Five months ago, while I was reading The Bangkok Post, I came across a news article about the Thai Education Minister's memorandum making it compulsory for schools in the country to apportion one day a week for all students to speak English. The reason was to prepare Thailand for the big event of Southeast Asian nations taking place in 2015, the ASEAN Community.
While reading the news, I was thinking that it would be impossible for my students to speak English in my school. It was like making a cat bark. You see, even if my 102 students had taken English lessons for years with foreign teachers, they still wouldn't be able to speak English. Some of them can understand a little English but usually when spoken to, they always answer in Thai.
I heard from a number of Filipino instructors in Thai universities that they had something called ‘English Speaking Day'. They said that students had not as yet made any significant progress but the instructors were optimistic that the ESD idea would work if implemented for a longer period of time and Thai students would surely improve.
To do my bit and to please my director at the same time, I organized some language activities for my students. I knew this would be a mammoth task but I thought of meaningful activities to encourage my students to speak English.
In fact last term, because of the daily language activities, my students became more eager to participate in class and more interested to learn. They often looked forward to having their turn to do the activity. They also felt bad if their activity was put off for some reason.
Anyway, these were my activities last term:
Greet Me - Every Monday after lunch, I stationed myself at the English speaking zones of the school - in front of the library and in front of the English room. Students, who greeted me over a period of time with five different greetings such as hello, how are you, etc., received a sticker which they then stuck on their booklets. On the second week this was increased to seven greetings, and then to ten the following week. Every student who completed his/her booklet got a prize.
Word Wizard - This activity was done for more than a week. The assigned students would stand in front of all the other students during flag ceremony and take turns in giving as many words as they could in 20 seconds. The student who gave the most number of words in the time allocated got a prize.
Greeting / Asking Wizard - Similar to the above activity, every student at a certain level would stand in front of the other students. At a given signal, one student would say as many greetings as he/she could in 20 seconds. The student who gave the most number of greetings and questions got a prize.
Spelling Bee - This was done for grades 1-6. A student picked a word from a box. The teacher read it and the student spelled it. If the word was spelled correctly, he/she would remain in the game. The last student standing got the prize.
Answer Me - This was my most challenging and meaningful activity and one which assessed the students' ability to speak English. Students at a certain level would stand out the front. A student then picked a question in a box. (questions from all the lessons learned) If he/she could answer it, he/she remained in the game. Again, the last student left standing would be the eventual winner.
I talked to several teachers from other government schools and asked them what they were doing by way of student activities. They had dialogues, drama, and role plays - some presented during flag ceremonies and some presented at lunch-times. Other teachers had the idea of a ‘word for the day' or a sentence for the day. One teacher never answered his students in class if they spoke to him in Thai.
Next term, I will still continue my activities but I'll make them a little bit more challenging. I plan to do Sing to Me, Speak to Me, Look for Me, Tell Me a Story, Recite for Me, Tell Me the News, and Ask Me. I won't discuss them with you now for I am reserving it for my next blog.
So how about you? Do you have an English Speaking Day or any special activies? Why not share them in the comments section of my blog.