english class

Markers, Blokus, and Picture Books

Yesterday was the first official day of programs for Summer Session Two (ss2 from here on out).

The day started early; 7:30am found half the group prepping for language school at the house and the other half out at Christian's with Eliah working on the community garden project. After lunch we split again; Priya, Tim, Mari, Michael, Taylor and Sarah headed out to the library to teach English class, play ping-pong in the teen center, and read with the 35+ kids who showed up, while Meghan, Scott, Ryan and Fiona joined Jocelyn in kicking off another 3-week English class in San Juan, our neighboring community. Follow that with women's exercise, family dinner, board games at the dining room table, and Spanish homework, once we actually took a breath, stretched our bones and realized how exhausted we were, it was already 11:30pm... summer around here is anything but dull!

(Michael reads with Issac Suntaxi Suntaxi (seriously that's his name, amazing))

(Priya and Selena put some important details on their cat drawing)

(Mari and Priscilla contemplate their next moves in Blokus)

(Selena and Wendy crack me and Michael up)

(Sarah and Taylor lead English class)

(Tim and Sarah excite the kids with an English memory game)

Los Muchachos Dulces

(Today's guest blog comes from Jocelyn, who as I type is most likely flying through the rainforest with all the summer volunteers on the ziplines out in Mindo!)

"After hosting such amazing volunteer groups during spring break season, all of us here at MPIE have been eagerly awaiting our newest arrivals- volunteers from all across the U.S. (and one from Canada!) who will participate in a variety of programs and projects over the course of a month this summer. It is without hesitation that I inform our readers of the fact that we have a pretty sweet group of volunteers here right now, and so far they have done a fantastic job with the tasks they’ve been handed. One of the summer volunteer projects is the planning and teaching of a 3-week intensive English language class for middle-school aged kids in a barrio close to our house. The group in charge of this project have aptly, and enthusiastically, named themselves “Los Muchachos Dulces” (The Sweet Kids), and consequently named me, their fearless leader, “Capitan Dulce”, a title I hold with pride.

We are only 4 days into the program, and “Los Muchachos” are already rocking each class like seasoned professionals. For Rebekah, Priya, Patrick, Maria, and Jeremy, their days look a little something like this:

8am- breakfast (hovering over the flapjack-flipping PD for a second helping or trying to get Perry to poach another egg)

8:30- 11:30am- Spanish class with professors from Quito

11:30- 1:45- lunch, go into town, print worksheets and make copies

1:45pm- toss around the pigskin, head to the bus

2:30-5:30pm- teach English class

6pm- go for a jog as the sun sets (they are hard core)

7:30pm- family style dinner with all the volunteers and PD’s

8:30- 10pm- lesson plan

10pm- read/hang out by the fire on the roof/climb over to the apartment

As you can see, they’ve got a lot on their plate and are handling it beautifully. The first day of class, “Los Muchachos” got their feet wet when 14 kids from the barrio registered in the class, but it was on day two, as 30 children showed up with their notebooks, grinning and ready for 3 hours of English instruction, that they really realized what they had gotten themselves into.

Today’s lesson was one of adjective vocabulary, and since Los Muchachos Dulces had everything completely under control, I sat back and watched as 30 Ecuadorian children in small groups fervently hung onto every word that came out of their Profe’s mouths. The individual teaching styles range from Rebekah acting out adjectives like “tall”, “short”, “fat”, and “skinny” in exaggerated motions, to Patrick rewarding his students with exploding handshakes every time they got a word right. With so many students, the ability levels span a wide spectrum; so personal attention and games are key to keeping each child interested in the daily lesson. Then there are the students who can’t help but stand out among the crowd. For example, my favorite kid, Erick, is a cheeky smart-alec who bugs me constantly for new English vocabulary that he uses to show off for the girls in his group (demonstrating his all encompassing foreign language knowledge).

With two weeks left of the San Juan English class, I can’t wait to see what fun and creative activities Los Muchachos Dulces will think of next. Whatever they are, I know the students will love them, and cherish the time spent with the volunteers to whom they already look up as role models and new friends. It will be a sad day for teachers and students alike when summer ends and we all part ways, but until then, let the exploding handshakes and impromptu vocabulary lessons live on!


(The students break up into their various groups in the Casa Barrial)

(Patrick gets an excited response to a vocab question)

(Rebekah uses flashcards to quiz her group)

(Maria plays a memory game with her posse of girls)

In Use

As promised, some pictures of the new space in action. Taken by the wonderful Jocelyn Lancaster; thanks girl!

(Rules of the kid's corner, and the hand prints of my art students)

(the shelves and work desk in our office)

(color-filled stacks, and a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains)

(Mark mans the front desk...can you spot Dana?)

(hard at work)

(Puzzles and books and homework, oh my)

(English class in the light-filled studio)

How do you say...fork?

It's late, I have Christian's in the early morning (6am wake up call is coming all too soon), and the creative writing juices have all but dried out for today...but, that said, I couldn't NOT post a little something to shout out to our darling newbie (she'll always be our newbie, even 5 months in) Dana, for successfully kicking-off our 4th program of 2009: Children's English!

With 14 little students (none of whom could remember the word "fork" in today's placement test...it's a tricky one), she has her work cut out for her, and yet we all know the class couldn't be in more capable hands. They have all already bonded to her and Jos in the first 45 minutes class...they're going to have quite the following of English speaking 10 year olds come March :)

And coming tomorrow: Children's Art!


(Carlos Eduardo and Cynthia take turns reading Harry Potter while listening to the High School Musical soundtracks in the cave...life is good.)

You just never know.

This is the third month we've been partnering with Christian, an up and coming community leader, on conversational classes with his English students. His courses consist of two parts: theoretical instruction and conversation, but as he is a native Ecuadorian, he initially described his conversational classes as problematically "reinforcing poor English pronunciation". Enter Manna Project, which just so happens to be chalk full of native English speakers whose only pronunciation issues surface when certain Texans insist on calling "Jalapeños" "Jaal-op-in-yos" or "Quesadillas" "Ques-a-dillll-ahhs"...ahem Duncan Fulton.

Three times a week, 2 of us head over to Christian's home and attempt to hold purely English conversations with his slightly bewildered students. It is pretty comical hearing one another speaking as articulately and slowly as possible, only to be greeted by the big eyes and partially open mouths of our students. They're all pretty driven to learn, though, and have made some impressive progress since we first met them in November.

This morning marked our first class post-December break, and Jocelyn and I slumped around the kitchen at 6:30am in a daze (we're the lucky ones blessed with the Tuesday 8-10am slot), talking ourselves into the first bus ride of 2009. When we arrived at Christians, there were no students, but there were 4 little piglets to check up on, one mama pig who, according to Christian, "needs a man pig soon", a new type of Ecuadorian beer to try (at 8:30am), to which Christian would not take "no thank you" as an aswer, and English dialogues to write and record onto his computer. Eventually a "man pig" did show up, and a conjugal visit between pigs...happened...while Jos and I tried our best to focus on the dialogue we were writing about Christmas vacation. It was not easy to do.

And just think, all this happened before 10 in the morning. It's going to be a good Tuesday.
Oh Ecuador, how we've missed you.


(four little piglets!)

(our working table)