By: John Schoch
RPCV and member of Florida Partners
During a visit to Bogota in October, 2015 at the invitation of Natalia Bernal (Youth Ambassador-2014) I accompanied the local Youth Colombian Leaders group to the first teaching/learning class (the start of a series to be done regularly over a period of months) that they were giving at the Centro Comunitario of the Alcaldia in the Candelaria. It was a wonderful experience; I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot about how PLAYLEE can work and be effective in helping young children (basically ages 8-12 from underprivileged families) to learn some English while having fun doing it. The critical focus seemed to be providing a fun and comfortable atmosphere for the kids so that they are stimulated and motivated by actively participating in group activities that involve learning, saying and repeating words and phrases in English.
The following discrete aspects of the participation process stood out for me:
- Use of TV screen.
- A lot of participatory physical movement (action)—e.g. musical chairs.
- Use of blackboard.
- Playing music and songs.
- Use of games.
- Teachers leading and interacting with children in singing of simple songs in English, with an emphasis on repetition—e.g. “Ride that pony”.
- Getting everyone comfortable with the situation and the group—e.g. sitting in a circle on the floor and going around to each child in a question and answer format.
- Teacher giving recognition and attention to each individual child.
- All participating children get registered.
- This was a morning session lasting about 2 hours.
- Every member of the Youth Leaders teaching group participated under the guidance of Luisa Ramirez, who is a fluent speaker of English.
Of course, this was the first and only PLAYLEE session that I have observed so far. The children were enjoying the activities and actively verbally repeating the English words and phrases. To really have a significant impact in terms of learning English, these sessions, as planned, need to be held regularly over a period of months with the participation of pretty much the same group of children (each child needs to get as much exposure as possible to achieve a significant language-learning impact).