Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where in the World is … South Africa?

Bright and early Friday morning Grace, Kevin and I headed to Nyaluza to teach English and Geography. Grace and I had prepared worksheets for our classes during the week and we were looking forward to being like real teachers!

I was teaching eighth-grade geography. I wanted to assess how much the kids knew about geography since last time they looked perplexed when we were talking about locations on a map. To do this I made three worksheets. The first focused on the seven continents and five oceans. I thought this might be too easy for the kids, but it would be a good jumping off points. The second worksheet was an unlabeled world map. I listed eight countries that I thought would be easy to find on a map: South Africa, the US, Russia, China, Australia, Brazil, England and Italy. I asked the kids to put the corresponding number on the country. The final worksheet was a map of South Africa. I then asked the kids to label the nine provinces, the two oceans and two interior countries. Then I listed five major cities and asked them to name the province where the city is and asked them to name a city that is on the Atlantic and a city that is on the Indian.

I was worried that these worksheets might be too easy for eighth-graders, but I thought it would be better to have them too easy than too hard. Once the kids got working on the first worksheet (oceans/continents) I realized how wrong I was about them being too easy. The kids were having the hardest time with this and we had to give them a word bank. A good amount of kids knew where Africa was, but one kid label Asia as Africa. We did our best to help them out and still encourage them to figure it out for themselves, but it was really tough. The next worksheet was even worse. Most of the kids couldn’t figure out anything but South Africa. They had no idea where America was. The only reason they could figure out Australia was because of the previous worksheet. Then one kid had a tin pencil case with a labeled world map on it and he started to use his resources. We encouraged this. In the real world if you don’t know where some where is you go and look it up. This kid was doing the same thing. We only have a little bit of time with them, and if this kid learned to use a map by having to search for those countries that is fine with us.

The South African worksheet went the worst, by far because this was something I just assumed the kids would know. First of all we had to give a word bank for the nine provinces. Then a lot of the kids didn’t know what province they were in (the Eastern Cape). That would be like living in the U.S. and not knowing what state you live in when there are nine states. It was scary. As the worksheet progressed the kids were having more and more trouble. It’s hard to believe that they know so little about their own country for one, and on top of that, about the world. I wish that we had more time with them to help out, but our time is so limited.

We’ve decided to focus on South Africa for the next two weeks. We figure that’s most important for them to learn. On Friday we’re going to go in depth into four of the provinces and then continue with the other five next Friday. I hope that this is more successful.

Grace’s English classes went well though. She taught apostrophes in one class and then figures of speech in the other. For the figures of speech class we’re having a little contest for the best simile, metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia on Friday. I’m excited to hear what they come up with. One kid made a simile that really made me laugh: “that boy is as ugly as a baboon.” It was great because he clearly understands what a simile is and he’s put it into a South African context which just cracked me up. It’s great!

After school we were invited by our favorite Nyaluza student, Sanele, to watch a rehearsal of a play they were performing this past weekend. The play was in Xhosa, so we didn’t understand much. I think it was about the battle that brought the Fingo people into what is now Grahamstown. Fingo Village is the name of the part of the township where Nyaluza is, so it had context for the students. There were less than ten kids in the performance. There was singing, dancing, drumming and scenes. It was amazing! I loved watching it. I was able to get a lot of it on video. I’ve watched it a bunch of times. It’s just so fantastic!

We return on Friday to teach again. I’m very excited! I love going up there. After school we’re going to the shelter to see the boys. That should be a lot of fun. Kevin has never gone, so that will be exciting for him. Grace and I haven’t been up in a few weeks, so it’ll be good for us to get up there, too. We’re planning on bringing up a CD of “house music” (their request). Maybe we’ll have a dance party. I’m pretty excited for that!