Monday, January 23, 2006

Student Journal Examples

For the new semester, every student in all of my classes is assigned to write at least three sentences a day in their own personal journal. They can write about anything they want. The only rule I have is that they write something. I collected the journals of three classes today, and I want to show you the difference in writing quality, even just inside the same section of the sixth grade. So we can end on a positive note, here are excerpts from the weaker of two student submissions.

17 Januarie
myself to play with friend she milet mai bine mathe and fathe to play by mine and may bpothe

18 Januare
aunt my folk are form at home a bull, a hen, a rooster, goose, goot to other she may much oneself to occupy he they

19 Janyary
Bpother es student Mather also father no to proces I am stydent. Family my is mika in foif person. Bpother litle is we live hard sumpathetic.

22 Januari
have two cow with to eat herb maize, straw, haw and straw also wheat on they Mathe has to milc the cows we to hawe much milky

You can see why as soon as I read this, I went to the computer to type it up; I need a few readings to comprehend how to correct it. In case you're wondering, the mix-ups between P's and R's and between Y's and U's is based on confusion with the Cyrillic alphabet. This is a common mistake for weaker students who go into generic "foreign language mode" and mix English with Russian. I might do that too, if I had to study two foreign languages, both for too little time each week, starting in fifth grade. On to the other example for the day, from a girl in the same class:

17.1.2006 - Tuesday
I today red one book. She be very intersting. This book be about two girls. One girl is fine and athes is malignant. At to school I receive note 9 and 10. In this today I be very happy.

20.1.2006 - Friday
I and Nicu need new clothes. We are going to the children's shop to buy some. Nicu wants a new jacket. He tries one on. I hasn't got a blazer. I wants one.

21.1.2006 - Sunday
Bucharest is the capital of Romania. It is large and beautiful town. It has many new blocks of flats, wide streets and large park and gardens.

22.1.2006 -
The children are very hungry when they come back from school. For lunch they have fish or meat and vegetables. Then they have fruit or pudding or a piece of cake.

That range exists just in the sixth grade. The range is actually even more severe, since there are students who haven't written anything. The girl who gave the first example above will get a good grade for at least putting forth an effort every day.

[After writing this original entry, I had aВ dilemma with a seventh-grade girl's diary. She had bought a Barbie diary with one of those cheap "locks" on the side. I had the keys, but accidentally slipped them inside the diary. The diary clasped shut, leaving the keys sandwiched between the pages. My mind flashed back to my childhood, occasionally trying to pry into my sister's diary. It was childish what I was about to do, but I had no choice. And so I, at the age of 22, sat at my desk in Moldova and used two pen tips to "pick" the lock of my student's diary. I guess not much has changed, except now I'm the authority figure and I'm still trying to open up girls' diaries. And if you're wondering, Yes, I succeeded.]


At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great assignment. Maybe I should try it myself, in Spanish. I know it's frustrating for you that they don't start language earlier and in a more concentrated way. But look at our schools. Tyler only gets Spanish 45 minutes a week, after school, if we pay extra for it. We did last year and the beginning of this year, but it was a very slow class and he was bored so we dropped it. He won't pick up a real language class now until middle school.

Aunt Paula

At 1:39 AM, Anonymous Alexander Culiuc said...

I'd say your examples do not present the full range of the level of English achieved by 5th graders in Moldova. So allow me to put this into perspective -- there are a couple of lyceums in Chisinau that teach English from 2nd (or even 1st) grade 5 to 7 hours a week. The kids are brighter than average, they are well-educated (this is where "intelligentsya" are usually sending their kids), and the teachers are ok.

Frankly speaking, I find it a bit amusing that Peace Corps puts so much effort into teaching English in rural areas. To me, the biggest bang for the buck is in Chisinau. As I said, teachers are ok in those “premium” lyceums, but nowhere nearly good enough. I'd suggest assigning Peace Corps volunteers to conduct classes focusing on SAT and TOEFL at those better schools. This could increase tenfold the number of Moldovans studying in the US. Granted, 80% will remain in the US, and there is nothing you can do about that… But 20% out of 50 (my estimate of the current number of Moldovan citizens studying at the undergrad level in the US) and 20% out of 500 represent very different absolute numbers...

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

21.1.2006 - Sunday
Bucharest is the capital of Romania. It is large and beautiful town. It has many new blocks of flats, wide streets and large park and gardens.

22.1.2006 -
The children are very hungry when they come back from school. For lunch they have fish or meat and vegetables. Then they have fruit or pudding or a piece of cake.

I bet you, these are written down from books.

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Alexander Culiuc said...

I agree with the previous comment -- those are defintely copied from textbooks.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Peter Myers said...

Oh sure, there are better English students outside of the villages. Even just in Hincesti, for instance, I watched an open lesson. The lesson was far too theatrical and the children had obviously been coached in preparation for a visit of 20 English teachers from around the county, but that didn't obscure the fact that the vast majority of these 5th graders were at grade level. I was impressed, not by the particular lesson that I witnessed, but by the quality of English that these students exhibited.

Alex is correct with his comment; English volunteers would be more useful in English alone if they served Chisinau and a few larger county seats. However, teaching English is not the only goal of a Peace Corps volunteer living in a village. There are also community development opportunities and possibly self-serving goals of experiencing village life in the world and promoting worldwide understanding of Americans. My goals for this year include helping local initiatives to bring water and gas to my village of 2,500. This would not be necessary in Chisinau, nor would a young foreigner like myself be welcomed in the Chisinau bureaucracy. For these reasons and more, volunteers are placed mostly in villages. Is this the most effective use of us for English language purposes? No. But overall, it places us in the best position.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not everyone is dying to study in the US, either.


Post a Comment

<< Home