The English Club is off the ground, and I’m really excited to see it continue to grow throughout my service.  We’ve now how three meetings (the fourth will be on March 19) and each has boasted a healthy group of about 25 high school students, and several teachers from the surrounding schools, who want to improve their English skills.

During the first meeting, everyone introduced themselves, we set some ground rules for the group, and then asked what they were interested in learning about in the club.  Their answers ranged from the general – vocabulary and pronunciation – to the very specific – American art and computer science.  The specific topics are a bit more challenging to plan for, as their proficiency levels are all over the board, but they are also the most fun to discuss.

After all of the introductory information, we dove right in.

Per the students’ suggestion, one of the goals of the English Club is to expand vocabulary and improve pronunciation.  So, we started out with some basic vocabulary sets – “around the house” and animals.  Because the Malian education system is based on rote learning, another goal of the club is to encourage the students to develop sentences on their own and feel confident in using what they have learned to create original thoughts in the English language.  For homework, they were asked to use the new vocabulary in sentences, and to listen to the radio or watch TV (if they have it) and write a couple of sentences about what’s happening in the news.

I was really impressed by their response to the homework.  Although they needed a lot of correction, I could tell that they put a great deal of effort into explaining the situations in both the Ivory Coast and Libya through simple English sentences.

Our next session should be really interesting – we are going to talk about one of their suggested topics, American art.  I’m so excited to share art with them, as I think their access to the arts is very limited.  Thanks to the Internet, I should be able to download and show them artwork from some of the most famous American artists on my computer.  In our last session, I gave them a slew of art and feeling-related vocabulary, so it’s my hope that they will be able to use these words to explain what’s happening in the art and how it makes them feel.

After my show and tell, the students will have an opportunity to create their own piece of artwork.  Through a Peace Corps contact, I signed the club up to participate in an international art exchange coordinated by the NGO, One World Classroom. One World Classroom collects and sends art to students across the world with the intent of expanding exposure to the arts and providing an interesting outlet for cultural exchange.  My students will send their art in, and in a couple of months we will get a packet of art from other participating students across the globe.  This will give my students an opportunity to talk about what they have drawn and then discuss what is being depicted in the art we receive from other students around the world.  I’m looking forward to participating in this exchange and encourage other teachers, volunteers and parents to register to participate in the exchange, as well!

In short, I think the English Club is off to a great start.  I hope that the students continue to be motivated to participate and grow the group.  They have a great deal of potential, and I want to see them blossom into proficient English speakers as soon as possible!