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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 3

summer course image 1

For the third year in a row, I was asked to participate in the summer course. This time, not only would I be the English teacher but the organizer. I started looking for teachers in mid-May. As SEP had reduced the summer vacation period and added extra teacher work days, many teachers were less than enthusiastic about committing themselves for the entire summer. As a result, scheduling was a nightmare.

seed name

Then, the popularity of the course swelled our numbers. We ended up having 2 groups of 25 students, although it would have been better had they been divided into 3 groups. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough teachers available to do that. We offered art, music, crafts, English, P.E. and computer classes. The large number of students per group meant that they had to share computers. After the first 2 days, I split the groups even further. I had 10 or so students doing an activity in the adjoining classroom while the rest were using the computers. As each student finished the activity, he or she would take over a computer and send the user to complete the activity. This meant that I was at the school the entire day.

sunflower snack

As the owners of the school had begun construction on the vacant lot, we were not able to use it for planting this year. That seriously impacted my proposed classes. We still did the indoor planting and activities, but it wasn’t nearly as intensive and hands-on as I would have liked. I also added some plant-related crafts and at least once a week we had a “cooking” activity. For instance, one week we planted sunflower seeds in toilet paper tubes, then did some paper ball sunflowers, then construction paper and seed sunflowers, then peanut butter, raisin and celery snacks. When the sunflowers sprouted, we planted them along the edges of the soccer field. Unfortunately, the school gardener thought they were weeds and mowed them down.

planting

I wanted each student to be able to take home a plant at the end of the course again but wasn’t able to find any terracotta pots in the area. I ended having them paint Styrofoam containers instead. I know, not environmentally friendly, but I was desperate. The kids had a good time and rarely missed a day, so all in all, it was a success. Yet I would have liked to have done more.

painting pots

The stress of making sure the teachers arrived on time, supervising during lunch and recess, assuring that the teachers had the materials that they needed for class and the occasional discipline problem or injury was tremendous. Plus, I was also teaching at least 4 of my own private English classes daily in addition to the summer course classes. By August, I was exhausted. I’ve decided to rethink my participation this summer now that my son will be too old to attend.

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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 2–Teaching Agriculture

summer course 2013

I had an incredible inspiration for how I wanted to teach English for the second summer course. The owners of the school had bought the vacant lot next door, and it would be just the thing to plant.. All my teaching would be centered around the hands-on growing activities. I was so excited!

searching for corn

We had enough students to divide the class into two. Ages 4-8 were in one class. Ages 9-13 in another class. We offered music, P.E., art, and computer classes as well. I had to make some modifications for the difference in the age groups, but not much.

toiliet paper seedlings

So we planted. We planted starter seeds in toilet paper tubes. We planted test plants (one with no sun, one with no water, one with too much water, one well cared for) in soda bottles. We planted corn, beans and squash (See also Planting with the three sisters) in the vacant lot. We also planted sunflowers, but they didn’t really grow.

plowing

We brought Fiona, our donkey, to till up the lot. My husband, son and I actually came the day before to work the land because the dirt was packed down. The kids didn’t care that they weren’t actually breaking ground. They loved following Fiona around.starters

Then we planted, watered, weeded, added fertilizer when the plants yellowed and tromped merrily through the mud every other day. On inside days, this was the rainy season, after all, we learned about plant parts, discovered the difference between fruit and vegetables, attended to our indoor seedlings, learned about beneficial insects and the growing process, sang and generally had a good time. When our seedlings were ready, we transplanted them into pots they had made in art class.

transplant

The final day of class we invited the parents to see what we had learned. Each child received a sprouting tomato plant to grow in their backyard. Since the corn was not yet ready for harvesting, we invited everyone back in October for a Harvest Festival, which was another smashing success. We played wheelbarrow, rode Fiona, picked and toasted our very own corn, had sack races and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

wheelbarrow

It may seem strange that this type of activity was so enjoyable to semi-rural Mexican children. It just so happens that this particular group of students were townies, at least, 2 generations removed from the farmers their grandparents were. Moroleon had an industrial boom some time back and now all the adults work in clothing factories, not in the fields. In just one generation, the children had lost their connection to the natural world and oh the joy in rediscovering it!

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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 1–The Thematic Approach

As summer approaches, it’s time to consider if I will teach a summer course for the fourth year, or if I will take the summer off. It has been a great way to supplement my income during the vacation period and up until now, my son could attend with me. This year, however, he has reached the cut-off age of 13 and although he has volunteered to be an assistant, I think that our time might best be spent in other educational activities.

The first year that I taught English during a 5-week summer course was extremely challenging. I had 22 students that ranged in ages from 5 to 13. All my students were ESL learners with an extremely mixed level of English abilities. Therefore, I had to be creative with my English language teaching approach.

I decided to use a thematic approach. Each day would have a different topic. All activities would be centered on that topic. There would be a variety of activities so that all the students could participate to the best of their abilities. It would be fun because, after all, this was a summer course.

pirate kid

One day our theme was pirates. We sang (I played the piano) some rousing pirate songs. We learned pirate words. We talked about commands in English grammar. We role-played. We made eye patches and hooks. We designed a pirate ship. We made treasure maps. It was great!

farmer kid

Another day our theme was farming. We sang Old MacDonald and played the Farmer in the Dell. We talked about present tense. We planned our gardens and farms. We talked about animal sounds and names. It was great!

circus kids

Yet another day was about the circus. We talked about conditional tense and imagined “If I were in the circus, I would…. ” We sang The Man on the Flying Trapeze. We drew clowns. We made a construction paper big top. We learned circus words. It was great!

And so on and so forth. I must admit it took an incredible amount of planning for each class, but the result was well worth the effort. The school also offered music, P.E., cooking, art, and computer classes to round out the day. Those students that attended were disappointed when our summer course was finished. And that’s the way a good summer course should make a student feel.

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