Friday, 24 May 2013

A huge improvement - Zamukulungisa Primary School - Day 2

Millie Jones writes about her groups 3 day stint at Zamukulungisa Primary School -

Today was much better, having planned lessons that acknowledged the approach to learning that we observed yesterday we were able to work with the children in a way that felt familiar to them whilst allowing opportunity for us incorporate aspects that we believed would be beneficial. Really we wanted the teacher to see how combining drama with other lessons is a great way to keep the children engaged whilst educating them at the same time.

According to the South African 'freestyle' approach to timekeeping we arrived at the school 30 minutes late for our 8am lesson. When we walked into the classroom they were all sitting patiently, waiting for us to begin. We jumped straight into it feeling quietly confident, Chanika was to write down the work on the board, Sophie was to lead and I was to assist. 

Our lesson was pretty repetitive and very simple. Sophie would do an action, for example, she would jump, she then repeated the phrase 'I am jumping' with the class joining in as a whole. Each action required them to actively 'do' something, which appeared to give them great pleasure. Then it was my turn: 'Millie is .....' 

I soon realised that the higher I jumped, or the stupider I laughed, the more engaged the students were. The looks exchanged between the students were a mixture of delight and shock- it was clear this was not the type of lesson they were used to. 

The lesson went extremely well and the 10am break was filled with excitement and discussion that the previous day had lacked. I learnt a lot from our work, aside from refreshing my memory on the technicalities of present progressive tense, I began to really understand to need for repetition. I noticed the teacher yesterday doing it and it was clear that repeating the answer is an integral part of their learning a new language, but it felt like a tool that forced the children to memorise rather than understand. However, it felt today that through the use of active engagement that the students wanted to repeat the tasks and their enjoyment allowed them to subconsciously learn.

After the lesson had ended we were quickly passed to a different teacher who asked us to lead a fitness class. Of course we recruited Caitlin to do this and said we would assist. The class revolved around relay races which were enjoyable but highlighted how unfit we all are- even Caitlin got outrun by some students. After some team appreciation time which included shouting 'Su-per He-roes' for a prolonged amount of time, taking group photos,  and generally just disturbing the rest of the school, it was time to re-group and begin our second and last workshop before tomorrow's performance.. *gulp*. 

We played some warm up games that built upon exercises from yesterday, and although the language barrier was still restricted their comprehension of the tasks they still managed to creat some great work. It was lovely to see that through the use of images language barriers can be broken. One boy wants to be a pilot and so the whole class crated a plane around him; a plane looks like the same no matter what language you speak- it was clear that there was ways in which we could share common ground. 

After a positive start the workshop almost came to a full stop. The heat and the fitness class were beginning to take its toll and the pressure of creating a performance for tomorrow was draining us all. Finally in one last bid to engage the quickly distracted class we asked if anyone had a story they would like to tell us, after some persuading D.J (that's not his real name) began to talk. With her pen at the ready Chanika listened carefully, hoping to make note of anything that we could turn into a performance. 

'There was a young boy and his nan' he said, we were excited, 'one day the boy asked if they could cook each other', excitement quickly turned to confusing but Chanika continued to write. D.J carried on his story which concluded with the boy killing his granny and feeding her to his unsuspecting friends. We were in no position to be fussy, and Chanika still feeling positive powered on encouraging the group to act out the story, the group speaking in their own language and D.J playing the role of translator. 

It actually worked well as a piece of theatre, and so, with no time to spare, we finally had a piece to show for the following day. 

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