Thursday, January 6, 2011

In-Depth Look at a PC Project

One of my projects was recently featured in the PC Thailand Project Bulletin. If you are interested in learning about what I do here, read on!

After School Reading Club and CampThis is a featured page


This page includes both an after school book club that was started by a volunteer at her local school and a reading camp that came about as a result of the club.

The Reading Club
When this volunteer noticed a lack of English reading books at her local primary school, she began collecting books for the school through family members and the Books For Thailand organization. Once there were a number of books in the school’s library, the volunteer started an after school reading club for 4th and 5th graders.

The kids come during the period after school is over but many students are still lingering around the school. The atmosphere is relaxed and focuses more on reading stories to the students than on teaching English. The volunteer and the students sit comfortably on the floor while the volunteer first reads the story in English, then translates it into Thai. The volunteer then gives the students activities to do in their notebooks concerning the story, such as:
  • Draw your favorite part of this story.
  • Tell about what might happen next in this story.
  • Re-write the story so that it is about Thailand.
    • This is a good activity for stories that are place or culture specific, such as stories about animals (the animals would be different in Thailand).
    • One book was about location; it started with the galaxy and got more and more specific – milky way, earth, continent – until it ended up in the room of the school. The PCV had the students rewrite this book so that it was about their classroom in Thailand.

If the students don’t finish the activity, then they continue with it in the next class. If they finish early, then they can go play or go home. The club meets twice a week and is scheduled for one hour, but generally only lasts twenty-five minutes.

The Reading Camp
When the volunteer’s co-teacher saw the success of the reading club, she came to the volunteer with the idea of doing a reading camp. Together they organized a reading camp where the 4th and 5th grade members of the reading club planned six different stations for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders of the school. The camp took place on two separate afternoons, providing one hour per station.

The stations were organized so that each station had eight students running it (the reading club members had to recruit from the other students in their grade). Each station was focused on one book, and the students were given one month to prepare. During the camp, one student narrated the story while the others acted it out for the younger kids. Once the story was finished, there were related activities or songs at each station.

The reading club started out with twenty students but gradually came down to a steady twelve that attend every week. Because of the small size and comfortable environment, the students have become more confident interacting with the PCV. Even the more shy kids in the group feel comfortable answering questions. The students are also showing more creativity and have stopped copying each other’s work or illustrations from the books. Despite the translations, there has also been some marked improvement in the students’ ability to read and understand English.

The students in the club also made their own book from the “locations” book and activity. The book contained illustrations and one sentence per page, and has been laminated and placed in the school’s library.

The reading camp was generally a success. Many of the stations did not last a full hour, so many younger students were running around for the last portion of each session, but the camp was a great experience for the students running the camp, especially in terms of leadership and mentorship.

Also, many of the books that volunteer collected for the school have disappeared. These books are hopefully only being borrowed, but a system of checking books in and out would probably benefit the school’s library.

This club is focused largely on art, drawing and story telling, but the emphasis could change to focus on English learning, creative thinking, etc. The club could also take on the shape of a mentor program where the older students read to younger students that come, similar to the structure of the camp. The club itself could even be run by mentors from a nearby high school (this PCV is currently considering having a local youth group take over the club so that it continues once she leaves).

The students actually chose to act out the stories as a major part of the camp. There are a number of ways to present the stories, and the children might come up with any number of different ways. For groups that do choose to act out the stories, this exercise might serve as the beginnings of a group for the Thai Youth Theater project.

The PCV brought books to the school but saw that they were not being used very often. At one point the students came to her and asked her to read one of the books to them, so she took this request and started the group to get the students more interested in the books and in reading.

The camp was the idea of the school’s English teacher, once she saw the success of the reading club.

Counterparts / Key Actors
  • English Teacher – at the beginning, the teacher used to come help with translation, but she eventually stopped coming. She also came up with the idea for the camp and help organize and run the camp.

Organizational Support
  • School – supports by giving the time and the space for the club and the camp. Would probably have helped with materials for both, but the volunteer decided to purchase the materials herself.
  • Books for Thailand – donated books for the school.

Approximate Cost
The expenses for the club are the books, which were donated, and notebooks and colored pencils for the students’ activities, which the volunteer decided to purchase herself.

The expenses for the camp depend on the activities, and in this case the school provided these materials.

  • It can be extremely useful to have a Thai tutor run through classroom commands with you, especially if you are not a teacher. If you are translating the books for the students, it is also helpful to go over all of the language needed for the story beforehand.
  • Be prepared for each story to take several days to get through, depending on how many and what kind of activities you have the kids do.
  • Review books after you’ve been through them with the club so that the kids can remember them.
  • Bring treats! The kids love having a snack while they do the activities, but try to be discreet about them so that you don’t have a room full of kids that are only interested in kanome.

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