Below is a report on a project to set up English Rooms in 4 primary schools in Netanya.
I have decided to put this report up on the net in the hope that it may prove useful
to others who are involved in similar projects.
Agudah le Kidum Hahinuch
Report on the English Room Project: the setting up four English Rooms in Rambam, Rashi, Sinai and Shazar Elementary Schools in Netanya.
1999 - 2002.
Report by Jack Pillemer (Project Coordinator)
1/ 09/ 2002
Broad aims of the project:
1. Improve the standard of English of fifth and sixth grade pupils attending the "Pnimiyat Yom" framework in four primary schools in Netanya: Rambam, Rashi, Sinai and Shazar.
2. Provide each school with a model teaching environment (an English Room).
3. Indirectly influence the teaching methods used in each school in order to raise the level of English
4. Assess the project with the view to adopting it in other schools in the future.
1. An experiential/ "hands-on" learning environment catering to varied levels and learning styles is beneficial to all pupils engaged in English language learning and especially to the pupil population of the 4 schools named above.
2. Teacher-pupil ratio influences language acquisition: the lower the ratio, the greater the rate of success.
3. An attractive learning environment promotes learning.
Creating a model
In order to achieve the broad aims by incorporating the assumptions mentioned above, a model was created which was to form the basis for an English Room in each school. Detailed below is the model that was decided upon:
Walls painted in pastel colors
4 x wooden tables seating 4
1 x teachers' corner table seating 6
4 x wooden square blocks functioning as chairs or small tables
4 x computer desks seating 8
1 x bookshelf
1 x multipurpose role-play counter
1 x small stage
32 x chairs
16 x small and large cushions
1 x stand for TV and VCR
1 x desk unit & cupboard for listening comprehension seating 4
1 x storage cupboard
1 x medium size white board
4 x small size whiteboards
1 x large wall felt board
2 x computers
1 x printer
1 x tape recorder
1 x TV
1 x VCR
6 x headphones
Resource material for teachers on 4 different levels to prepare work cards
Assortment of reading books on varied levels
Large assortment of English language acquisition games
2-3 x computer programs for learning English
1 x listening comprehension kit
1 x video
Functioning and methodology:
The model calls for teaching of groups of a maximum of 20 pupils at a time.
Each learning session takes place with 2 teachers working together in the English Room at the same time: one teacher with a group of pupils at the teacher's table and the other supervising the remaining groups.
Pupils are divided into work groups. Each group is given a different task/activity to do. For example, one group may work on the computer, another has a listening task using a tape recorder and head phones, a third group could be playing a vocabulary-enriching board game such as bingo and the fourth group would be working on reading skills with one of the teachers. The pupils are told in advance which groups they will be working in and what activity they are expected to do. The groups rotate activities from lesson to lesson.
The lesson starts with an activity for the whole class: TV viewing, listening to /singing a song, role-play using the stage or role-play counter. Then the pupils are divided into groups. Each group is given an activity that develops the opening focus of the lesson. If, for example, the vocabulary focus of the lesson is "food", then the group at the computer might be given a task of composing a menu. The second group could be asked to scan the library books and find and name as much food pictures as possible. A third group would be required to prepare a role-play at a market using the counter etc. The last part of the lesson would require pupils to present the outcome of their tasks to the whole class.
For both models the teachers change, adapt, and create activities according to the level of the pupils, the demands of the homeroom teacher, the mood of the class etc. Pupils have files/notebooks in which they make notes, record their activities and assess their achievements. The teachers' assessment is then added.
Moving from Theory to Practice
The project has had three distinct phases, which broadly correspond to three academic years: 1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2001- 2002
I was employed to coordinate the project. This year was devoted to getting to know the principals, English coordinators, the English teachers, the "Pnimiyat Yom" coordinators and the English teachers working within the "Pnimiyat Yom" framework and to determine what steps needed to be taken to ensure the success of the project.
During this year, existing English rooms at other schools were examined, design possibilities and quotes considered and additional teachers sought.
It became clear that for any future English room to function efficiently, the strengths and weaknesses of each pupil would have to be assessed and that the activities in the room would have to address these individual needs. For this purpose a Mapping/Assessment test was designed to help the teacher make organizational decisions and plan a program of studies.
