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Encouraging English in Suriname

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By Shae Amatkiran (YES 2017-2018, Suriname, hosted by World Link in Manitou Springs, CO)

In Suriname, English is a language that is not taught in primary schools. It's clear that these students are familiar with the English language because of modern technology, but they lack the opportunity to put their skills to practice. That's why I decided to organize a session with 14 students (ages 11 and 12) of OS Tourtonne III, a primary school in Paramaribo. The students are currently enrolled in the 6th grade and are getting ready for middle school, which they will attend next year. English is taught for the first time in middle school, so that's why my goal was to get the students comfortable talking the English language.

The session lasted for an hour and consisted of three activities:

1. Introduction where the students needed to say their name and age in English.

2. A game where they were given a few words and had to describe it to someone else in English.

3. They were given three English words and had to make a sentence with it.

I was joined by Raviel Morris (YES 2014-2015, Suriname, hosted by ASSE in Lambertville, MI) and together we guided the students through the activities. They were a little shy at first and thought it was weird to introduce themselves in English but while playing the games, they loosened up and were very interactive. Their feedback was that they enjoyed our visit and would like to have more activities like these at school.

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I choose these learning activities because it would give the students the opportunity to actually speak English instead of knowing about the words in their head but not being able to practice speaking it. All of the activities we did, focused on us listening to each other and correcting their mistakes. The goal was to make the students comfortable and let them know that it's okay to practice speaking the language once in a while, because the more you speak a language, the better you get at it. I also wanted to get them out of their comfort zone and try something new. This went exactly as I planned because in the beginning they were shy to speak up, but as we did more activities you could see that they were getting more confident in speaking. They also started asking questions when they were unsure about something and were open to us correcting their mistakes.

There were two teachers observing the classroom and they said that the session was very helpful for the students because this is definitely something they need. I think that it's necessary to start teaching students English in the primary schools, this is something that I hope will happen in the future.

I would like to organize something like this in the future but with a bigger group of students and alumni.


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