Last week in… lesson planning!

Ok, so this in one part in my “Last week in…” series.  I may or may not type the other parts.  It all depends on how much I really want to go cook my dinner.  So here we go.

Last week in lesson planning I  had a brilliant idea to try and combine teaching, cultural exchange, and showing the students that I am not a scary, polysyllabic-english-speaking monster.  I also had decided to continue the “Word Processor,” lessons into typing and wanted to introduce the students to a new word processor, hoping to show them they could easily adapt and that Microsoft Word is not the end all be all.  So here’s what I did:

I went around and installed the PortableApps version of AbiWord.  Then I came up with a song playlist.  It included “Swing Life Away,” by Rise Against, “Imagine,” by John Lennon and “Rhapsody in Blue,” by Gershwin.  The hypothesis behind it was that the first song might be hard for a Kenyan to connect with, the second would blatantly provide concepts radically different from what most Kenyans grow up hearing and the third would just be noise.  I also printed out lyrics so that they could follow along with the words, because heck, even I cannot sometimes understand lyrics when sung, and I am a native speaker of the language!

The exercise was split into two parts, each to encourage typing.  The first part included writing your name, serial number, song title (copied from lyrics sheet) and song artist (also from lyrics sheet).  The second part was total free association.  I wanted the students to just type whatever words came to mind as they listened to the song.  This would help with multitasking and typing skills. I even told them they could type in whatever language they felt.  Ultimately, as long as they were hitting deliberate keys, I didn’t care.  We also would listen to each song three times.  The first time without even looking at the computer just to get a feel for the song, the second and third times typing along.  They did not have to write sentences, only single words.

Here are the results:

My first class had some trouble getting through the explicit writing part.  It tooks much more time than expected trying to get them to properly type and format their names, serial numbers, song titles and artist names.  Once they did get through that they thoroughly enjoyed the music, though ultimately they ended up not meshing with the instructions, instead mostly preferring sentences to single words.  Ultimately though I did not care because they were typing either way.  There was also some confusion because many in the class thought I wanted them to use one word only to describe the whole song.  I cleared that up and typing soon commenced.

My second class had less difficulty than the first with the explicit instructions, but I believe this in part is due to some advice given to me by another volunteer, Ari.  He said that when he is teaching computers he makes sure to show everybody first.  This was something that was out of my mind.  I was too annoyed that I didn’t have a projector to demonstrate to everyone that I forgot I could just make everyone get up and watch me do it on one of the computers. 

So I did.  I wasn’t even following my own rules of learning, which I have explicitly written on the board: Hear it, See it, Do it.  I was completely forgetting to implement step two!  Writing things on the board like this was thanks to comments from Andy. Though I am unsure if anyone ultimately reads them the objectives for each lesson are now on the board.  After that, their free association was about as on par as the first group.

Finally, my third group.  At this point, far too much time had gone into the explicit instructions section of typing and far too little into the free association section.  In the first two classes I had not even gotten to play “Rhapsody,” and was thus determined to expedite the process.  I forgoed the explicit section completely, and opted to ensure they kids were typing words.  It worked.  I also explicity stated I did not want to see sentences, but just a list of words.  This worked wonders.  People were writing down words which I could easily attribute to at least a pseudo free associate exercise.  As free as a Kenyan mind can get perhaps when under the eye of a teacher.  Gah, why do they fear teachers so much (that’s a rhetorical question completely)?!  I considered class three my biggest success.

I also discovered that to my suprise, the song best receieved was “Swing Life Away,” by Rise Against.  So much did the students like the lyrics, they took my sheets! And I only had limited copies!  I had to sneak into the principal’s office to make more.  Shhh, don’t tell…  Also, there was not so much outcry against “Imagine,” but honestly I don’t know how much there should have/would have been anyway, so I am not going to make any generalizations there.

By the end of the third class, I had considered the lesson planning a success, with a few tweaks in the middle.  But what good is teaching if you’re not learning at the same time?

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