I am so sorry it takes me a while to write in between each blog. I guess I keep looking for something really exciting to tell all of you, but I find myself living a normalized life, not entirely unlike life back in the US.
I am still living with the same host family, with a mother, father, and three daughters. Two of the daughters are students at my school and while I am frustrated with my own language development, I am proud of theirs! Their listening comprehension has significantly improved and their speaking is coming along also. I enjoy living with the family, though I wish we would speak Kazakh together more often! I have no immediate plans to move, so it looks like things are going well! I think living by myself is an unwise move mostly because it would bring my speaking to a screeching halt and because I really hate cooking. I would live only on carrots, apples, oranges and bread and somehow that doesn't seem like a healthy decision. However, my heart and thighs might thank me for the decrease in fat-intake.
Most of my students are making progress which makes me so happy! We have one group of 9th grade students that take a national standardized test on Friday. They have been working so hard in my class to review every bit of grammar build a stronger overall foundation for their English language. I hate the idea of putting so much emphasis on a test, but we have tried to show that this grammar is useful for their speaking. Their scores are improving, though, and that makes them really excited and significantly decreases the stress of my counterpart teacher which makes everyone's life happier J
Another group of students- my 10th graders- is one of my favorite classes. They are a spirited class and are interested in learning English, but lack the ability to formulate sentences. Basically for the past five years, they have gone through the motions of learning grammar in terms of formulas. For example, Present Simple's formula is: noun+verb1. I eat vegetables. Past Simple's formula is: noun+verb2. I ate vegetables. The problem is most students have no freakin' idea what "noun" means in that formula. They are given these stupid formulas, but lack the big picture. When the heck do we use noun+verb2? They have no idea. The thing I like about the 10th and 11th grades over here is that their testing in English is over after the 9th grade. We technically have to follow a curriculum set by an irrelevant book, but we mostly just follow that curriculum on the lesson plans and are able to do some cool stuff in actuality.
This unit was international relations, so my counterpart and I created a unit that focused solely on the students speaking. We chose 5 countries with important international relations to Kazakhstan and spoke primarily about education. We told them about scholarships and programs they can use to travel and study abroad and taught them some important vocabulary words. The teachers would teach one class about a country and the following lesson, the students would teach about the country using what they learned and additional research. In hindsight, we could have made some big changes and we will next year, for sure. We didn't give the students enough practice in creating sentences, so while they want to convey what they learned, they simply can't, they don't have the skills.
I still think this was largely successful, however, because their writing skills have significantly improved. About 2 months ago, I asked the students to write a half page about Kazakhstan- their motherland! They all panicked and nobody, not one student, wrote the assignment. I am proud of us as a teaching team for truly focusing on reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and I think our efforts are paying off. Since that first disaster of a writing piece, this class has written a one page (8.5 by 11) about themselves and Kazakhstan which we sent to American students, and have written one page about what they learned about international relations. Some students even complained that it was too easy! On top of that, we just finished the term test and I made it pretty difficult, with no multiple choice and a lot of writing. The most missed was 7 points and the students stormed the room to find their results the following morning. These two classes make my days happy!
Spring came to Turkestan on March 8th. On that day, the sun was shining and it was almost hot here. Since then, people have put away their winter coats and boots and welcomed spring. One of my students and I celebrated the warmth by walking all the way home from school one day! Driving to school takes us about 30 minutes, so this was a big feat in this country. Most people do not walk for fun and certainly don't go jogging, so people were surprised at our idea to walk home and even more surprised when I put my Nikes on over my tights for the trek. Some students even made bets that we couldn't do it and I got plenty of weird looks for my sneakers! The walk took us only an hour and a half and I loved every minute of it! I am addicted to spending time outside now and go on walks as much as possible!
That's the news from this side of the world! I hope all of you are doing well and enjoy your upcoming Spring Breaks! Keep in touch!