The seventh week of pre service training focused on getting trainees teaching students in a classroom without the counstraints of working in a school or with a counterpart. For four days each trainee worked with another trainee to teach two 90 minute lessons. One lesson for SMP students and one lesson for SMA students. Our partners were the same as practicum teaching, so I worked with Sonam.
Our first day teaching was difficult since we would be teaching students that we had never met before and did not know their level of English proficiency. Sonam and I created a lesson on directions for our first class, the SMP students, but upon meeting them we decided that our prepared lesson would be too advanced and instead opted for simple descriptions using am/is/are. Our SMA students were significantly more advanced and we continued with our planned lesson over complex descriptions with multiple clauses and using have/has to describe people or things.
Our second day went much more smoothly. We taught possessives to our younger students and directions to the older ones. On the third day Sonam and I taught about family relationships with the first class and ended up playing a bunch of games that went over vocabulary with the second class.
The Peace Corps method of teaching implements what is called the experiential learning cycle. Peace Corps suggests starting every lesson with a game or activity. Ideally something that will tangentially involve the lesson material to be taught; however, anything to get the students active and interested will do. The game or activity is supposed to be the students’ concrete experience in the experimental leaning cycle.
Following the game/activity is the presentation of new material. This is the portion of the lesson that Peace Corps wants volunteers to spend the least amount of time on. Not because it isn’t important, but the traditional teaching method in Indonesian classrooms focus exclusively on this step. There is only so much a student can get out of a 90 minute speech about an abstract topic especially when followed and preceded by similar speeches on different topics.
After a brief formal introduction to the lesson concepts comes practice. This step falls in line with “abstract conceptualization” in the experiential learning cycle. Typically students will work in groups on an assignment directly related to the new material. This part is to get students accustomed to the new concepts and ideas introduced.
The final step is application, or “active experimentation” as it is called in the experiential learning cycle. Students will work on a task or assignment by themselves or have homework that will allow them to put into practice the new concepts they have just been taught. This step should be completed by the students individually but getting students to work individually in Indonesia can be a challenge by itself since there is such emphasis put on community and working together. That sentiment is great for fostering relationships, but doesn’t do much to benefit an individual’s scholastic achievement.
On the last day of model school we organized an inter-class competition focused on vocabulary knowledge. We wrote words, in English, on sticky notes and stuck them to a whiteboard. Two students, one from each class, would stand with their backs facing the board until a trainee would say a word in Indonesian and then they would race to the board and try to find the matching word. Sometimes we would make things difficult by telling them to find the opposite of something, or saying “my father’s brother” instead of uncle.
Model school was an excellent experience. After this we have a little less than three weeks of PST remaining. One more week of practicum teaching and one week of TEFL training. There will, of course, be more language training and several health, Peace Corps policy, safety and security sessions will be interspersed throughout the remainder of our time in Kediri.