Make Learning Fun!

Alex playing "Alexercise" with children.
Alex playing “Alexercise” with children.

During the past three months of our fellowship at the BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia, we have attempted to launch several new activities, some successfully, others less successfully. Whether the goal was to improve the English methodology, to attract new students or to increase the income of the learning center in other way, we tried to balance learning and fun. We would like to share a few experiences that worked out quite well, at least up until now. Maybe they can inspire other Bookbridge learning centers. By Ruby and Alex.

Alexercise
In our first blogpost two months ago, we described our search for English learning videos, English learning games, vocabulary memorization websites, etc. After sifting through a lot of online resources, we tested some of them with the children and ended up with two that were very much appreciated: www.eslgamesplus.com and www.memrise.com. Both combine education with game elements, the former more than the latter (colorful layout, engaging sounds, score keeping, competition).
We invented the word “Alexercise” to avoid calling it “games” (which has a bad connotation with the teachers and parents) or “exercise” (which would repel the children). At first the children were not very interested, but when we moved one computer to the library – where it can only be used for Alexercise and nothing else – they became very curious and liked playing vocabulary games. When the students discovered that we made a Memrise exercise about the vocabulary in their workbook ‘Everybody Up’, the popularity of Alexercise grew further.

English singing class
In the beginning of July, the learning center started offering a new morning class of two hours. One hour standard English class and one hour singing English class conducted by Ruby. The benefits of a “English by singing” soon appeared. Contrary to regular English classes, singing class students are not at all afraid to speak, have more speaking time and participate more actively thanks to music, dances and music instruments.

Sometimes you only need a small ball to pass around to fully involve all the children in your lesson.
Sometimes you only need a small ball to pass around to fully involve all the children in your lesson.

Educational tools & techniques
Just before we left to Cambodia, our friends in Belgium gave us a lot of educational tools for the learning center. These have proven to be really helpful. Sometimes you only need a small ball to pass around to fully involve all the children in your lesson. Or you can play a little game with the alphabet flashcards of magnetic letters. But it can also be enough to bring a book from the library with big pictures or photo’s, to add some variety to your lesson.

The "BOOKBRIDGE Cinema" takes place on Saturday afternoon
The “BOOKBRIDGE Cinema” takes place on Saturday afternoon

Saturday activities
On Saturday, there are no English classes but the library is open. Inspired by one of the other learning centers, we started offering “Bookbridge Cinema” on Saturday afternoon with – of course – English movies with English subtitles.
Since three weeks we are alternating these movie moments with “Bookbridge Karaoke”. The children still have to get used to the English songs but given the great popularity of karaoke in Cambodia, Bookbridge Karaoke is destined to become another successful activity for learning English in a fun way.

Goodbye!
It is time for us to say goodbye to the children and staff of BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Tonloab. We want to thank everybody from the BOOKBRIDGE community for the support and the opportunity for this beautiful experience. Special thanks go to Vannak Pen, head of Learning Center Tonloab because he made us feel welcome from the first day, and this feeling the whole time remained. We’ll miss you all, and we are confident that we will stay in touch.
We wish all the best to the residents of the learning center. Keep up the good job and keep transforming the learning center into a lovely place where learning, speaking and listening to English is really fun!

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