We, Franziska and Tobias, recently started working with English for Mopsy and me in the two preschool classes of Ban Sikeud. Mopsy is a program that requires a high amount of participation of each child. This is incompatible with class sizes of approximately 40 children. Hence, it was necessary to break them down into eight smaller groups of about ten children each. Every day, during their normal English class, we take one group to a separate room. There, both of us teach them together with the hand puppet Mopsy for 30 to 45 minutes. In this article we review some of our observations.
First of all, we would like to say that we have never worked with Mopsy before. Hence, it is difficult to evaluate our progress with the Lao students as we have no comparison with the effect on other students. One of the authors, Leonora Fröhlich-Ward, volunteered to train us in a preparatory workshop back in Karlsruhe, though, to introduce the material to us (click here to check out our report from October).
After one week of teaching we tried to sum up the obstacles we had to face:
- In their teachers’ notes, the authors state that a friendly and warm relation between students and their teacher is an essential requirement. Hence, we as strangers from a different culture could be a hindrance even though the students behave towards us in a more than welcoming way.
- Mopsy is a cute dog puppet, but in Laos dogs are not as domesticated as in other cultures. In many cases they are even stray dogs or react towards people with barking. This could also be a problem for the learning process.
- In the Lao preschool classroom, students are only used to copying words and sentences the teacher says by mere repetition (in chorus). The communicative approach of Mopsy is quite new to them. Often, they therefore fall back into their usual pattern, just repeating the phrases Mopsy or we teachers present. Questions are therefore not understood as questions.
- Students are relatively shy (which might also be related to our presence).
After a while, the young learners slowly learned to leave their comfort zone and the participation and fun increased. It required a lot of empathy, patience and love to reach this first goal from our side, but we believe that we are on a good way. Furthermore, Mopsy became more and more popular with the young students. Therefore, he can no longer be seen as an obstacle for the children´s learning. It is so nice to hear a squeaky “Mopsy” from these cute rascals.
This leaves us with two major problems we have to deal with: the difference in the approach and their shyness. Nevertheless, we are very optimistic that we can overcome these difficulties. We will need a lot of love and patience but we are both willing to do this for the sake of the students, their learning and our success. If you are interested in further observations and results of our Mopsy-sessions, please check out this blog or the newsletter.
English for Mopsy and me is an English course in two volumes developed by Leonora Fröhlich-Ward and Gisela Schmid-Schönbein. It consists of a handbook, a CD, many picture and activity cards and is centred around the hand puppet Mopsy, a cute dog that talks and interacts with the children. A great focus is laid on facial expression, body language and emotions. The target groups are young learners of English, from preschool to primary school. At these age levels, students are extremely capable of foreign language acquisition. Through Mopsy, they absorb language in a playful way and start talking in English unwittingly.
Text and photos by T. Mayer