Monday, November 10, 2008

In TEFL mode and to teach without 'teaching'

Today started with me trying to create a list of good links for learning English- Podcasts, lists and explanations of idioms, grammar explanations, etc. Despite there being so much out there, its so hard to find something that is perfectly relevant. So if you, dear reader, know of any podcast that would be perfect for beginners who want to learn terminology specific to "Narrative Psychology" or even Psychology in general, please send them my way. So far, the only ESL podcasts I found were slowed-down speech, discussing the US elections, how to get out of credit card debt and other equally interesting things for the potential immigrant to perhaps the US, but not for the people I have in mind. In addition, I think the sound stream was slowed down mechanically, so it sounded like I was listening to robots. I understand that when you speak slower, things are clearer to the beginner to the language, but the Podcasts did not sound like a good model for the eager student to learn pronunciation, for example. Oh well, I guess it will take me at least a week to compile a list of things that would be relevant, comprehensible and somewhere near the target language.

After a day of running around and teaching some classes, I went to Perekryostok (a psychology center that works with 'troubled teens') this evening to meet the teenagers that I want to start volunteering with. For them, it is an evening club where they play games, watch movies and listen to (or perform) music. The last person who tried to teach them English left frustrated because as soon as she mentioned the word "class," all the kids were either ill, too tired, or otherwise unavailable. Learning our lessons from the mistakes of others, the psychologists and I decided to not mention the C word again, focusing instead on introducing me as a volunteer who wants to be friends and participate in their activities, but who primarily speaks English. Its been nice enough so far, with all the kids smiling, saying hello and us watching a Spanish movie dubbed in Russian, probably called something along the lines of "The Fawn of the Labyrinth." Bizarre movie, but a pretty good opportunity to bond with some of the kids. So now I'm racking my brains for ways to bring English into the group, without there being any semblance of a class. Watching movies in English is one of the easiest things to try out. In addition, we can start with games such as Twister- something that requires minimal knowledge of English vocabulary. Apparently, the kids love bands like Nirvana and Slipknot, so I need to 1. find out who these guys are, 2. listen to their music, and then bring audio and text to the group. With some lyrics in hand, we can listen and try to work through the meanings of the songs.

So far, that's all I've got. Any suggestions of what else I could do? (and while we're at it, if you have great suggestions for activities with toddlers, send 'em my way too ;) ) I love this job that's all over the place- feels so much like the rest of my life!


Nixie said...

I used to listen to different music ('Nirvana' as well:)) at my English lessons, especially with children and teenagers) and they loved it so much!) With the songs you could use different methods, the ones most interesting -
1) give them the lyrics but with some wrong words or phrases there - the children while listening should correct the text;
2) just exclude some words and ask them to fill in while listening.

With kids use a lot of pictures, but, I'm sure, you know about that without me.. use different games, for vocabulary, e.g., one person says an English word with translation (from the previous C, for example), the second repeats it and gives another word, the 3rd person repeats everything that was said by these 2 pupils and gives another word... this chain must last as long time as possible, very effective for memory:)

well, teaching can be very interesting!:)

teoffy said...

well.. all nixie said... is good for pupils.. who know something in English.
but if they know almost nothing (?), it won't be a success...
... as for watching films - I think it's a good idea for beginning learning English this way without children noticing it (noticing that it's really a 'lesson', 'class').

Tista said...

As teoffy pointed out, nixie, your suggestions are good (and I will definitely use them with other groups) but yeah, if they don't know any English at all, they won't work as well.

We (the teenagers and I) are definitely just listening to some Nirvana (trying to decipher the meaning as a group) and then watching a movie next week :)

Tanya said... all this sounds so brilliant!I just logged on to Orkut and saw the link to your blog- couldnt resist. But girl, you didnt know Nirvana and Slipknot?!? Am guessing you dont listen to a lot of rock music. Kurt Cobain's (Nirvana) like my GoD when it comes to music.

Anyway, here's a big I-Miss-You-Tons hug and lemme know the next time you come down to India. We HAvEtO catch up! Its been years- literally =(.

didactylos said...

ok. So this might seem a bit wacky in the way that only a truly clueless person might suggest...but i am gonna go ahead and suggest it anyway. Its my brave moment of the day.

I suggest Monty Python . Humour is the one other universal language. You are doing film viewings with them anyway how about surprising them with Monty Python.

The argument runs something like this - Your main problem seems to be one of catching their attention and getting them interested. Achieving this with a bunch of teenagers is an unenviable task coz teenagers, the world over, tend to be the most cynical lot when it comes investing faith in a grown-ups capacity to interest them. Surprise them with Monty coz well, its just plain weird. and funny. Some will find it funny, some will think its ridiculous but chances are that the 'class' will be surprised. And you know you have them if it initiates discussion coz thats a surefire sign that interest has been piqued.
Ofcourse, on the other hand this is a terrible suggestion and i ought to know better than to waste your time with it. But if nothing else works, give it a try.