Anyone here who knows at least a little bit of English has been trying to practice their English with me. When I respond to them in English, many have no idea what I am saying, but they still like to try. The kids at the church always want to hear me talk in English. I think they think its neat that I am talking and they have no idea what I'm saying. I'm sure it sounds the same to them as it does when they talk to me in rapid-fire Spanish and I have no idea what they said. Anyway, they often ask me to speak English (asking me this in Spanish, of course), which I usually do with a phrase or two, which satisfies them for a while.
Well, on Sunday, the children's classes at the church were a little wild. With a few teachers out due to illness, the teachers that were there had some difficulty controlling behavior while trying to teach the lessons. One class in particular was being more difficult than usual.
The class was nearing the end and the kids were restless. Their teacher, Jean Marco, was having difficulty controlling them and a few tried "escaping" from the classroom a few times, only to be caught by yours truly and brought back to their room. The last time I brought them back in, many of the kids were asking me to speak English, so I told them we were all going to practice some English.
I asked all the kids to sit down in their seats. Then I told all the kids, in English, to stand up. I mimicked standing up and they all stood up. Then I told them to sit down and I mimicked sitting down. They all sat down. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. I was talking to them in English and they were responding correctly. We added a few more. Run. Stop. Walk. Jump. Turn around. After mimicking it just one time, they knew what the word meant and were able to do it with my just speaking it in English.
This is a language learning method I learned at CIT last fall. Its called Total Physical Response or TPR for short. The brain is able to remember more if it has an action that can be combined with the word. Involving the kids physically helped them to be able to learn and remember what they were hearing in a foreign language.
We tried this with language helpers last October. I was learning some Russian. I can still remember the words for walk, run, sit down, and stop in Russian (although I doubt I could say them properly myself and I know I couldn't write them in Russian). However, 5 months later, I would still recognize those words if I heard them again.
The children loved practicing English and it allowed them to focus on something other than running from the room and the teacher for the last few minutes before their parents picked them up from class.
Side note: Jean Marco is an excellent teacher. He is a 16 year old boy who does a great job with the children. He teaches Sunday School every Sunday for 2 services and also teaches on occasional Wednesdays as well. He has tremendous patience with the children and works great with them. I wish there were more teenagers like him to work with the kids.