a universal newly-created language.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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