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Teaching in Malawi...

 
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justjess



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 2:29 am    Post subject: Teaching in Malawi... Reply with quote

Hi there!

I am planning on going to Malawi, Africa in January; they have asked me to teach English in some of their schools. One of the schools that I will be spending most of my time at is out in the bush. I was there for a couple weeks this year, but feel very unprepared!! Out in the bush, the amount of supplies will be very limited, and money will be virtually non-existent. As far as I can tell, the classroom will have a variety of ages and many different levels of English exposure. I'm looking for some advice on where to start!

Thanks!
Jessica
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1368
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suggest you start reading posts by Sally Olsen, who has amazed us all by her wealth of experience and her interesting ideas of how to communicate and teach students from a variety of different backgrounds and ages in many different locations. You can use the "Search" button above.
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1306
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Lorikeet. I am blushing. It is just that I am so old and had so many opportunities in different kinds of teaching jobs for which I am grateful.

I have taught in the "bush" on the Amazon in Peru. There was a leaf covered hut with woven grass walls and a dirt floor. The teachers there made $5 a day - that was quite awhile ago so I hope they make more now but was essentially a volunteer position.

I was amazed at what they did with nothing. They used the dirt floor as their chalkboard and the children wrote in the dirt whether it was for Spanish, English, Mathematics, Art, Music or any of the other subjects. It was essentially a dirt blackboard and worked just fine and dirt notebooks which worked while they were in the classroom. For homework they carved in wood. The teachers were very knowledgeable about plants and animals in the area and taught them life cycles by taking them out in the jungle and showing them. They taught them about local plants and what medicinal properites they had and which to avoid. Of course, their parents did this too. They sang endlessly and played games. They had a regular day with Language Arts for an hour and a half, recess, Mathematics for an hour, Music, Art, Science, Social Studies and so on. Just no textbooks or notebooks but they still wanted to learn. Their English was good because they wanted to talk to the tourists.

The tour organizers (we were on a boat and stopped in a different village every day) asked us bring along supplies for the schools and so I brought felt pens and notebooks. One fellow brought along a Polaroid camera, took their pictures and left it with them. That was a huge hit. I also brought along my animal balloons and they loved those.

If I were going to teach there for any length of time, I would buy a can of blackboard paint and lots of coloured chalk. You can paint anything flat from old metal to cardboard to make a blackboard and make smaller ones for the children to write on - we used to call them slate boards I think.

I would buy as many little finger puppets as I could afford. They are about $7 in Canada. They have ones that are designed to teach familiar English stories like "Three Little Pigs" and "Little Red Riding Hood". Once you have shown the children how a story play works they will start to make their own puppets and tell their own stories. You can write these down and print them out when you come back to send to them as books.

I would take my digetal camera with a huge card and take as many pictures as I could to make books for them after I came back. Take pictures that would make a good phonics story - Sam sat on the mat, kind of thing with appropriate names of the children. Lots of sequences - little girl making bread, little boy getting ready to go to school, Mom off to the water well and what she does there. I would take a lot of pictures of their dirt art.

I think I would buy a paper making kit at the craft store. You can make paper from fluff, from various types of plants. The children love making paper as much as writing on it. You can write with berry ink so I would buy some old fashioned pens that you dip in "ink" or collect bird feathers if they have the right birds there.

I think I would read everything I could on Malawi from its history to its animal and plant population so that I could pass that on to the children in some way. Life cycle of the local animals, how to grow plants in that area, how to get rid of weeds. It will take a real search on the Internet but I bet most things have been studied. I imagine the United Nations has some ideas of how to increase crop yeild or herd health and so on.

Do you have pictures of the school already? You can take them to a printer and get them made into a little box. Cut a coin size hole in the top and pass them out to everyone you know. People can keep them near their front door and unload their change into them when they come home. Arrange to pick them up twice a year or so and you will have some funds to buy supplies for the school.

I had a small light cloth with everything you needed to teach English on it from the alphabet in upper and lower case, numbers written out and in numerical form, vowels were in different colours in the alphabet, the four directions, words that were hard to spell like enough, drought. I can't quite remember what else was on that small cloth but you could have cloth books, cloth pictures with words on them to illustrate colours, transportation, sports and such and they wouldn't take much room. I even had a skirt with positive words on them and one in black with white writing with negative words on them. You have to have special fabric crayons or pens but the chldren love it when you wear a shirt they have written on and decorated. Just be sure to edit their work for spelling before they write on your shirt or skirt.

I always think people are amazing and we did educate people with very little years ago so it is possible with some imagination and some research on our eduational history.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1368
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

See? Wink I rest my case. Thanks, Sally Very Happy Always interesting to read about your experiences.
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1306
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Mongolia I had a t-shirt with the upper body skeleton and major organs on it and that was great for First Aid. I forgot to mention to buy a wilderness First Aid book and you can teach from that. I hope you never have to use it.

Do they have a dictionary of their own language or the official language to English? You could start that if not so take lots of paper to record the words.

I don't know how they feel about tatoos but I went to the dollar store before I went anywhere and got lots, also stickers, map of the world on cloth or in plastic.

