In August GVI volunteers were invited to Wat Phao Temple School to run a summer programme for the Novice Monks who live there. Wat Phao is the most prestigious temple school in the area and this was the first time we had been asked to provide lessons during the school holidays; so GVI volunteers and staff were delighted to accept the invitation and rose to the challenge of providing innovative and fun activities for the students.
As the classes would be optional for the students, we did not use the Cambridge certified textbooks as we do during the school term. Instead, we devised a programme concentrating firstly on science and geography, and secondly on an intensive phonics programme that was designed to introduce the new arrivals at the Temple to the sounds of the English language and to reinforce the older students spelling and reading abilities.
The geography unit included using world maps and country flags to identify and place continents, oceans, seas and countries. The students also learned vocabulary to describe different weather conditions and were able to write and present a weather forecast for provinces in Laos. They learned to use a thermometer and a rain gauge and to record data using block and line graphs. Having recorded the data, they then interpreted it; comparing rainfall and temperature for different provinces. In doing so, they were learning the days of the week, months of the year, numbers, mathematical calculations to work out averages and comparatives – hotter, colder, more, less, the highest, the lowest and so on. The students also learnt the basic elements of the water cycle.
The biology unit included learning the characteristics of things that are alive: movement, the ability to eat and drink, the ability to breathe, reproduction (plants only!!), growth and excretion. The students were introduced to the process of photosynthesis to illustrate the fact that plants make their own food and excrete oxygen and water. This was a completely new concept for them and they found it fascinating. The students also learnt how insects pollinate plants to create new seeds.
The phonics programme used the multisensory Jolly Phonics system, which we have introduced to all our beginner classes. Each letter sound has an accompanying action. Students and teachers have fun miming out words and students discover that they are able to spell long words if they listen for individual sounds and that they can decode new words when they are reading if they can identify the letters and sounds together.
To reinforce the phonics learning, Dr. Seuss's ‘Cat in the Hat’ story was converted to PowerPoint and used in the classrooms so that the students could participate in a shared reading experience.The teachers and students read the story together – with expression! The words containing letter sounds that had been taught appeared in red so that students could quickly identify and read them. The class was invited to find words that sound the same as each other, further reinforcing the idea that new words need not present too much difficulty. Students could also follow the story by looking at the illustrations. This approach proved enormously successful; most children in Laos do not have story-books at home so having a story presented to them was a treat that they enjoyed. The whole class could participate to a greater or lesser degree in an unpressurized environment; some students even volunteered to read aloud alone in front of the class. This was a terrific achievement for both the students and their teachers.
Thank you for your continued support.