If you had come to the British Council in Chennai in May you would have seen a library full of kids looking nervous, holding their notebooks in one hand and gripping their parents’ hands tightly in the other.
As they were directed to their classrooms by the smiling teaching assistants, you could see them shaking, uncertain, but excited too. The parents looked equally concerned, not sure what they had got their child in to. It was a new experience for everyone, including the teachers!
When the first lessons started, the classrooms were quiet, with nervous and curious glances being thrown around the room. The children were a bit more comfortable after the first 15 minutes. Within the first hour, they had made friends, were smiling and were completely involved in the activities.
The parents meanwhile, were sitting outside, peering into the rooms almost like an audience. They were looking into the classrooms watching their children talking, laughing, walking around and playing. They couldn’t understand what was going on! After a few lessons they began to relax and the audience got smaller and smaller.
We had to create our own courses for the summer programme as the children here have a high level of English, even the 8-10 year olds. It was a lot of work but it was all made worthwhile by the reaction of the students and the teachers. The children were so enthusiastic and took so much pleasure in the course.
The project based courses had an environmental theme running through all the lessons. They included lessons on eco-friendly houses, saving rainforests and endangered species, as well as some fun lessons on dinosaurs, superheroes and board games. There was a video element, where students watched parts of a video every alternate lesson or so and did some tasks based on that episode. The kids enjoyed this thoroughly as it was not something they expected to do in a class. They were having fun and at the same time improving their listening and comprehension skills and their vocabulary. They also worked on some class projects including a magazine and a performance. The performances were presented to the parents on the final day of the course.
This ‘Summer Concert’ was a major event. All the classes performed for their parents with plays, songs, news reports, a quiz and some talk shows. There were prizes for students and there was even a raffle. The event was a huge hit! Parents were thrilled to see their children perform in front of an audience, in English, with material they had prepared themselves. Students were excited to be performing and put a lot of hard work into preparing their scripts, songs, costumes, masks and props. Teachers watched with pride as their classes went out on stage, confidently.
It was the first time we had run young learner classes at the British Council in Chennai and it was the first time some of the teachers had taught this age group. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience and we were all sad when we had to say goodbye to our classes at the end of the course. We are hoping to run regular young learner courses here as the demand is very high and the teachers have demonstrated a real flair for teaching the little people.
Seetha Venunathan is an English language trainer at the British Council teaching centre in Chennai, India.. To find out more about learning English at our centres in India, visit www.britishcouncil.org/india-english-elt.htm