She started talking about the plans for the day and she asked me to perform a rap about ants for her class. Where ants fit in with the curriculum I'm not quite sure, but I was in no position to question her. I had started working on the rap last night because she had mentioned last week that she might want me to do this rap in class. It just so happened that she wanted me to spit hot rhymes about ants in class today.
Along with this lesson on ants, I was responsible for teaching a lesson on ways to speak on the phone. I had to provide certain phrases that one might use (and not use) when speaking to others on the phone. We then explored the way a conversation might go when speaking to someone else on the phone (e.g. you greet the person, identify who is speaking, the reason you are calling, if you need to leave a message, and say goodbye). I don't know why I needed to teach this, as many students know and love to speak on the phone. However, as I mentioned before, teaching form one English is really like teaching them another language. I have to teach the basics of how proper grammar is used in everyday situations.
This sheds some light on the reasons for my ant-rapping lesson. Students have been compiling materials to create an formicarium, otherwise known as an ant observatory. The purpose of this lesson is to teach students how to follow directions in English, as they must first make the formicarium by putting wood together, glass on top of the wood, and then they must fill it with sand and soil, and then they must find the ants. All of this teaches them how to follow step-by-step directions as well as how to work together. This falls perfect into my inquiry project, which I've decided to study cooperative learning across cultures.
Cooperation is an important part of Belizean school culture. Aspects of the school are in the hands of the students. For instance, students are given roles every week. Some students must take roll for every class, while others must clean the classroom after school. That's right, you read that correctly, students must clean the school. We don't have custodians, so the students are responsible for their own mess. When a student gets a detention, instead of sitting in the cool air conditioning for an extra 45 minutes after school, students must rake the compound and make sure that the school looks clean. It is amazing to see how clean the school can look when students take some responsibility (whether they choose to or not) for the cleanliness of the school. This doesn't work as well with my project on cooperative learning, but it does make an interesting statement on how students learn to be cooperative in school, something that often seems absent in American schools.
Anyway, back to my teaching. After teaching students to speak on the phone, I had a chance to share my rap. Students seemed to get into it. I made them keep the beat, while I performed the rap from the book. After I performed, I split the class in two and made them "rap battle" to see who would do a better job. Some students and classes were shyer than others, but overall I was very pleased with how well the students handled this lesson. All-in-all, I probably looked a little foolish, but the students seemed to appreciate the fact that I was willing to check my pride at the door for their sake. I had a really good day of teaching today. Below I have included a video of myself rapping for my last period class. The sound isn't great, but it is cool to see how the students interacted with me. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch check it out...