by Chris Ansell
A month into the first school term and most teachers will already know which are their favourite classes and which classes they can perfect their discipline techniques in. The class I have most fun with and who are thus my favourite is over at Noo Noy school. I get to see the kids every Tuesday for half an hour. The class is the top level 3 of Anuban (kindergarten) and is made up of about 25 tiny bodies that range anywhere between my knee and waist in height.
When I walked into their classroom for the first time four weeks ago I saw for the most a lot of nervous and very anxious little faces staring up at me. One little girl burst into tears after a few seconds before I’d had a chance to even say hello, which in turn set one of her friends off. Not a perfect start. The big scary man would have to show a softer side, more than just a smile, to win the trust of these kids. I suddenly noticed in the corner of the room sitting on a shelf a few cuddly toys and quickly made their acquaintances. Pooh Bear said “hello” and when asked how he was replied “I am HAPPY!”. Laughter is key in Anuban classes and this instigated the first of it. After talking to a few of Pooh’s friends I tried my luck with one of the more confident looking kids and got the first words. I was in. Ten minutes later the students had morphed into parrots and were repeating various colours that I was holding up at the top of their voices (which can be deafening!).
All anuban classes are half an hour long. I tend to split them up into three ten minute sections. In the first section I always teach greetings such as “Good Morning” and the follow up question “How are you?” For the Level 1 anuban’s, I try to get them to simply understand the concept of “happy” and “sad”. My favourite Level 3 class are extremely clever though and in addition to “hot”, “cold” and “sleepy”, some of the top kids such as Aomsin, Phon and Wave know “hungry”! In the last lesson I drew a big snake on the board and taught them “I am scared” by screaming every time we walked passed it.
The main topics for anuban classes, in addition to the basic greetings, are numbers, colours, food and body parts. It is easy to have a lot of fun with any of these. For the colours I have a bag of coloured rags. One game I like to play is to get the students to show me sleepy, and then to hide the coloured rags around the room. I will then get two students and ask them to find “Yellow!” for example. When the kid holding the rag comes scampering back to give it to me it can be really fun to act like I can’t see them because they are too short and have them desperately trying to get my attention.
I devised a fun game recently where I wrote about seven or eight target numbers on the board in various sizes and again would ask the students to show me sleepy. I then discreetly placed the board eraser in front of one of the students and ask them to “Open your eyes!” I would then say one of the target numbers and the student with the eraser would have five seconds to run and erase the number before I turned into a zombie and came to eat them. It was funny writing some of the number high up just out of reach so the student didn’t know whether to look at the number they were trying to erase or the big scary teacher zombie heading towards them!
This particular class is fun both because of a few individual students who are particular characters and the Thai teachers who are just as into the games and songs as the kids! One of the students who is about twice the size of the rest of his friends is known (and respected) as King Kong and every time I ask Guitar to do or say anything we all get our air guitars out which is funny.
It was a great feeling to gain the trust of these little children who must only be four or five years old. What matters most is that the kids leave the classroom with a big smile on their face and if they have picked up a bit more English then all the better. They seem to know their pinks from their purples now and certainly leave laughing so it’s fun all around. Good times.