In the five years I've lived in Mexico, I've always suspected that sooner or later I was sure to find myself into a situation in which I would need to, or want to, teach English to someone. I've wondered how I'd go about it, how I could make it interesting, how we would wade through the myriad complexities of my native tongue. But somehow I always thought I'd be working with an adult. What I wasn't expecting was that I'd take on a whole family.
Well, not a whole family at once. I'm starting with O, a 7-year old boy and M, his 10-year-old sister. (If I'm successful, I might tackle their 6-year-old twin sisters.) Both have had some exposure to English and since their parents are educators they've been expected to work harder than the average kid. But neither is what you'd call a natural-born scholar, so they need motivation. And it turns out that M, the 10-year-old, has recently gotten a major dose of motivation: her pride is at stake. She's been invited to visit family in El Paso. Cousins who have spoken English all their lives. So in order to not completely humiliate herself, M. is actually asking me for English lessons. I never thought of myself as a schoolmarm, but still...
So yesterday we made a start, M and I, using a book from the series called The Babysitters' Club. (We originally tried reading The Swiss Family Robinson, but I think it's a little too difficult for now.) I asked her to keep a notebook of English words she needs to have explained. Yesterday's reading took us into the topic of extended families and we had a discussion about step-siblings, step-parents, and half-siblings. My dictionary says you add astro to the nouns hijo (hijastro), padre (padrastro), madre(madrastra), hermano (hermanastro) to convert them to "stepchild," "stepfather," "stepmother," or "stepbrother." So I'm learning a little Spanish too. Next session, I'll take my dictionary with me, and make my own notes.
My greatest resource is the library, where I volunteer every Friday. We recently received a large donation of children's books and today I'm going to see what I can find for O's age group.
I'm hoping a couple of my friends who've had more experience teaching English can provide some tips on coaching M and O. Conversation sessions may end up being our main focus, but I'm hoping the reading will help develop their vocabulary. When I was O's age I was just beginning a lifelong love affair with books, and by the time I was M's age, I was a full-blown closet reader, fending off parents and teachers who constantly annoyed me by coaxing me to go outside and play. M and O seem fairly typical in that they don't seem to like books very much. I'm hoping I can change their minds, because I believe my lifetime of reading has done more to educate me than any teacher ever did.
Games using language, too, would be useful. I can see I'll be spending a lot of time Googling.
I'd love to hear any ideas or experiences that might help me with this project.