It has been a while since our last Mopsy report and we have taught many lessons with Mister Mopsy since then. This article aims to compare our first observations, concerns and hopes with what we have learned and experienced in the meantime.
Contrary to our initial concerns, the dog hand puppet Mister Mopsy became quite a star among the pre-schoolers. Every time Mopsy appeared, they started calling his name, grabbing for him wanting to shake his hand. At some stages we even had to comfort the students in order to be able to continue our teaching.
The worries concerning our outlandish origin in combination with their shyness proved wrong, too. It took some days, maybe even weeks, for the Lao pre-schoolers to get used to us, and us to get used to this whole new situation, too. However, the pre-schoolers became keener and keener about the Mopsy lessons and their foreign teachers. Here is one example: we divided the classes into four groups each. Now each time we called the first student of a particular group, the others from the group already stood up, ready to run to the meeting point. Very funny to see! They liked us a lot, too, permanently calling our names on the schoolyard, running around us, trying to play hide and seek or holding our hands.
One cultural barrier persisted until the end, though: the repetition drill of words or sentences. Sometimes, when we asked the students to repeat a word group (chunk) or sentence in English (e. g. “This is my hand”), their internalized habit of doing repetitive drills was truly helpful as they did exactly what they were asked to do (repeat). But in other situations it was a major hindrance. Especially in the beginning, they answered the question “What is your name?” with repeating the question instead of telling their names. Even though it got better, from time to time there were some students who regularly fell back into the old pattern.
Another challenge was producing certain sounds of the English language. Some sounds were really hard for the pre-schoolers to produce, for example the s-endings (e.g. plural –s). Working with Mister Mopsy definitely supported the improvement of pronunciation issues. One of the benefits of working with the Mopsy programme is the small size of the groups, allowing us, at least to some extent, to focus on pronunciation aspects individually.
Teaching English with Mister Mopsy was a great success! It might have taken a bit more patience and some extra empathy from our side than we would have expected (and probably some extra effort from the students, too), but these amazing kids were absolutely worth the hard work and the energy we invested.
In the end, the Lao pre-schoolers were able to ask for names and tell their own names. They knew some of the body parts and other basic vocabulary items as well as short and useful patterns featured in the Mopsy handbook.
Good job, Mopsy, and keep going!
Text by T. Mayer
Photo by A. Pola