What if we could get kids excited about English? This was my thought when one of the 5th grade homeroom teachers approached my partner and I about homework help in English for her class. My partner, being very awesome, but also extremely busy, asked if I could help them out. To tell the truth, I’ve missed working with kids, since my background is in primary education and I only have a few classes with them now, so I gladly said yes, but asked if we could expand it to include all of the interested 5th graders. And our Cerc de Engleza* (English Circle) was born.
Each Wednesday we meet for 45 minutes after school have fun practicing grammar. Yeah, you read that right. The idea is to take whatever grammar point (or sometimes vocabulary) they have been working with in class and find engaging games and activities to practice that point. For example, the photos on this page show a team game of Online Hangman to review the names of animals, and a board game to practice irregular past tense verbs. As you can see in the photos, it’s working! The kids love it! And I look forward every week to “playing” with them! 😉
“I can’t heaaarrr you!”
Board games for irregular past tense verbs.
*approximate pronunciation: “cherck day en-glay-zah”
Murături* can be roughly translated as “pickled things!” Here we have harbuz marinat (pickled watermelon) cerii marinate (pickled cherry tomatoes) and roșii verzi murate (pickled green tomatoes). Everything has been prepared with home-grown seasonings, including bay leaves, and in the case of the green tomatoes, garlic, dill, grape leaves and horseradish leaves. The pickled watermelon in particular was a pleasant surprise. A nice blend of sweet and sour. Some people eat the rind and all!
As I may have mentioned, I am fortunate to live in a town where there are other American volunteers. Occasionally I get to spend time with the lovely ladies in this picture, two of whom are fellow Peace Corps volunteers, one in Health Education and the other in Community and Organizational Development. The third is a Fullbright English Teaching Assistant, serving for 9 months at the local University. About a week ago, we finally had a chance to carry out our “secret snowflake” gift exchange (which was supposed to happen before Christmas) and a lovely time was had by all! I’m not sure whether the best cadouri* (gifts) are the items we exchanged, or the people I spent the afternoon with!
I just learned a new technique! If your students are seated in pairs, how do you discourage copying on tests? In this fourth grade class, the teacher called out “back to back!” and students took their test sitting like this:
So, what am I here to do? Well, according to the official documents, two of the goals of the Peace Corps English Education Program here in Moldova (paraphrased) are to improve students’ English, and to help teachers incorporate some new techniques into their teaching (with a focus on student involvement and critical thinking). Every once in a while, I notice something like that happening AND remember to take a picture. So for those of you who were wondering what I’m actually doing here…. here are a few glimpses. (Click for larger pictures or mouse-over to see the captions. On second thought, just click. It works better that way.)
Fourth Grade students interviewing each other in English.
More fourth grade surveys. I love how involved they are!
12th grade boys working together to apply the grammar (he has a grammar chart on the phone).
Collaborating with my main partner, Katya. (Photo Credit PCV Hillary)
Katya was invited to give an observed lesson at another school as part of a teacher-of-the year competition
Students at the other school, totally absorbed in the group work.
They are conversing in pairs in English! (11th grade)
Small group work (10th grade…
… and 8th grade.) Engaged in the task!
Fourth grade “getting into” a role-play dialog
Using “Jeopardy” for chapter review. 11th grade.
Jeopardy teams collaborating to find answers
We’re using the technology room more and more often!
After 5 months, I felt it was safe to put up a sign. I share this little office with the school psychologist.
How do you celebrate your birthday? With a cake? Maybe some presents? If you are in Moldova, chances are you invite folks to visit you, and probably a lot of food is involved. If you are Anastasia, my host mom’s beloved granddaughter, and you are visiting your grandmother who loves to cook, everyone is in for a treat! On Sunday, February 4th, about 15 people gathered and spent at least 4 hours enjoying massive amounts of delicious food at a traditional Moldovan masa. Preparations for this wondrous repast began on Friday night, when a friend came to help Sasha prepare kurnice (kind of like chicken pies) and sarmale (little cabbage rolls), and continued all day Saturday when Sasha’s daughter joined the work force. Here are a few events I managed to photograph: (Click for larger pictures or mouse-over for captions. Post continues below)
Sasha and Tamara taught me to make sarmale!
Making sarmale (cabbage rolls)
Ready to make layered jellies with kiwi. Yes they are expecting THAT many people!
The completed jellies.
You can see the layers
Even the spare room was full of items waiting to be served.
Some of the aftermath!
There are many other things I wish I could have captured:
The first several people to arrive were more comfortable conversing amongst themselves in Russian, but made room for me in their circle, and kindly attempted to include me in the small-talk. Sasha made a point of asking everyone to please speak Romanian so that Valerie can understand.
Jokes. They must have been jokes, although they were in Russian, and I couldn’t understand a bit, because everyone laughed so hard! Three jovial men were the main protagonists, and I wish I had a photo of their mischievous, gray-haired faces suffused with mirth as they rocked with laughter!
A young man, also named Sasha* was in charge of pouring wine at our end of the table. I wish I had a picture of his face when I asked him to add a little champagne to a glass already mostly full of peach juice. Evidently combining these elements just isn’t done.
Maria, my host mom’s oldest sister, who is a retired English teacher and who repeatedly translated her husband’s (Russia) anecdotes into Romanian for me. I also noticed her translating in the other direction occasionally.
The REST of the food! After we grazed on the great variety of food set out on the table (see picture above), we were served quail and potatoes with pickled watermelon and tomatoes, then sarmale, then layered jello with fruit, then chocolate cake with coffee.
The cat, who couldn’t decide whether to play with people’s toes, beg for food, or run and hide from all the commotion!
*Note for fellow language nerds: “Sasha” can be a nickname for “Alexandra” or for “Alexander,” which is why I was sharing a meal with both a feminine and a masculine Sasha.
Someone mentioned that every time I write about food, I say it’s delicious. And it is true that I love 95% of the food that I’ve discovered here in Moldova. But today, just to be different, I’m sharing something I don’t actually care for. Răcitura,* a very traditional Moldovan dish, is commonly referred to among volunteers as “that meat jelly stuff.” It’s a clear broth, the consistency of Jell-O. It contains bits of meat (usually pork) often colorful vegetables and occasionally hard-boiled eggs, and is usually quite beautiful to look at. It tastes like broth-flavored Jell-O, more or less. Many people love it, but unfortunately I am not among their number.
*approximate pronunciation: “Ruh-chee-tour-ah”
Also, yeah, I know it’s not Friday any more. Too bad! 🙂