Smiling faces can only mean one thing…BOOKS!

September has come and gone, I can hardly believe how quickly. Our Partnership grant was filled in August, and we were able to order the textbooks the first weekend in September. They were delivered about a week later. This is roughly our third week teaching with the Cambridge books, and it’s been fantastic. One of the things that I’ve heard kids say repeatedly is that these books are easy. Oh, music to my ears!

It’s been fantastic to see the changes that have come over the lessons in this short time. Kids are doing their homework. They’re coming into class, talking about how many English games they’d played from the CD last night, how often they had to replay certain ones until they’d gotten everything right. They’re raising their hands, and they’re enjoying learning!

I’ve been blown away by the progress of two seventh grade girls,  in particular. This time last year, when I was coaxing a word out of Karina, the rest of the class would whisper the answer at her until, frustrated, they would shout at me not to bother, that she doesn’t know and never will. The amount of times I’ve heard this from students and teachers is staggering. Just don’t bother. The poor kids look shell shocked as I kneel down next to their desk and don’t give up. Cut to last week in class, when Karina and Katya raised their hands at every question, and answered so perfectly that I started to sneak around their desks, eyeing their laps for teacher’s books or something. Nope, just excitement. Absolutely amazing. I gave them really high marks that day, hugged them, and told them how happy and proud I was. It just takes a little encouragement, and a lot of engagement.

While the partnership portion of the grant (lovely American donors) covered textbooks and accompanying software, the portion provided by the community (over 28% of the total budget) covered classroom technology. This weekend a whiteboard, projector and ePresenter were installed in the classroom. My counterpart and I went back and forth on the issue of smartboards for months–with me insisting that money could be better spent elsewhere, citing several cases where a school’s volunteer got them a smartboard and it sat, unused  in the show classroom. Oh, the show classroom, a very special thing. It’s where all the fancy technical classroom resources go on display–and are never used. Ever. The room exists solely for photographic purposes. I would not let our classroom be that room. But, Olga had different plans, and was convinced of a smartboard’s utility.

Now that it’s here I have to admit, it’s pretty cool. It’s certainly far more technologically advanced than anything I had growing up, and even at UCSD I don’t remember ever seeing a smartboard. It’s only been here two days, so I’m still learning how to most effectively use it. I’m planning on doing some pretty extensive research and hosting some teacher training seminars to familiarize the English teachers (and anyone else who’d like to learn) with the most effective methods of incorporating it into lessons effectively. Have I mentioned the emphasis I want to put on effective use? Effective. There will be no blundering and blind clicking on my watch, oh no. This thing, since it’s here, will not be wasted.

For now, for the past two days, I’ve been using it mainly as a way to fill the last five minutes of class before the bell rings, or the passing period between classes. The textbooks came with software that each student has installed on their home computer–the aforementioned games. Turns out, when those games are projected on a whiteboard, the whole class gets involved. Made me realize that we seriously need to practice how to give directions in English. The projector on whiteboard combo is also brilliant for fill in the blanks, now every student can see what’s going on! Crossword puzzles and word searches, here we come!

Enjoy this video, and the gallery below!


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