I always took along a parachute canopy and used it for games, for making a shelter in cold (you sit on the edges around it and hold it up with your heads. It gets very warm in there from all the bodies. Make sure you have several layers under your bottom though or your bottom gets cold). For hot days we strung it up in the trees as shade. I even slept in it a couple of times when accomodation was scarce. Make sure it is at the bottom of your bag though or the airline officials will be suspicious. I spent an hour in interrogation when going to Isreal once but I had my "Parachute Games" book and could show them what I was going to do. I think it is still available from Amazon.uk.

I always tried to remember the story of the well that one of the Peace Corps members told me about. One of the keen young men on assignment in Africa saw that the women were walking a long distance for water every day so for his task he set himself to digging a well. It took him months of course. As soon as he left the village, the women secretly filled in the well because they wanted to walk the hour a day to the well to get away from the children, husbands and work in the fields.


Last edited by Sally Olsen on Mon Aug 13, 2007 3:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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justjess



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2007 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to both of you! Sally, all your ideas seem so practical and helpful; I can't wait to put them into play! I too was impressed with the creativity of the native people...they do so much with virtually nothing. I've been reading as much as I can about the culture, language, crops, religion, everything. That has been very helpful. Their main language is Chichewa, and I have found some sites that offer dictionaries. The only problem is that there are so many different tribal dialects, I'm not sure where to start, or if Chichewa is the dialect that is spoken out there. Thankfully, I've been emailing some of the people that I met on my first trip there, so I can start asking them some of these questions too! I appreciate all of your wisdom! Thanks for the wonderful ideas!

Jess
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1306
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just remembered that I took two towels to Greenland with a snakes and ladders and checker board on them. I think there is some material in the Yardgoods stores that has streets and houses on them for small cars, trucks and so on and those small cars are usually cheap at the dollar store. They usually have little plastic animals as well. You can use them for movers in a game after they know the names in English.

I wanted to get a book company that makes a picture dictionary like Oxford or "Let's Go" picture dictionary to make the same thing on cloth so the teachers could take them to the small counrty schools that were held in ger (yurts) in Mongolia. You could use the material for pratical things like table cloths, sheets, curtains, when the children have learned that particularl topic. You could also write their word for it under the Englilsh word. Oxford do have bilingual dicitonaries (Spanish, Japanese) so perhaps could print all the languages on the cloth dictionaries. I thought about games on cloth too - bingo cards made from the pictures on the page of the picture dicitionary, snakes and ladders with math problems. Any worksheet could be put on cloth. The children would fill them in with washable crayons or pens and then you could wash them for the next class.

We did make a picture dictionary in Greenland with just Greenlandic pictures. I think that is the most valuable thing to do with your digetal camera. The children relate so well to seeing something they are familiar with from their houses to the store to the school and so on. We put 20 words on a page around the edge of the picture with a line to the object named. At the bottom we put a verb or two that we use to make a sentence. Example, "is" "are" so the children could write, "This is my nose." "There are two ears on my head." "My eyes are brown". when doing the body. The older children wrote involved stories, such as, "I get my blue eyes from a Danish great grandfather.". We posted the corrected stories in the room so everyone could read them. Then we made a book out of them to read when the next set was ready. Those were the most borrowed books in the library.

Hope that you keep us posted on your adventures.


Last edited by Sally Olsen on Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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justjess



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The idea of using fabric is fantastic! My time in Malawi will be on a volunteer basis, so I'm going to have to take most of my materials with me. This means finding lightweight materials that I can pack along with all the other things that I will need for my stay. Fabric and plastics will be ideal, and I hadn't even thought of them. I'm going out shopping ASAP Very Happy Your ideas are so fresh and pratical...and since you've used them before, I know they work! Thanks so much!
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1306
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was surprised myself when I went to the local Fabricland to see how many good teaching things there are. There were three or four materials with the alphabet on them - one with animals for every letter, one with a variety of objects and one with transportation - A for automobile, B for bus type thing. There were a lot of quilt panels with really good pictures - a farm yard, Noah's Ark, insects, trees, flowers, and sports equipment of all sorts. They were all on sale at this time of year too. They also had holiday panels with Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Easter and Hallowe'en. I wish I had thought of this myself before I went places. I hauled along poster board and holiday decorations and these would have been much lighter and cheaper. A good poster is often $7 or more at the teacher's store.
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1306
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Visited another fabric store and found all these great patterns printed on cloth. There was a polar bear, Raggedy Ann and Andy which would be great for body parts. I think I would make puppets out of them when I arrived - they would store flat for transport though.

Just remembered that I took along seeds as well to start little gardens for the kids. We used whatever we could find from the garbage for containers - old plastic soda bottles cut back, tin cans and decorated them somehow for gifts for Mother's Day, birthdays. I sure had a hard time finding good soil in Mongolia - couldn't find anything with worms in it until we went into the countryside where they had herds of animals and got some manure and sand from the river bank. Beans are the quickest to grow and show the best, particularly scarlet runner beans and then you can eat them. Grass is always great for hair when you make animals out of unusual shaped containers - we had some clay in the river near us and made hollowed out animal shapes, filled them with dirt when they dried and planted the grass. I grew lettuce for the hamburgers the North American foreigners craved once in awhile. Seeds are cheap now too at the end of the season in North America. Flowers grown from seeds make great gifts when you are invited to someone's house.

I think I mentioned in a former post that I took everything in hockey bags as somehow the airlines seem to be more generous with the weight. Hockey bags are usually in great demand. You can mention to the baggage handlers where you are going and why to get sympathy pounds off - doesn't hurt to have a baggage tag with the picture of the school on it.
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