iSTEP Tanzania

English Classes at Mlimani School

Posted on: July 21, 2009

Mambo Kaka (s) and Dada(s),

Last Wednesday, Bea and I went to Mlimani Primary School to sit in on some of the English classes that were taught by the 3 teachers that we interviewed during the initial needs assessment process. When we arrived around 9:20am, we joined Mr. Jehudi (a Standard 5 teacher) in his classroom. When we entered the classroom all the students stood up and said, “Good foundation, Good morning madam, how are you today?”. We were received with this same greeting in every class that we visited.

Mr. Jehudi was just getting started with the lesson, and we noticed that almost half of the students in the class stood up and ran out of the classroom. Mr. Jehudi told us that they were going to go and borrow books from their peers, because there is a shortage of books. After all the students returned and were situated Mr. Jehudi started the lesson, Unit 7 Sports Day. He instructed the students in English, but sometimes he spoke Swahili to elaborate and explain certain words.

I looked around the classroom and saw about 5-6 students, per bench, sharing one English workbook. Mr. Jehudi started the lesson by reading a story from Unit 7 in the book. He then asked for volunteers to role play different characters in the story. The students were very anxious to play the roles of: the sportsmaster, Mr. Mburugu, and Mrs. Wetio. Based on the names of the characters in the story, I am guessing that the book was in a Swahili context.

The first group of students that read were very articulate. It was shocking to see some of them reading better than their teacher. The oral exercise was intended to give the students an opportunity to practice their speaking skills. Mr. Jehudi stopped several times to highlight some grammar errors that the students were making. He emphasized the commas, periods, and question marks. The first group of students read their parts of the story with no problem. The other groups stumbled on words, and Mr. Jehudi stopped several times to make sure the class understood how to pronounce certain words. The students that participated were clearly very sharp and eager to learn. There were so many students in the class and with no teaching aids or books for the entire class we saw how difficult it would be to teach them all.

 After the role playing, Mr. Jehudi asked the students to answer some questions from Unit 7 in the workbook. He asked the students the first few questions out loud, and the same students responded. Some students heard others saying the answers to some of the questions and so they raised their hands to answer the question. After a few examples, the instructional portion of the class was over and the students were asked to answer the remaining questions on their own and then Mr. Jehudi would mark their answers. Overall, the students in Mr. Jehudi’s Standard 5 English class seemed engaged and excited to learn English.

After Mr. Jehudi’s class, we went to Mr. Chuo Standard 4A English class. The students welcomed us with the same really cute greeting, “Good Foundation, Good morning…”. The students in this class also had to borrow books from their peers. We saw about 20 students rush into the class to borrow books from the Standard 4A class. There was a scarcity of books in this class as well. I shared a book with three other girls.

The lesson for the day was a review of a unit called “Future Events”. Apparently they started learning this unit in the previous class. Mr. Chuo followed the book, similar to the way Mr. Jehudi did. He drew the same table of words that was in the book, and then called on the students to formulate sentences, using will/shall, for future events. (ie: we shall eat fish. Joan will eat fish.) Mr. Chuo spoke in English most of the time, but would say some sentences in Swahili. The students were very eager to answer the questions; almost every student wanted to answer a question. The unit seemed to be an easy one, but some of the students that answered the questions did not do so correctly. Mr. Chuo was not very supportive when the students didn’t give the correct answer, instead he encouraged students with the right answer to raise their hands. After the students completed all the sentences, Mr. Chuo told us that the lesson was over, and the students would do the exercises in the workbook on their own.

The last class that we attended was Mama Merina’s Standard 3 English class. The topic for the day’s lesson was adjectives. Mama Merina told us before the class that the topic was very easy and she was confident that the students would pick it up immediately. She even showed us the teacher’s guide and asked us if we wanted to teach the students. We politely declined and allowed her to proceed with the lesson. Similar to Mr. Jehudi and Mr. Chuo, Mama Merina used the book as her guide for teaching. She spoke very little Swahili during the class. She made sure she communicated to the students in English. When she started the lesson, she asked the students if they knew what an adjective was, and she asked for one of them to define the meaning of an adjective. No one raised their hands. Then she asked for the students to give her an example of an adjective and then a student raised his hand and said black, and then several other students proceeded to mention different colors. The exercise in the book showed several drawings of young students. Again this was a culturally sensitive book. The students could relate to the characters that were illustrated in the book.

 Mama Merina asked the students to describe the different pairs of boys and girls on the page. (ie: The boy is tall. The girl is short) After every example, she would select students in the class to be an example of adjective. One of the adjectives pairs was tall and short. Mama Merina asked a tall boy and a short girl to come in front of the class as a visual display of the adjectives. After the exercise, the students were asked to copy down sentences that Mama Merina had written on the board. Then, Mama Merina asked Bea and I to help her mark the students work. It was nice to be able to help her and to also have the opportunity to interact with the students. We tried to give them positive reinforcement and make eye contact with them as they came up to us. We said Good job or great work, and I even drew smiley faces on their papers regardless of how many sentences they wrote correctly. Even when the students were copying sentences that were written on the board, it was evident that some students really didn’t know what was going on because they tried to copy the sentences but misspelled several words or made other smaller mistakes. When we were marking, we also noticed that all the students had been spelling the word rabbit with one b instead of two b(s) and that was because Mama Merina had misspelled the word on the board, so we called her attention to it immediately and made sure that the students knew the right spelling.

Last Wednesday was a great day at Mlimani. The school is really starting to warm up to us even more and accept them as part of their community, because they are starting to see that we really care about the success of the students. Its difficult to see the students sharing books and learning with limited materials, but they thrist for knowledge and will definitely benefit from an English literacy game. A quick side note, I walked by Mr. Chuo’s class, and most of the students remembered Yipee!! It was great! The teachers enjoyed the demo that we presented to them last Friday, and we received lots of helpful feedback from them.

Asante,

Timi

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