It became clear that physically setting up the English rooms would take much more time than expected. It was therefore decided to survey the extensive teaching materials on the market and to purchase books and workbooks on different levels that would provide a resource for teachers to use in planning their lessons. These books were made available to Pnimiat Yom English teachers. In addition, in Shazar School, each individual pupil was given a workbook according to his/her level. The feedback regarding the effectiveness of this method both from the "Pnimiyat Yom" staff as well as the regular morning English teaching staff was extremely positive§
At the beginning of this academic year, "Oz Proyectim" was contracted to prepare the rooms and produce the furnishing according to a detailed plan. When this was completed a large selection of games, reading books and teaching aids were purchased. "Pnimiyat Yom" English teachers as well as the regular school English teachers were shown the new materials and encouraged to use them.
The rooms, however, were still far from complete at this point as chairs and electronic equipment (TV, VCR, computers etc) were missing The Netanya municipality had taken on the responsibility to supply the remaining equipment but in practice this did not take place. This change in responsibility proved to be a major obstacle in completing the rooms and using them in during this academic year.
Dschools have uring this year most of the remaining equipment was supplied with the exception of chairs, which have not yet been bought. All supplied their own chairs, which are less aesthetic but functionalteaching . In all schools, the English room became the center of English activity with the original model applied to a greater or lesser extent.
During the morning hours the room was used on a regular basis. Team teaching took place with half classes and the model described above was adopted. This method of teaching received the support of the principal and far-reaching changes were made in order to facilitate it. The same is true of the "Pnimiyat Yom" English teaching framework. The fact that one of the teachers worked both in the morning and in the afternoon contributed to the success of the project. The school reported a significant improvement in the level of pupil achievement and attributes this to the extra attention given to the subject as a result of the English Room project, namely: a positive well equipped environment, regular teacher guidance, additional teaching hours, attention to needs of individual students and dedicated teachers.
During the morning, the three English teachers use the English room on a regular basis. A well-organized English coordinator has integrated the new materials with existing materials to provide a rich teaching environment.
The "Pnimiyat Yom" English framework has also been successful with serious attempts to adopt the methodology envisaged in the model. There is no doubt that teacher guidance in this case has been fruitful where the teacher using traditional methods has been willing to explore new methods as part of the project.
During the morning, the English room is used constantly. The school has only one English teacher and all of her lessons take place within the English room. She has willingly accepted the new teaching environment and enthusiastically agreed to incorporate the materials and try out the methodology outlined above.
The "Pnimiyat Yom" English framework in Rambam has been much less successful for two reasons:
1. The English teaching staff was not qualified and did not feel confident to leave the more traditional methods of teaching in favor of those afforded by the English room.
2. During the middle of the year the whole school joined the Pnimyat Yom framework and the process of reorganization was very disruptive for English teaching.
During the morning, the English room is used for full classes as well as for specialized small group teaching. The room is less organized and developed than in the other schools in the project. No teacher took full responsibility for the maintenance and development of the English room.
The "Pnimiyat Yom" framework did not exploit the potential of the English room. In the middle of the year, the entire school joined the"Pnimiyat Yom" framework and the English room was used as a computer room instead due to a lack of space.
The aims of the project have been been achieved:
1. The level of English of fifth and sixth grade pupils attending the "Pnimiyat Yom" framework in four primary schools in Netanya (Rambam, Rashi, Sinai and Shazar) showed a marked improvement in 2002 compared to achievements in the past. This is the conclusion reached by each principal after examining internal grades and pupils scores on objective national tests ("Meitzav" tests). English coordinators of each school have reported on increased motivation and an improvement in level.
2. Each of the 4 schools now has an aesthetic, well-equipped English Room that can accommodate different non-frontal models of teaching. Each English teacher has the potential to construct lessons using a large variety of activities requiring different skills and exploiting many different types of stimuli.
3. The English teaching methods used in each school have been influenced by the project. Although the pupils directly targeted in the project were the pupils in the "Pnimiyat Yom" framework, the whole English teaching framework has been affected. This is evidenced in a number of ways: Rashi School adopted the full model for certain classes during the morning. This included team-teaching, small classes and multiple activities. Other morning teachers exploited the game-playing potential of the room regularly.
Shazar School and Rashi School held meetings to coordinate communication between the morning framework and the afternoon framework.
In Rambam School, the English Room is the room in which every pupil studies.
4. The fourth broad aim mentioned at the beginning of this report is to assess the project with the view to adopting it in other schools in the future.
The project has been successful and could thus be adopted for other schools.
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