English has risen as an undisputed global language in the world today. Within multinational classrooms, workplaces, social media conversations, English is the medium most commonly understood and used. Knowing how this global language opens up the world and our chances to explore a wide variety of opportunities, Yuvabe’s volunteer teachers, under guidance of C3Streamland, have been spending time teaching English in the outreach schools.
In resource limited school near Auroville, where many students come from financially and educationally constrained backgrounds, our volunteers are experimenting with ways to overcome the challenges of teaching English to children who have no background of the language, so that the new generation of children may find the world a little more open and accessible for them than it was for their predecessors.
What creates a gap between the teacher and the student when it comes to learning a foreign language? When a single teacher, often in a swollen classroom, uses fast paced instruction, in a language that is not the student’s first, the student is unable to grasp much of the subject matter. It becomes a major hindrance to studying, leading to decrease in classroom participation, and sometimes leading to a negative attitude towards the language itself.
Eventually, how a student feels in the classroom affects not just their academic performance but also their life and interactions outside the school.
To facilitate language acquisition more subconsciously and less forcefully, Yuvabe volunteer teachers use visual and experiential techniques. There are a few attempts at formal ways of teaching and more on natural language acquisition. The aim is to keep the students attentive and interested while the instruction can still be carried out in English.
After observing the English proficiency levels in different grades, the team along with mentors and researchers in Natural language acquisition, devised a set of approaches to make language acquisition easier.
Using the TPR (Total Physical Response) method, our teachers command the students in the English language along with enacting or performing with hand gestures. It essentially mimics the way infants learn their first language, and helps in learning key sentences in the target/second language.
A step above that, the TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading And Storytelling) method uses a mixture of reading and storytelling with TPR. During lessons, the teachers and the students use their expressions and body movements to bring out the text as animatedly as possible.
This technique is seen as fun, stress-free, and the students tend to pay more attention to the lesson while also learning the language. Certain key phrases are also used repeatedly in every new lesson. Like muscle memory, repeating words, phrases and movements, slowly build word association and vocabulary for the students.
The teachers also simplify the complex language bits with drawings, images or doodles. The major benefit of using such methods is that no external learning materials are required, making it very useful for schools with limited resources.
Unlike in conventional methods of language teaching, the primary focus of these techniques is to make the students comfortable with expressing themselves in language, rather than just achieving grammatical perfection.