Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and BBC Oceans

I had the most amazing classes today, and was immensely proud of what we have achieved so far. Today was 100% group work. I took in a load of essays that the kids were given last film project day, and have almost run out of smiley faces for the rewards chart now. The kids are also making their own versions of the ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ film in their free time, and I am really looking forward to seeing these at the end of term. The students with the best film will hopefully be working with a film crew and spending some time on set of a film production, and I really can’t wait to see how much further I can push these guys academically.

This week we were focusing on the topic of ‘Charlie’s House’, and their homework this week is to describe their own house, firstly, as if they are describing it to an alien, and secondly from the viewpoint of an alien, who has no idea what a chair is, or a table, etc. The kids faces totally lit up at the prospect of this, and it was funny to interrupt their conversations about how an alien would see things that were everyday objects to them, just so that we could get on with today’s class!! I can’t wait to see their essays next week!

Next, I split them into random groups, and gave them my worksheets, with a choice of tasks to complete. I gave them different books to use, coloured paper, and big marker pens, and pretty much left them to it, with time at the end for them to present their work to the rest of the class. I was so impressed, and I’m ashamed to admit that I also underestimated just how far they have progressed over the term, as they more than exceeded my expectations, and they wanted to continue working during the break! They met all of my objectives and the lesson was basically akin to a National Curriculum lesson in the UK, geared to 7-11year olds in an native speaking, English literature class! My classes for the film project are grades 5-8, but all performing at pretty much the same level, although the dynamics is different in each class, and the lessons are tailored more to their hyperactivity rather than their English ability! The tasks were designed to meet different abilities, and interestingly, they all opted for the more challenging exercises, and for the written exercises rather than the more artistic or visual ones, but they completed almost every task, and it was fun to eaves drop into their conversations, which are starting to be more English than Georgian, which was interesting.

Both myself and my teacher were almost choked in my 6th grade class, as they were all really focused, and had lots of really good questions for each other, and split the work up nicely amongst themselves, and working really well as a team, and nominating a team leader. Towards the end of the class, each team leader had to come to the front of the class, and put smiley face stickers on the rewards chart for their group, this worked amazingly well, and each team leader then went back to their group and explained why they were awarded smiles. Whilst this isn’t strictly a part of teaching the English language, I really feel that this will help my kids in the future when it comes to working in business or in teams, in Georgia, in Britain, or elsewhere in the world, and I am sure it will make them more rounded as individuals. It’s still hard to believe that when I first met these kids in January, they were drawing on tables, pulling off radiators from the walls, and setting fire to papers with lighters! Now they are so calm and focused, and every lesson, I am being pushed to set more and more challenging work for them.

What is even more exciting, is that I received a lot of facebook requests from students at school, and whilst this was initially a dilemma about whether to add them or not, I am now really pleased that I decided to set up a private group for them instead, and to open this up to students and teachers from other schools. It’s still early days, and feels very new and experimental to me, but I think it could be a really useful tool for learning English. Not just for helping the students to get familiar with written English, but also for establishing rapport, promoting conversations about subjects which can be continued at school, but also for receiving feedback on what students like or dislike about lessons and tasks, which I can use for planning future lessons. I am pleased that I decided to try this approach, and I hope that over time it will snowball and more students will join in with the conversations and discussions, especially the students who are naturally quieter and have to fight to get a word in edgeways in the classroom. I feel really lucky to have so much support from my co-teacher and from school, and whilst life is not always perfect, I am hopeful that over time, things will continue to go from strength to strength.

I am so excited about the next semester, and of the prospect of the BBC Oceans project, and how to use this as an interactive medium for teaching English and other life skills. I hope that I can work alongside the team from the series to write our own worksheets or educational book to support the series, and I can’t wait to start sourcing funding for the project. Everything is still loose and just ideas in my crazy little head for now, but if I have my way, I hope to offer free swimming lessons at the local pool for students, and to take the good swimmers who have an interest, to Sharm El Sheik over the Christmas break to learn how to scuba dive and to get them certified as ‘bubble maker’ scuba divers with PADI. Its my dream to be making videos like these of my kids, and passing on my own passion for scuba diving and for the oceans and conservation:]

To take them on an educational day trip to Batumi to the Dolphinarium, and to have one or two day field trips to Batumi to work with the Department of Oceanography from Tbilisi. With a day trip to Cairo and the pyramids as part of their trip to Sharm El Sheik. And finally, to take them to Spain and the Alboran Sea in the summer of 2012 to work with my friend Ricardo on an educational project onboard the Tochtavag, a Dutch fishing vessel, to take photos of cetaceans for identification, to take skin samples from dolphins, to listen on the hydrophone for whales, and to take blood samples from turtles, and to record their data.

If I can, I want to take one adult per four children, from either the Oceanography Department in Georgia, or Marine Biologists from Southampton and Plymouth Universities in the UK, so that both sides get as much experience as possible, and if some of these adults can be experts or inspirational speakers in their field, then even better. First I just have to apply for funding, which is going to be my big project for the summer! But I am so excited, to have the freedom to pursue this, and to help be a part of this process and of investing in the young people of the future. And if my ocean rowing friends can also contribute to this in terms of environmental understanding, then this could be one really amazing opportunity, not just for the individuals involved, or for Georgia, but also for the world ultimately! Seeing the kids today, made me realise just how possible this is to undertake, and how ready the kids are for a project of this size and undertaking, and it makes me really excited for my future in Georgia and for the teaching the children for the future!

Until, then…..watch this space!

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About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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