It’s another day of English class for the STEP! II students at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Four weeks into classes, the atmosphere now is different from that of the first day: less jittery and excited to be sure, but much more comfortable, and therefore even more productive. The past month has been a whirlwind of learning: for four hours, every Monday through Thursday, students of all levels have been engaging with English. They’ve worked on projects from podcasts to paintings, examined new grammatical structures, and built a strong vocabulary base. These sorts of accomplishments are small and easy to measure, but “slowly slowly” they add up to an overarching sense of progress that the teachers can see when they’re asked about the session so far.
“Students’ comfort level in the class has really increased. My favorite is when they joke around in English, even just yelling, “Hey Lena- quiet!” They were too nervous in beginning to use English unsolicited like that. Now they’re not talking in Arabic as much and are clearly way more confident. Even putting themselves out there in a small way helps.” -Darren, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow
“There are a couple [of progress points]. I’m most pleased with that they’ve become so much better at debating, stating their opinions, and giving reasons. Building other students’ comments into their arguments still needs work, but they listen to each other more, and at first they didn’t build off of each other’s comments much at all. Their writing has also become more rich and coherent; they write longer responses in paragraph form.” -Amy, Summer 2016 Fellow
In addition to developing fluency, students and teachers have worked hard to develop a good rapport with each other. I was very proud the first time a student came to me with comments and suggestions for the class, and now it happens fairly often. Sometimes the lesson and direction of the class will change based on these comments, and sometimes I give an explanation for the structure of things and we continue on. Because of the give and take involved in this, we have slowly built a sense of trust in each other that aids learning of all varieties.
Even the students can see in hindsight that their small steps in English add up to big leaps.
“Last week my father and I were walking in the market. He was pointing at different things around and asking me about how to say them. When I could answer he looked at me and said, “Alia! You can speak English!” He is so happy to see me going to class every day.” -Alia, STEP! II English Student
With another four weeks left in the summer session, there is plenty of time for students to further develop their language and fluency skills. Each lesson builds upon the last to steadily help students become more confident in themselves and more comfortable with English. While being in the classroom for four hours straight can be a long and hot experience, games and active projects help the time pass quickly and productively. Slowly slowly through these small steps, students grow into confident and proficient English speakers.
The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.
- Katrina, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow