Wednesday, November 16, 2016

English For Refugees

English For Refugees

After so many months of silence I have decided to start writing here again. After the refugee camp in Idomeni in northern Greece was shut down and the people moved to more permanent settlements throughout the country.Our group, The Refugee Solidarity Movement, Thessaloniki, wound down and I decided that I needed a break from this. In addition it seemed clear that other groups were taking over so our group's efforts were less needed.

However,  I have managed to get back into the game and as with so many things that happen in Greece, it's as much to to with chance and serendipity as it is with any plan I may or may not have had in mind. Whilst visiting the Oikopolis Social Centre on an entirely unrelated matter, I found out that they were about to start new language lessons with refugees but one of their volunteer teachers was soon to Leave Greece to start a new life in France. So that is how I found myself in front of a class of refugees from Syria once again teaching English along with another Patricia, another volunteer teacher.

The situation was and still remains somewhat chaotic with people of different ages (11 till 50) and different levels of competency in English (complete beginners to those with the fundamentals sorted) in the same group. In addition we are in the social area of the centre which is like teaching on the hard shoulder of a motorway.

This is gradually being sorted out, Patricia has decided to form a group of complete beginners while I work with those who have intermediate skills. We are never sure how many students will turn up as new students turn up, others change class and others still drift away looking for something else.

With such uncertainty I have decided  to not use a course book both due to the cost and the fact that students are coming and going all the time. Instead I have been inspired by Teaching Adult Second Language Learners by Heather McCay and Tom Abigail. Designed for teaching practical, every day English to those arriving in an English speaking country, I have adapted some of the activities for my students so they can communicate with NGOs, the authorities, etc in English.

My approach is based on utilising students experience and expertise and giving them language skills that can be used instantly, rather than to be filed for later. I eschew technology as much as possible, not because I am against its use in lessons but from experience that so much time is used explaining it, and setting it up that time for other things is wasted. I hope this will change in the future as my students grow more confident with their English. Most have smart phones and we have internet access but this cannot always be relied on.

Also I have come to realise that the occasional photocopy, copious use of the white board and role play/mime are not only more easy to implement but take far less time setting up.

Topics covered so far

Introducing ourselves
Talking about family and background
Numbers, especially dates
Interviews (asking and answering questions)
Parts of the body

When I have time I will be uploading detailed lesson plans.


Sky Maiden said...

I would love to help out. I live quite a way away, so it would have to be over skype or similar.

I am also fluent in Greek.

teacher dude said...

Thank you for the offer, I will think about how we can work this out and then get back to you.