Written by: Anna Hergt
First session break has commenced, giving us a chance to reflect on the past couple months and how much we have accomplished in our first session. Between the everyday classes, the field trips, and the special visitors, we have learned quite a lot! In Potrero the new school year begins in January, so we went back to the basics. The kinder class started with A, learned words from a new letter of the alphabet each week, and got all the way to I. The main themes of this session for the 1st – 6th graders were introductions, calendars, weather, classroom phrases, and the importance of learning English.
One of my favorite activities for learning introductions was making paper bag puppets. As with anyone learning a new language, our kids are quite shy to speaking out. Though they understand quite a lot, sometimes they need an extra push to use those words on their own. Making puppets did just that! Talking through their paper bag buddies made it less scary, and their knowledge immediately shined through. Another highlight was when the kids interviewed each other and made About Our Friend posters for the classroom.
Our days of the week and months of the year songs made learning about calendars a breeze. We had lots of laughs singing the days of the week to the tune of the Adam’s Family theme song (clap clap!), and dancing to the months of the year Macarena. Racing to step on flashcards, and big game of “duck duck goose” using days and months instead of “duck duck,” also helped their pronunciation. They were even quick to learn ordinal numbers, despite the challenge native Spanish speakers have with the “th” sound.
Learning about weather was especially interesting for the kids, as here in Costa Rica it is almost always sunny and hot. They have never seen snow, or felt the deathly cold weather I remember from growing up in Massachusetts. They also love learning about the world, an inspiring notion for me, and one I want to encourage and foster. Because of this, their favorite activity by far was when I looked up the weather for different places around the world on that day of classes, and they had to draw it on maps. It sparked their curiosity to think about things that were happening in other places, and I was so happy to see them learning new words like warm and cool, foggy and stormy.
The great thing about having established English classes for some time now, was that the kids already knew a lot of the classroom phrases they needed to know for their exam in school. Every day they hear phrases like “raise your hand,” “come write it on the board,” and “sit down please.” They are also encouraged to speak up, and ask questions politely like “may I go to the bathroom,” and “could I please have a marker.” At the beginning of the session we made bilingual posters for the room to remind us of some useful phrases, and these have significantly helped the kids feel confident in using the phrases every day. Simon Says: Classroom Edition was so easy for them that everybody won!
As our first session came to a close, a big question was posed for all the students; “Why is learning English important?” After giving them some time to think about it, we had many impressive responses that mirrored our mission here at Abriendo Mentes. Speaking English is especially important in Costa Rica because tourism is a huge part of their economy, and holds the most profitable jobs. Being bi-lingual opens up international job opportunities as well. The kids mentioned this, among other incredible insights; making new friends and having pen pals, traveling to other countries, understanding music and movies, and having a greater awareness of other cultures. Their thoughts were a joyful reminder of how important our work really is, and how blessed we are to be a part of opening minds in Latin America.