Team III: 9 new volunteers approved & first steps in preparation

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From fifteen applications submitted for the new project phase, nine applications have been successfully selected and approved for the new project phase following the interviews at the University of Education Karlsruhe on 6 May 2016. These nine English education graduates will work at Ban Sikeud primary school, Ban Phang Heng primary and secondary school, and at the Lao-German Technical College in Vientiane from September/October 2016 until January/February 2017, generously supported by the Angels for Children Foundation. Additionally, two more graduates were approved as volunteers for our new satellite project with the Sunshine School in Vientiane. Congratulations!

During the next project phase, the exemplary work at the primary schools and the secondary school will be continued and expanded in three significant new places.
1. The new science laboratory at Ban Phang Heng middle school has been completed in the meantime, which features as an attractive new asset but now demands to be with filled with meaningful learning. Therefore, two volunteers of Team III will commission and supervise the new facilities and support the Lao teachers in establishing physics and chemistry classes, with special regard to integrating the English language as a learning tool and a learning target at the same time. (One of our two English graduates has led a Chemistry Lab at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for the last decade and will bring lots of ideas!)
2. The second new development in our project is the cooperation with the Lao-German Technical College in Vientiane. This College, specialized in vocational training, prepares adolescents for future careers and prospects on the ASEAN job market. Similarly to our goals in the pilot schools, this new cooperation aims to enhance the students’ and the teachers’ English competences alike.
3. The private Sunshine School in Vientiane has a pre-, primary and middle school as well as a kindergarten and a kindergarten in the village of Veuntaen in Xaythany District on the (Nam) Ngum River (40 km away from the capital) and is known for including green issues, meditation, yoga, vegetarianism, and arts projects into their school life. This school does not belong to the schools supported by the foundation, but we will be looking into possibilities for a future cooperation in the next project phase of 2016/17.

The preparations for the on-site English teaching at the project schools have already started! At the University of Education Karlsruhe, Prof. Martin now offers a new “Teaching English in Laos” seminar for the new volunteers. In this class, the volunteers evaluate teaching methodology as well as foreign language teaching methods and techniques, analyse and create English teaching materials geared towards the needs of Lao pupils and Lao English teachers, and develop ideas towards achieving the general goals and their special individual tasks for their work on-site. Furthermore, the volunteers get an insight into the Lao culture and language.

The first session of the “Laos seminar” took place on 27 May 2016. Johannes Zeck from the Angels for Children Foundation took the volunteers of Team III on an illustrated tour through the history of Laos, which is directly related to the current political and economic situation of the country. He also gave an overview of Lao culture and the prevailing religious beliefs. Stressing the importance of encouraging English education in Laos, he introduced the Angels for Children Foundation and delineated the history of the “Teaching English in Laos” project to the group in closer detail. The early efforts of the founder of the family foundation, Ingrid Engel, to encourage education in Laos form the basis for the project. Its most recent development was achieved through the cooperation with the deputy chairwoman of the Institute of Multilingualism at the University of Education Karlsruhe, Prof. Isabel Martin, which has taken the efforts for improving education in Laos to a more profound and effective level.

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Johannes Zeck gives an introduction to living in Laos

After this introduction, the volunteers gathered in focus groups according to their placements. Within these focus groups, the new volunteers seized the opportunity to talk to the project partners Johannes Zeck and Prof. Martin and the volunteers Jana Brecht and Isabella Stryj from Team II about the different schools and the upcoming tasks. What does a normal teaching day look like in Laos? Which methods have been implemented successfully in working with the pupils? What are the needs of the Lao English teachers? Experiences were shared and first questions were answered during the briefing within the focus groups.
Prof. Martin then explained the next step in this (Blended Learning) course, i.e. more exact preparation by an online reading assignment. Homework 1: Read the blog entries for background information. Homework 2: Read the documentation posted in our Intranet StudIP course “Internship in Laos”. These include official documents about insurances, vaccinations, and medicine as well as our “AfC Starter Kit” and material produced and collected over the last 9 months: Teaching reports, press cuttings, contact lists, Lending Library inventories, bibliographies, lecture slides, teaching tips, handouts, flashcards, picturebooks, academic articles, didactic material, and workshop material.
Tip: It is better not to rely on downloading these files on-site as you will lose patience with the (v_e_r_y_s_l_o_w) Internet. Just create your own “Laos Teaching Achive” before you go.

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The Lao-German Technical College focus group
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Isabella from Team II shares her experiences with some of the new volunteers

The second part of the seminar on Friday consisted of an introduction to “Singlish”. During the pilot phase of “Teaching English in Laos”, the combination of singing and English has found favour among the Lao pupils and teachers. Motivating young learners for language learning while learning the language shows lasting effects, and hence Team III will continue to work with “Singlish” in Laos. Jana and Isabella from Team II shared video recordings of “Singlish” activities in Ban Sikeud and Ban Phang Heng in the spring of 2016, which witness the spark that motivating language learning activities can create in pupils, and which also show that there are other ways of successfully taking up communication when regular dialogue fails.

Afterwards, the volunteers were able to experience “Singlish” themselves in a workshop by Prof. Martin and Heike Müller, the lead member of Isabel Martin’s “Singlish” band at the University of Education Karlsruhe.

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At the Singlish workshop

The volunteers and project partners ended this very interesting day with a dinner together at a Thai Restaurant around the corner, where the new volunteers and project leaders had the chance to get to know one another better.

Already on Friday, 15 April 2016, some of the English education majors who are now among the volunteers of Team III seized the opportunity to expand their foreign language teaching repertoire. On this date, Prof. Martin hosted a Modern Western Square Dance party (“PH News” SqD at 1:35 and “Junger Kulturkanal” report) and, on the next day, a workshop with professional Caller Andreas Hennecke. The party was open to the public and a crowd of almost 60 first-time Square Dancers and returners joined the party.

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The Square Dance Party with star Caller Andreas Hennecke

Within 2.5 hours only, the dancers learned about 8 different dances and 14 dancing formations; the careful observer could also perceive more than 80 words in English, ranging from everyday language to technical dancing terms. Among the dancers were students and members of the staff of the University of Education Karlsruhe as well as visitors and guests from “outside”, English native speakers as well as non-English speakers, dancers and non-dancers, and young and older guests (the youngest being approx. 3 years only!). Neither English skills nor dancing skills were required to take part. No matter what the respective levels of English and dancing proficiency were, everyone seemed to have a blast: Lots of smiling faces and laughter filled the room, which created a great atmosphere and united the heterogeneous group, regardless of their previous skills in English or dancing.

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Square Dance Party impressions

In the following workshop on Saturday, 16 April, the workshop participants learned about the significance of rhythm and beat, of timing calls, as well as other basics for calling, in many hands-on activities.

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Andreas Hennecke introduces Square Dance basics for Callers

Prof. Martin gave an overview of implementing Square Dance in teaching English from a didactic perspective, such as didactic-methodological principles of foreign language teaching and the approach of “Learning Through the Arts” (LTTA). Of course there was a lot of dancing, too!

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Isabel Martin discusses the didactics of Square Dance as a foreign language teaching technique
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Hands-on activities and a lot of dancing at the SqD Workshop

The volunteers for the “Teaching English in Laos” project are preparing to take the technique and the underlying approach to Laos in the upcoming fall, in order to teach and inspire the Lao English teachers and learners in fun and innovative ways. We will keep you posted on our progress!

Text by Heike Müller & Sara Stöhrer

Photos by Heike Müller (Laos seminar) & Isabel Martin (SqD Workshop)

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