RCEF provides free, enriching education to children in rural China. We support rural elementary school teachers as they implement innovative teaching methods in Chinese villages. One of our partner teachers, Ms. Wang Yanzhen, teaches engaging Reading Classes to students at Xiaochao Elementary School.
Her students have read literature ranging from Tang dynasty poems to stories about dreams, animals, science, and the environment. Through in-class activities and teacher facilitation, students have gained understanding of the literary themes and shown great improvement in their reading habits. As a result of the coaching and support she has received from RCEF, Ms. Wang has already been invited by other NGOs and schools in China to share her teaching experiences and insights with more rural teachers. Some of these lessons are below.
Children in rural China don't usually have access to books in their homes or schools, and independent reading outside of the textbook is rare. Ms. Wang found that "...when students read in class, they could only concentrate for about twenty minutes so I adjusted the time into 10 minutes of sharing interesting plots with each other, 20 minutes of sustained, silent eading, and 10 minutes of storytelling activities. For example, we read Shixi Chen's animal-themed books together. The students and I discussed interesting parts of the plots, read the books together, and told stories. The students' interest never ceased, they read the books carefully, and traded the books with each other."
Learning to Discuss
Ms. Wang found that when she asked students to form small groups to answer questions, or have a group discussion, there were always a few students who did not participate, worked on other homework, or just acted lazy. She explains her response: "Now I first give my students time to write down their thoughts and then have group discussion. This allows every student to contribute their unique ideas. In one activity where I asked students for their opinion about Shixi Chen, the author, I did not expect that they would come up with so many attributes: smart, curious, brave, imaginative, loving, persistent, etc. From the look of things, this activity definitely benefited the children."
Learning to Create
After reading, Ms. Wang encourages her students to create. "I asked to use different kinds of tree leaves to create collages that showed their love for animals. This method encouraged students to investigate their natural environment and, cultivated their imagination, and aesthetic sensitivity through active practice. Students had a passion for it! It was the first time for students to participate in this kind of activity. I was very suprised when I was looking at all my students' work. For example, Haojie He does not really like to speak and he fails to take most of his reading homework seriously. For this assignment, however, he pasted different kinds of leaves together to create a suit with wings. He hoped to make it so that everyone in the world could fly. Xuening Jia, who is often quiet and has a hard time expressing herself created a butterfly flying in a flower field."
During the creation process, my students said that at first they felt they wouldn't be able to do it, but through effort they discovered that they were able to do a good job. Also, during the activity a few students followed the tree leaves characteristics to decide what to make. So although the original requirement was for students to create their favorite animal, they ended up making various kinds of animals, adapting to the materials and coming up with new ideas."
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