Bridging the disconnect

By Edward Orazem
March 13, 2019

A major problem at school and in the community at large I’ve noticed and decided to address is the disconnect between our topic, English, and tangible life experiences. I can illustrate this point with memories from my own childhood in New York- not only were there tons of Spanish speaking people, there were restaurants of cuisines of Spanish speaking countries, museums dedicated to the culture and heritage of Spanish speaking countries, etc. Point being that there were a lot of obvious ways in which Spanish could be useful in my life. My site simply doesn’t have those when it comes to English, which is a big problem when it comes to motivation that I hoped to solve.

My counterpart (Yesly) and I have been in a comparable position at school, both having started very recently. I arrived 6 months ago and she only arrived in late August. This means that not only did we have the aforementioned challenge of motivation and applicability, we also feel a need to endear ourselves to the students. This story is essentially the solution we found to tackle both issues simultaneously: making English seems applicable and relevant in the lives of our students while also making the experience enjoyable. Our solution was media: movies, TV shows, and music. Using the Peace Corps-provided projector and speakers, we’ve used clips from popular movies in English that students have seen as the substance to draw from in activities. Harry Potter has been the most successful. Using clips that students recognize, we can put English in a much more enjoyable and graspable context. We’ve done the same with popular music as well- mainstream pop songs by Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran have been recognizable and productive.

Using enjoyable media as an object of study has aided every aspect of the English learning process. Students are more engaged in class because they’re motivated to keep “watching movies” and listening to music” as opposed to regular, boring classes. Positive classroom rapport has been galvanized and performance has improved across the board. Vocabulary and grammar are a lot easier to recall when they can be associated with a moment in a movie or song that are already in the memories of the students. I’m very confident in the success of this project, but frankly it’s hard to quantify. Classroom vibe isn’t something that can be measured and performance of the students is difficult to correlate with a project as ongoing as this one. That being said, I'm proud of the initiative we took and am positive that the effect has been long lasting.