Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Teaching to the Orange Robes

This week, June 23rd, I started teaching the monks and novices at the Nakornphanom Branch of Machachulalongkornrajaviddhalaya Buddhist University. I'm teaching about four hours each day, from freshmen to seniors.

This freshmen class has 58 students, all with very different levels of English. I feel as though I'm looking out at an ocean of orange robes as I try to differentiate the instruction as much as I can. With a two hour block to teach basic English... even my bag of instructional strategies is often not deep enough to get me through the whole period! Using the computer, which then projects onto a screen, I type a conversation between a foreigner and a monk.

All the monks want to learn conversational English, so this lesson responds specifically to their need. I tailor the lesson to a foreigner asking about a monk's daily life, so that even those with limited English soon understand the basic lesson. With the sentences projected on the screen, the monks write the conversational script in their notebook. With so many students, I teach the whole class how to pronounce the words in each sentence and help them understand the meaning as well.

Once the whole class has learned the basic sentences, I then move around the classroom, checking for understand and pronunciation, by calling on individual monks to respond to one of the questions they've just learned when the foreigner, in the script, asks them a question.

After checking for understand and reteaching, I pair up the monks to practice the conversation. One monk plays the part of the foreigner and the other, the monk. After they've practiced the conversation this way for 5 to 10 minutes, I have them reverse their positions and practice the conversation again.

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