So apparently my current Mathayom 2 reading class didn't finish the reading book assigned in Mathayom 1. The result is that I've been told I must teach both that book AND the one I was assigned to teach... in one semester. A parent complained that she bought a book that her daughter didn't even use, and I can see her point. But the result is thus: each book consists of 20 chapters or units in 120 pages. That's a total of 240 pages to get through in one semester with a class only meeting for 50 minutes (in reality, more like 35 minutes), twice per week.Poor kids.
My general reading teaching method is to read the story to the class aloud once, then go over a selection of vocabulary words from the book piece which I determine beforehand. Model, choral, drill, definition... the works. Depending on the class size, I also go around and have students read at least a sentence each aloud to me (sometimes two students reading together). As I'm doing that, the students are answering the questions I assign from the book. Depending on the lesson size, we may or may not get through an entire lesson.
This method obviously won't work when I have a very short time to get through a lot of material.
Do I think the kids will actually learn anything coherently by having to get through so much? Well, no. I've decided to make the best of a bad situation: I'm assigning two units (6 pages each) per class with the full realization that a handful of them will do it (if that many) and the rest will copy it.
I'm also spending a good deal of the last part of each class going around and checking that they have completed the assigned pages "for a grade"; it makes them think they actually must do it, even though most of the scores I take aren't recorded for final reports anyway. That's the great thing about most of the students I've had in Thailand: just thinking they may fail is a strong enough motivation to get them to do at least something. I'm reviewing the answers with them one of the two days per week on the assigned pages.
Realize, of course, that the completed bookwork is to keep the parents happy. Anyone in their right mind would understand that cramming a whole book into a half of a semester won't result in a lot of long-term learning.
The book we're currently using (we're now on the second book) is beyond the comprehension of my MEP class of 28 students .So, my main goal with them is that they learn some vocabulary. I've assigned on average ten vocabulary words to make into flashcards for each unit, for a total (by the end of the book) of about 220 vocabulary flashcards. On each card, they must write the word, part of speech, and a small picture representing the word on the front, and on the back the English definition. They can write the Thai definition if they like, but I'm not requiring it.
Believe it or not, it seems to be going fairly well. Granted, it is a LOT of work for these poor kids, but it keeps them busy, which means they MAY actually LEARN something-stranger things have happened. The flashcards are a productive and crafty thing for them to do; I remember having to make them for Spanish when I was in high school, and although I hated them, they certainly helped me remember words. Better yet, based on their scores from midterms (which were almost exclusively based on the vocabulary flashcards I assigned), they're actually learning some words too!
So, if you get stuck with a ridiculous task in a Thai school, you've just got to make the best of a bad situation. I realize that with a "normal" class of 50+ screaming 12 year olds, this would not be a viable option. But then again, in a "normal" class, you aren't as likely to have a parent complain that money is being wasted... because not as much is spent in the first place.
If you can hold students' attention for more than five minutes, get them to be semi-productive, have them remotely excited about being so, and they actually LEARN something... you're doing pretty damn well in my book.