Since I’ve come to Huanchaco, I’ve been helping with one project that supports an area I’m passionate about: educating children. This project is called HELP English, which aims to deliver English lessons in the local state-run, public primary schools.
English has only very recently become part of the mandatory curriculum here in Peru, and very few local teachers have the skills necessary to deliver it in the classroom.
Improving the curriculum with interactive activities
I spent my first week assisting with different classes across different schools, to get a feel for what levels the children were working at, how they learn and what motivates them. Next, I began to look at improving the curriculum, starting with grades 1 and 2. It was clear that the children needed lots of short activities so that they remained engaged throughout the hour long lesson. Furthermore, I found important to develop interactive activities that keep the kids motivated and, most importantly, exercises to understand how we pronounce and spell our English words. And of course, all this needed to be set within a framework that demonstrates progress and consolidation.
A blackboard for every child in the class
I’m a primary school teacher with 20 years experience in UK schools, as well as experience of teaching English to primary-aged children in Kenya. This puts me in an excellent position to upgrade the English teaching here.
Using letters, sounds and Jolly Phonics (a fun and child centred approach to teaching literacy through synthetic phonics) as my principal resources, I began by mapping out the main teaching objectives – I do love an excuse to get out the old Excel spreadsheets.
Then, I began to write some more detailed lesson plans and discovered that I could really use some simple teaching resources – a washing line and a class set of individual blackboards – to really good effect. Happily, there’s the Peruvian version of B&Q (a British home improvement store) just a short bus ride away, in Trujillo. Here’s how you get to make this exceedingly useful teaching tool:
Next step – trial them with our children….! With my fellow teachers Kristiina, James, we took all the teaching resources up to a local school in Las Lomas, a short steep walk from the Otra Cosa‘s office, where we team-taught our first lesson with the blackboards. How exciting that was! The kids were so motivated and engaged. It caught us by surprise how they remained on-task throughout the lesson. Don’t they look happy with the work they are doing?
Next teaching challenges
Since then, I have returned a couple more times to the school to teach and evaluate the lesson with my fellow volunteers.
With my colleagues, we are confident we are making a culturally-relevant curriculum that is keeping “los niños” engaged and on-task. These lessons form the solid foundation for the kids to move forwards with their English learning into grade 3 and beyond.
Our next challenge is to shoot a video about some of this teaching over the next couple of weeks – watch this space for it. This will give access for future volunteers to some good teaching methods and allow them to make the most of their time in the classroom.
To sum it up, the HELP English project is meeting a real need in and around Huanchaco, where the local teachers speak little or no English, and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to support this initiative.
This blog was written by Louise Heppleston.