I have attended a number of training sessions on English language teaching facilitated by both national and international trainers. And I have conducted some training sessions myself. Whenever I attend or conduct such sessions, I ask this question about their significance: Will I be able to translate (transfer) the ideas into my classroom? If such session doesn’t seem relevant to my classroom setting, I return with a sad face, thinking that the time, money and resources invested in that session went in vain. However, I returned home with a happy face from a recent training organized by NELTA in Kathmandu on 20th and 21st December, 2013. Access teachers from the different parts of Nepal participated in the two-day English teachers’ training. I found it very effective for my classroom and I learned several new ideas and concepts to implement in my classroom. In this blog entry, I am going to reflect on my experiences.
Following the introduction of the participants, the first day of the training began with ‘Gallery Walk’ and concluded with two different sessions ‘Songs in Access Classroom’ and ‘Co-Teaching’.
Through a gallery walk, we reflected on our success stories from Access Program being implemented at different district branches of NELTA. I found the activities of the Access Centers unique, fascinating and different from one another.
Let me begin with GorakhaCenter. The teachers had their students engage into convening an educational fair and they learnt that the students could learn different things when they are engaged in organizing such programs. Similarly, they had organized a literacy campaign targeting the illiterate people of their community with a view to raise awareness, motivate, and encourage them to be literate by joining literacy classes.
Kathmandu Centers had done something remarkable. They had taken the Access Students to the US Embassy, Kathmandu, where the participant students observed various equipments operated with the help of solar power. And the painting titled ‘Wall of Hopes’ highlighted violence against women. On the International Human Rights Day, they showed a movie related to human rights. They also made their students participate in ‘English by Radio‘ program, which is aired through radio stations in partnership of NELTA and the US Embassy.
Unlike Gorkha and KathmanduCenters, PokharaCenter had facilitated their students to prepare and perform a ‘Drama’ on the occasion of ‘Thanks Giving Day’. I like the concept of students’ engagement in the drama as it helps them to be confident, creative and to improve their speaking skills.
BirgunjCenter had their own uniqueness, in celebrating ‘Raksha Bandhan’—a popular Hindu festival of the love between brothers and sisters celebrated in Terai, southern part of Nepal and also in many parts of India and Mauritius. In this festival, sisters tie the thread and attractive rakhi (simple, woven and colorful thread or may be intricate with amulets and decoration on top of it) on wrist of their brothers for their long life, welfare and protection. Other remarkable activities in Birgunj —Traffic Week and Ocean Day—impressed me. Students’ engagement in traffic management over a week has not only helped traffic police but also they have learnt traffic rules. Considering busy traffic in Kathmandu and need of traffic knowledge in our students, I wish I could replicate such activity for LalitpurCenter where I am an Access teacher. I think that the celebration of Ocean Day could be adapted in the context of our Access Centers too.
I was fascinated by the special idea of developing reading skills among our students from KanchanpurCenter. They have formed a readers’ group and a book reviewers’ group. We had conducted classes on ‘Book Review’, students, however, have not been confident enough to write the book reviews. I think the idea of forming of groups of readers and reviewers would help me further building on their confidence.
Songs in Access Classroom
Following Gallery Walk Session, Suman Laudari, former Access teacher facilitated a session on ‘Songs in Access Classroom’. Based on his own experience as an Access teacher, he highlighted on the effectiveness of the use of songs for language learning. Songs are the great exposure to our students and using songs is one of the best ways to teach pronunciation with a fun. We can also develop classroom test activities such as gap filling, match the words with their meaning, and put the shuffled stanzas of the song in order. Through this way, language learning can be a fun making for them. On the other side, while using songs in the classroom, some possible challenges such as offensive words and deviated forms were explored in our discussions. However, the learners should be pre informed not to use offensive words and consider deviated forms because they are more often used in songs.
Access Program has a salient feature of co-teaching at its Centers. As an assessment for such a feature, Ganga Ram Gautam and Miriam Corneli jointly facilitated co-teaching. During the facilitation, they introduced ‘Tree Metaphor’, as a tool for effectively analysing our co-teaching. Using tree metaphor, the assessment and analysis of co-teaching was carried out by participants from different Centers in terms of fruits, shoots, seeds and roots. We found our analysis of co-teaching almost similar. For instance, when I and my co-teacher analyzed our co-teaching classes, the fruits of our co–teaching –making classroom a fun zone, our shoots –utilizing our experience to make our classes effective by discussing with each other, the seeds—about five hours’ discussion to prepare a lesson plan and though we haven’t been successful in executing it yet to and the roots—we both are from education background and quite familiar with different methodologies. We both are co-operative and flexible. As a result, our co-teaching has always been successful.
The co-teachers at Access Centers are co-operative and they have been successful in making their classes effective, applying a variety of teaching methods. Before both the facilitators concluded the session, they provided us the effective model of co-teaching, which further helped us to improve our co-teaching further. Our co-teaching would have been more successful and we would not have faced challenges in managing the roles while implying this concept if the training on ‘co-teaching’ was provided before the Access classes started.
The second day of training consisted of four different sessions; ABCD model of lesson planning, public speaking, group discussions and American culture.
ABCD Model of Lesson Planning
Upon the presentations of the lesson plans made by respective Centers, Hemant Raj Dahal, president of NELTA made comments on them. Based on his observation and experience, he shared that most of the teachers usually miss the important parts ‘context’ and ‘expectation’ of our learners while planning their lessons. The discussion became livelier when Access teachers shared their challenges for preparing an effective lesson plan. To address those challenges, facilitator Dahal concluded the session with the introduction and use ABCD model of lesson planning for preparing effective lesson plans.
The second session ‘Public Speaking’ facilitated by Motikala Subba Dewan was worth effective as it provided us the ideas of public speaking in various contexts. During the session, we were divided into different groups and each group was assigned a topic to prepare a speech. After the group leaders delivered their respective speeches, they were analyzed in terms of both strong areas and the areas to improve. I found the session constructive for not only for speaking in public but also for facilitating students to present their ideas in our regular classroom instruction.
In the third session, Sara Denne Boltan facilitated us how to conduct group works effectively in our classrooms. She presented to the idea of evaluating the involvement of group members with the help of questionnaire. It can be an effective tool to actively involve all our students in a group work. The handouts and materials provided by her were helpful for our Access classes while organizing group discussions. She also facilitated us with how to play ‘Dice Game’, which can act as an important catalyst to energize our students for developing speaking skills.
U.S. Values and Culture
Besides improving English language skills, Access Program aims to impart the knowledge of the U.S. values and culture to the participant students and sensitize them about cultural differences. The session facilitated by Sara helped us better understand the American culture that students are expected to learn. Her presentation included contextual conversational patterns, different meaning of facial expressions, and notion of leadership, concept of ‘self’ and other different American cultures. She further clarified that Access students are expected to learn visible parts of American culture such as the food Americans eat in different festivals, their language and music.
As an Access teacher, I got this wonderful opportunity to attend the training I have reflected above. For this, I am grateful to ‘English Access Microscholarship Program (Access Program)’ implemented by Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) with sponsorship and support of the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu/the US Department of State.
Mandira Adhikari is currently working as a teacher for the Access Program in Lalitpur. She has completed her M.Ed in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is also a life member of NELTA.