As with many schools (i guess) mine is jumping on the ASEAN bandwagon and using it as a clever little marketing strategy.
I have an idea which will both suit their sales methods, and do a fair amount of good for the kids (and maybe for me too).
I would like to find schools in some of the ASEAN countries and suggest to them the idea of starting a penpal scheme between out k3 students.
I have not yet put a huge amount of thought into, but at the moment how I would do it is by arranging fairly simple but relevant topics with their teachers, spending a lesson or so each month of pre-teaching or fine tuning the language, then getting each student in the class to write a small number of lines on the back of a hand drawn post card...
Personally I would suggest topics that are both universal but also reflect the cultural differences; like our daily routines, or our taste in food. These sort of things will highlight the fact that each country has a national identity, while as the same time showing the kids that many traits/likes/etc. are shared.
So, maybe once a month we would recieve a bag full of postcards, which I would read out to the class. We would then talk a bit about what surprised us, about what similarities there were, etc.
At this point I don't know whether I would encourage students to pick/be given individual pen pals, or to keep it as a class to class thing. Any thoughts?
I have three k3 classes in my school, so I was thinking about setting it up with schools in Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Any thoughts?
If anybody knows of any schools in any ASEAN countries (though perhaps not inter schools, as my students' English is not that hot), then I would be most grateful for contact info.
Thanks in advance
This is a great idea. I did something similar one year in Korea. I had my students exchange letters with a class in Canada. It was more of a cultural exchange more than anything, but it also got my them writing and interested in learning about the world.
I would be up for this again. My students would be from South Korea. I would think that this would work better with my students in grade five or six from past experience. My grade three students wouldn't be able to write very much at all. How old are your students?
What does K3 mean? Kindergarten?
I've done a number of pen-pal exchanges with my Korean students and they've been great for generating interest but logistically they can be a bit difficult. It also doesn't help that every country's school year is a bit different.
From what I understand, the plan is to co-ordinate all school years for ASEAN countries, and also somehow set universal standards of education and assesment... should be a giggle.
My students only go up to kindergarten 3, so about 6 years old. Most of them can't write freely/openly, hence why I would suggest quite defined topics and give them sets of simple, personalizable templates.
I wouldn't be getting them to write letters, I would be getting them to write a handfull of sentences each on the back of a post card. For example; if we had decided that 1 batch of letters would be about food that the students like... I would simply put on the board a couple of simple template ("I like to eat... / I don't like to eat..."). To complete the sentences they can look in their vocab books, look at the posters in their classrooms or can ask me/another teacher/a friend.
The idea isn't about writing. It is about getting them to think and consider things. 1 obvious benefit would be to get them to consider and think about other cultures, and hopefully get away from all the misconceptions about Laos/Burma/Cambodia that a lot of older kids have at the moment.
Another point is to get them thinking about how they are going to write this postcard... the idea that the answers are all around them and they need only to look for them. They can look through their text books, through their vocab books, look on posters or ask other people. I am hoping that over time students will only come to ask something when they have already exhausted other options open to them. When we are doing certain exercises in the textbooks, often students will ask me "teacher, how do you spell bla bla bla?" I am hoping that over time they will realise that, for example, last week we did a load of work on bla bla bla and they can probably find the answer there for themselves.
One major theory of language acquisition is that of social interaction - the idea that humans, and especially kids, are social animals and that language is acquired (certainly L1) as a means to fill this need for social interactions. For students of English in Thailand (or all EFL situations), speaking English doesn't often give many tangible, real life benefits for the child as almost every situation they CAN communicate fine in just Thai. Whether this ASEAN thing works out as the countries plan or not is irrelevent to my idea. I am hoping to give my students a situation whereby English is the only way to communicate.
Assuming that this penpal idea goes as I would like it to, then wouldn't it be great if my students moved to a different school next year but still decided to keep in contact with their penpals? How cool would it be for 2 kids from different, but similar cultures, to keep writing to each other, with the level of communication moving on as their English improved and their world view and ideas became more varied?
I think that would be cool.
I guess I heard it on the forum somewhere, but searching ajarnforum.net is a bit like... mmm...
Well, it's a bit like not searching ajarnforum.net
As an adult, I have been penpals with adults in China and France. This was 20 years ago though. Most people use email these days as it is faster and more convenient.
Check this site out for penpals for children. It may give you some ideas.
You can find penpals from every part of the world. Perhaps you can find penpals for your class.
I can't see it being time cossuming really. I have sent a number of emails to schools in various countries... that will be the only time consuming part of the plan.
Other than that it will be maybe 1 hour a month - half an hour reading the postcards we have recieved and another half an hour to write out our short postcards.
Thanks for the link - I will check it out just now, but I really want this to be a combined effort with another school.
For me the students are too young but the idea is great. My Grade 5 and 6 are now on their 4th set of penapls, the first three sent intial responses and then nothing back after we sent the second lot of letters. I get very pissed off with poepl who start something and the don't finished it
I know it is too young to be able to get the most out of it, but to me it seems a bit win win. This is the sort of thing we spend half hour here and there doing anyway... if we have been studying about likes/dislikes with regard to food then I will often get them to write a few lines and draw a picture for a wall poster type thing... in those situations I still have to put up templates for them, and help out with wording -
the only difference is that these we will post them off rather than put them on the wall. It will give it all a bit more meaning and a lot more value (in my mind, at least).
Plus, even taking the benefits for the students out of it... it will look great on the school's website, parents will like it and my boss has already praised me for the idea. Makes the school look good, makes me look good (I want the best for my students but I am not all altruism)