Hey, hey people of the world! So today is my ‘hints and tips’ blog for the Starfish Volunteers Teaching project – lets get started then shall we?
The first tip that I can give you is a small one that you probably wouldn’t even think would need to be thought about if I didn’t mention it, and that is your shoes. When you get to your classroom at school you should always make sure that you take your shoes off, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t, but I would advise you to just remember to do it. The kids all take theirs off so maybe seeing their holey socks will kickstart your brain to remember to take yours off as well 😀
The kids socks are really holey though, no heels or toes on most of them; it would be much easier to just not even wear socks haha
Sasha working very hard to teach the kids about time, which is definitely not an easy subject to teach
I think the most important thing to remember is to be patient. I can’t talk enough of how much of a difference it makes to be patient with our students, English is not these kids first language so this is hard for them. Learning a new language is difficult enough anyway but for these kids they are going from a Sanskrit based symbolic language to a Germanic language that is letter based.
I can tell you from my personal experience with learning Thai, that that transition is hard, learning any language is hard but it is even harder to learn a new language that has completely different sounds to your native language. All native Asian language speakers have the same difficulties with learning English and that difficulty is pronunciation. The most obvious pronunciation difficulty is the letter ‘R’, Thai people especially have difficulty when initially learning the ‘R’ sound as they don’t have it in Thai. It is hard to teach this sound not only because it is entirely new but all Thai people don’t want to ‘loose face’, and by this I mean they don’t want to make a mistake or look silly and this sometimes holds people back from learning.
Getting the kids up and doing something silly breaks their fear of looking silly in front of others
From teaching my own lessons I have learnt that the best way you can get the kids to relax is to be patient and to make your lessons fun, I always get the kids to make silly and stupid faces as well as making stupid noises, this helps everyone to relax and have fun. A friend that I am teaching is having difficulty with the ‘R’ so the way that I have been teaching him is to try to roar like a lion. Yes this sounds stupid but it really does work, you have to make an ‘R’ sound when you roar like a lion and it is just shorting the initial roar to the ‘R’ sound; and bobs your uncle.
Just be patient and fun, people always remember more not only when they are having fun but also when they are relaxed and being calm always makes you more relaxed. Just think about how you would have liked to have been taught when you were back at school. I hated having vocab drills in my German class, they did not help anyone and made the lessons feel like boot camp! They just made the class feel regimented and constricting, I think when learning a language you should learn without realising it; this happens through games, being competitive and letting your inhibitions go.
Henry teaching one of his lessons outside with some of the boys, they look like they are just messing about but Henry is teaching them new vocab which they remember more because they are having fun
Teaching can be daunting for those who have not done it before but just remember that the kids are there to learn not to criticize or judge what you are doing. Once you get into the swing of learning you will be able to take it all in your stride and you get so engaged with the children and build up genuine bonds that make you even more passionate about what you are doing.
One thing I must stress though is that kids learn at different speeds. Some children already know a little English, this can be for a multitude of reasons whether it be that they have learnt through music, television, the internet or they just paid more attention. What this also means is that there are some kids that don’t know as much or even any at all and it is these children that need the most amount of help. When I was at school I picked up everything straight away, I was bright and intelligent and so got targeted by teachers as it is always easier to teach a child who understands as opposed to one that doesn’t. It is very easy to ignore the children that aren’t as good and concentrate on the ones that are, but this isn’t the right path to go down. Have a contingency plan for if your class has some very bright children, have extra work set up for them for when they finish the lesson but don’t just move the whole class along because they are finished. You need to concentrate on the children that need the most help, bringing those children up to the same level of the brighter ones is hard at times and can be frustrating for both you and the children involved but when they get there, and I promise with hard work from you, that they will, it is so satisfying and makes teaching, on a whole, much easier. If everyone is the same level you can all move forward together as opposed to lots of people going off in all sorts of directions.
Kids are great at boosting each others learning process, often the brighter children will come to the aid of the children that aren’t quite as quick to learn
English is your first language not theirs and even though you might not understand why one kid can’t say ‘three’ without it coming out like ‘tree’ just remember that there are going to be words that you can’t say in Thai that they can do with ease. It isn’t that they are stupid it is just that they are learning something completely new. Speaking is natural for humans which is why we can all do it, but a Westerner learning Thai or a Thai learning English is pretty much learning to speak again so be patient, be encouraging and have fun.
Being encouraging is very important when teaching a difficult subject such as language. I always find that volunteers feel as though there is no bridge between them and the students as they can’t communicate in any way. I think the best way to combat this is for you, the teacher, to bridge the gap by learning some key phrases; nothing too difficult just some basic encouragement and questions that will make it easier for the children to understand what you want from them.
The first thing you need to know is
No in Thai is pronounced as ‘Mai’ try saying ‘m’-‘eye’. When it comes to teaching I try to use ‘no’ as little as possible, I always try to just ask them to try again instead.
The next is……………
‘Chi’ is the way to say ‘yes’ in Thai, try saying ‘ch’-eye’ This is something that hopefully you will be saying a lot as the children will be doing well in your lessons!
‘Dee Mak’ pronounced ‘dee’-‘mark’, and this means ‘very good’. This is one of my most used phrases at school, I think that kids should be praised instead of chastised so I am always saying ‘dee-mark’.
Another one that is really useful is………………..
‘Samsong’ this means ‘try again’. The way to say this is ‘saam-sorhng’. I use this a lot, so definitely try to learn this one! This is a better phrase to use instead of ‘no’ as ‘no’ is very negative whereas ‘try again’ is more supportive.
The last thing I think that you should know is……….
‘Nee-Kursintee’ this means ‘What is this?’ It’s pretty easy to pronounce even though it looks really long. Try ‘Nee-khur-sin-tee’ pretty simple huh? This is great to use when you are trying to find out if a child remembers something themselves.
All of these phrases are super useful and will make your time teaching so much more enriching. Being able to communicate with the children in a way that they understand breaks the wall that separates you and them and helps to bring you closer with a better understanding of each other.
Hopefully all of these tips are helpful for you and make your volunteering time with us even better than it will be anyway. If you haven’t already signed up for our teaching project and want to then you need to check out the Starfish Website. Take a look at the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook and Starfish Tumblr pages to see what is happening with all of our other projects.
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto