Teaching in a British international school in a Middle Eastern, Muslim country comes with many challenges. Not least the blistering 50 degree heat in June and July, sand that seems to permeate everything or the fact we have to vet absolutely every text, film clip and resource that we use. The biggest challenge I face on a yearly basis however is the last 3 weeks of term where many students seem to disappear off the face of the earth, or come in and boldly state ‘Miss, I go part time’ or even worse, ‘Miss, we go on early vacation now.’ And that’s that! I’m down to 5 students in a class some days, 15 another or 0 another.
I’ve been working on ways to try and combat this idea of students playing catch up when they either roll in 3 hours late to school, or take a few days off here and there and therefore have no idea what is going on when they do come in. The answer I have found is PROJECTS!
Quite simply, the last month of the school year in English (particularly when Ramadan falls in this time) I spend the first week doing some background work on a particular idea or topic, with year 8 for example we did some work on Divergent and Dystopian fiction. The second week we put all of the students in the year group together and mix them up a bit, just to spark interest and give them a change of scene. During this stage, they work on planning and research skills. If students are off here and there they can easily catch up when they are in, or do the work at home. Finally the last 2 weeks is where the magic happens and the projects start coming together. Students work in groups and roles are assigned, again this means if students are absent then they have to catch up in their own time, or delegate to others. It gives them a sense of importance, teaches them organizational skills, how to work to deadlines, teamwork, creativity, independent learning…the list is endless!
At the end of the two weeks we hold a big presentation where everyone can come in and show off what they have done. Some of the stuff that was presented last year was quite simply, mind-blowing. One girl made a complete 15 ‘documentary’ about the creation of the universe (part of a Genius Hour project,) another group created a new Dystopian society complete with a scale model, we had rugby skills tutorials, charity events planned and held, children’s stories written and printed for the library….the sense of achievement the students felt was amazing. Not only that, but it made them WANT to come to school every day, rather than follow the crowds and sit at home on their Xbox.
A memorable phrase from one young Muslim boy last week who is fasting for Ramadan also ‘Miss, staying at home now is boring. I wish I could come to school and do English all day, even on the weekend!’
What more could an English teacher ask for?
Here are some links to a couple of projects I have done with my classes that have worked particularly well. Enjoy and encourage!
If you wish to see other resources created by Sara please visit her TES shop:
Sara Brazier is an English teacher and head of Year 10 at a British Curriculum school in Abu Dhabi.