During our 3 month stay at Moung Choum school we also worked with the significantly less well off Souncha school, which is primarily inhabited by the Palaung hill tribe. The obvious lack of funding for this school (despite the well attended class sizes of 30-35) and the consequential dull school daily life faced by pupils-a small field with two worn out football posts, an old torn Takor net, and a couple of flat balls offer little excitement. This coupled with the old classrooms sitting on this field, whose desks are rotten and uncomfortable, the teachers blackboards dirty and as old as the walls they perch on, show the school to promise little personal or academic development.
After a couple of months teaching here we decided we needed to do something for these children, who seem all too often left out of trips and fun activities that bless the children at neighboring MoungChoum.
We raised the issue with Ben and Jildou at the Blood Foundation who came up with the idea of an English camp. This would offer fun sporting and language activities in MoungChoums luscious grounds, and although only a stop gap solution to the greater problems of SounCha school this would reach out to the children and people of the local Paulung community and engage them in some enjoyable English learning.
Saturday, the 14th March. English Camp, day 1.
We arrived bleary eyed with the cockerels still screaming in our ears at MoungChoum school early Saturday morning and began preparations for the camp, rushing around to ensure everything was ready.
As he children (aged 8-14) started to arrive from 8 o'clock, soon things had to begin. First, we put the 55 children into four teams. They would progress around the different bases we set up completing the sports games (and later English games) as a team, earning points towards a finale of prizes for the winning teams.
We had a lot of help from the teachers and older students ant Moung Choum school, whose practical translations and sheer energy and input made a world of difference. After a lot of songs, an exhaustive warm up, and some games with the children as a whole, they were marched off in their teams to face their activities.
3 legged foot race
(sending the children around a course in pairs/threes with their legs tied together)
(Over and under horizontal bamboo, jumping through tyres and more while holding a pan of water-with hilarious consequences.)
Egg and spoon race
(racing with.....and egg and spoon!)
Carrying water bomb
(Carrying and passing around a balloon filled to bursting with water)
(tying balloons to the children's feet who must then trample and burst each others balloons)
After a delicious lunch and a well deserved rest, it was time for the English games.
Firstly there were a few warm up songs-'a side' and 'down and up'-which pretty much involve us swinging our hips and bodies around to our embarrassment and the childrens delight. Afterwards we gave out a few presents to the children who had birthdays in the current month, adding some extra cheer to the proceedings!
Then as before the children were sent off to their first base where an English game was ready and waiting. The English games used were;
Clothes dress up
(Calling out an item of clothing, the children must then run and get that item and dress up a team mate in these foreign, and rather large, clothes)
(Matching pictures of animals to the written name of that animal.
(pupils follow what the teacher says to do)
Coloring in game
(A picture is colored in with the correct colors as prescribed on the picture in English)
Head shoulders knees and toes.
(The popular English body part learning game.)
These went really well, the one we supervised-clothes dress up-went especially well. If you can add some fun and competition into a game the kids really latch on to it and enjoy (and therefore learn) the games.
At the end of these games, at around 4pm, we brought the children back together into the main hall.
Here we played some games with the children all together, with some more songs and actions for them to follow. Unfortunately we were unable to set up a camp for the children to stay overnight at the request of the director. So we sent them home and hoped they would come back on Sunday.
Exhausted, with a sore throat and aching body, we headed home hoping tomorrow would be as successful as today.
Another early start on Sunday saw the second day of the English camp. Arriving at school and taking in the sunrise creeping over the mountains was a truly beautiful site, some of the children had already arrived and were playing quietly in the field, gently breaking the immediate serenity of the school. With a quick thought on how great it was to be here, it was time to work!
We set up the next set of English games. Being the last day we needed a good finale to make sure everyone involved was satisfied with the weekend, and the children built up their English skills as well as having a great time.
So we grouped all the children together (even more arrived then yesterday!), and put them into their teams. All the children luckily managed to remember which team they belonged to and so it was time for a warm up.
Today we used the song 'hokey pokey', the children forming a circle and following the standard actions of the songs-'you put your left leg in, you put your left leg out' etc, which the children although fairly confused performed well. We followed this with a physical warm up too, making sure any sleepy remenance was gone.
With everyone awake and itching to go, it was off to the English games. We had the following lined up:
(The same as the popular English game, the chidlren are taught 'left leg, right leg, face, arms' etc and colors. They then place the piece of body on the color that you call out.)
A hen and a nest.
(This traditional Thai game involves the children making a 'nest' by connecting arms around someone, and then 'breaking/reforming' this nest as the teacher calls out.)
Passing the ball.
(The students pass a ball around a circle, saying an English word-any word, as they hold the ball before passing it on.)
Two traditional Thai games.
At around 4pm, the games were over. The children ran back into the main hall under the tannoy call of our ever helpful teacher Ms. Pwe, and it was time for some more songs and classically embarrassing dancing. We had a few more games; passing a ball around the children who had to say a specifically themed word if the music stopped while they held the ball, and some other interactive songs such as Simon says and head shoulders knees and toes among others.
Then it was time for giving out some more birthday presents, with another four children surprised by a large wrapped parcel, and the final team scores! With presents for each team there were no unhappy faces-despite the rather relatively large one destined for only the winning team!
At around 5pm we packed the children off, with a full belly and with a little bit of luck they had learnt, and become significantly more confident in, their English skills. Equally as important, they had a great weekend, and, perhaps sadly, felt slightly spoilt.