September 4th, 2014
Today's lesson was about introducing sports to our 8th graders. I was eager to see how the time would pass today because on Monday I had only taught the 45-minute block. Today we would be teaching twice as much. We began the class by asking the students to list off as many sports as they knew. Several of them still shouted out words in Spanish "basketbol!" "futbol!" "natación!" they would say. We reinforced that we would only be listening to words in English. I'm still navigating the Nicaraguan teaching style of listening to students' yell out their answers. I signaled that I wanted them to raise their hands for me to call on them, but even when they raised their hands, they still called out. It will just take some more time to establish this as an expectation. My co-teacher and I ended up miming the several different sports, and the kids enjoyed watching us try to guess what the other was doing. When my co-teacher mimed "billiards", I was completely lost. It made for a fun opening activity. It's neat to watch how excited the kids get when they are trying to guess what a word is. Teaching English to Nicaraguan children without using Spanish is challenging because you have to always think about how you would show a word or phrase to them. It's all about them figuring out the mystery of language. Some times it's easier than others!
After we introduced these words, my co-teacher unexpectedly had to have his 10th graders take some of their tests that they were absent for. He stepped out of the classroom, so I took over. He didn't come back for a while, but I quickly took control of the activities. We then worked in pairs to ask each other what their favorite sports are, and then some of the pairs presented. For now it looks like the same groups of boys are excited to participate, while the girls quietly watch on the sides. I'm noticing how deeply divided the class is based on gender. The boys tend to confidently say their answers, while the girls whisper them. I've had some conversations in private with the girls about what I'm noticing, so I hope it helps. I want everyone in the class to feel comfortable sharing and to participate. For now, the boys are doing most of this. It's fun to work with them, but as a woman and feminist, I'm concerned that the girls don't feel as comfortable being involved.
After a while of having students mime the sports that ranged from tennis to ping pong to cycling, we played "The Nicaraguan Olympics". I didn't know how on Earth I would explain this to the kids in English. Well, I gave it a shot. I just had to show them. They formed groups of 3. Each adopted a sport and a motion. The challenge was for each person to stand up, say and do their sport, and sit down so the next person could get up to do the same. The first group of three finished in about 11 seconds. I wrote their time on the board. I began making it more exciting by clapping and telling them to quickly sit down, and then they picked it up. Soon, teams were competing with one another and the teams of boys kept wanting second chances. The fastest team finished in 3 seconds. I challenged them to finish in 2, but that was impossible. At least today it was.
Last, we played a game of pictionary. I began drawing the sport on the board and the class guessed the word. I definitely need to become better at drawing boxing gloves. I asked if anyone wanted to come up to be an artist. Crickets. No one wanted to. After another round, I began choosing volunteers. Then eventually, they wanted to come up and draw the sports. The class became engaged and more excited eventually! For homework, we assigned them to draw the different sports and name them. One student was able to draw a pool table, and I could tell that some of them really wanted their pictures to look perfect. One of my students was using a cordoba coin to draw a perfect soccer ball. I had been nervous about managing the class once my co-teacher had to walk out, but in all, it was a successful day. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to call on students to volunteer politely, rather than asking them if they wanted to volunteer. I could tell that some of them wanted to participate, but merely asking them wasn't enough. I'm seeing that confidence is an issue, especially with the girls. My goal is to have them speak up more in class and to not whisper when sharing their answers. I'm starting to work toward this girl by having private, positive conversations with the girls during and after class.