Extra teaching material and lessons – nowadays, two inseparable things when we think about teaching. To work only with the set course book is nothing we would consider anymore.
Teaching in general has become a much more deliberate, thought-through, and well-researched progress. The older instructivist ways of teaching like lecturing and rote instruction aim at foundational knowledge and memorization. Modern methods stress the importance of meaningful learning and active learning and therefore focus on the learners in the constructivist teaching approach, in which pupils are helped to learn to think independently rather than to remember. This involves using teaching techniques like, for instance, collaboration, task-based instruction, Total Physical Response activities, or team games. We therefore need new, additional materials to realize these new techniques.
In every subject, the more advanced teacher would want use different materials to create a more meaningful, active, fascinating, concrete, and sustainable learning environment – also in a more instructional lesson phase like introducing new words. A teacher wants his or her class to stay concentrated, interested, and excited – and the more enthusiastic the teacher is about his or her subject and pupils, the better the teaching results are.
This is why it is one of our major tasks to show new techniques and materials to the English teachers in Ban Sikeud Primary School and Ban Phang Heng Primary and Secondary School, to be used in their concrete lessons. We follow this planning stage up by tandem-teaching and then independent teaching and finish with an evaluation and feedback before we continue building up the next step.
Therefore, we offered a workshop about creating and using teaching material on 20 November 2017, to build on what former Teams had done before. As the teachers were already familiar with games and Singlish, i.e. ways of teaching English playfully, and also with how to teach vocabulary in different ways, we could build on these techniques in planning our workshop.
In our preparation, we asked the primary school teachers what they exactly would need next for their lessons, and we also studied the Lao English course books for secondary school to decide what kind of materials would be useful next for the secondary teachers. All of them already knew about word- and flashcards and how to use them from their various previous workshops and tandem-lessons by now, but for our tandem-teachers making them takes a lot of effort and initiative and needs extra time and organization, which explains why they still require or welcome our assistance. Our task as their present tandem-teachers is to continue to support them in this and act as role models at the same time, which we strive to do in general in our daily school routine anyway. We would just not like to walk into a classroom with an unprepared, meaningless, or boring lesson.
We therefore decided to offer a special window of time to create new material together, and we divided the workshop into five parts.
PART 1 – Introducing a lesson
At the beginning we started with a chant to get everybody relaxed and to show one more example of how to introduce a(ny) lesson in an interesting and motivating manner.
PART 2 – Why is it important to use different material?
We continued with the question about the importance of different material, to refresh their memories. The teachers were asked to collect their ideas, and we then completed the list:
• to make it more interesting (motivation)
• to activate the pupils (participation)
• to improve one’s teaching (professional self-development)
• to learn with different senses (multi-sensory learning)
→ to allow different types of learners to remember e.g. grammar or vocabulary better
• to show a word by using an object or picture (and not just read and listen, semanticization)
• to make the word real, to actually experience it (to connect the word to real life, contextualization)
• to generally include the pupils more and give them more variety and opportunities for thinking (constructivist approach)
PART 3 – What kind of different materials do you know?
Thus prepared, the teachers could now start to draw up a mindmap about our workshop topic. They collected their ideas about material which is useful or rather necessary in class.
The list of their ideas was made with guiding questions and a little help from our side, but most of the material is indeed what they now use, or try to use, in their daily lessons.
Readers may wonder about missing audio- or digital materials. These are not listed in the mindmap for a reason. There are no modern medial devices in Lao classrooms, only blackboards and (white) chalk. Schools may own a CD-player, but we never saw one in use until we introduced Singlish. Also, songs and games themselves are no “material” material but can be used as if they were. By using them, the teachers make their lessons more interesting and various.
PART 4 – Creating teaching material
Now we divided the participants up into groups of two to three: Ms Bounpheng, Ms Mittaphone and Ms Phovang (“Noy”) as the primary school group, Mr Boundleud and Ms Souksakhone as the first and Mr Vienglakhone ‘Noy’ and Ms Donekeo as the second secondary school group. In these groups, flash- and word cards were now created which represented different topics like numbers or emotions, but also grammar topics like adjectives or subject pronouns.
The teachers were also asked to make a list of different ideas of how to use them in class, and then to laminate and cut them in the correct size and needed form(at) so they would be big enough for pupils to see them even from the last row in the classroom.
Additionally, on the rather more technical side, we made sure to demonstrate again how to deal carefully with such material, e.g. to save space while laminating.
PART 5 – Using the designed material
We finished by showing even more examples of how to use the material in various, interesting, and more fun ways. See for yourself the three games we played with the whole group, using the material they designed plus several fruits as realia:
In addition to the flash- and word cards, we showed our tandem-teachers how to include realia like fruits, vegetables, or office supplies. We used them for visualization of vocabulary or as a material basis for games.
After a few weeks we were noticing that the teachers were using the material we created with them, and they were also bringing different realia to show and use in the classroom!
This makes us very happy – it is motivating for us to see their progress.
Text by H. Glass, L. Malchow & I. Martin
Photos & videos by R. Dengler