Students in a Colombian classroom learn to pronounce the s sound in students by imitating the hiss of a snake:
Muy bueno. Very good indeed.
Their teacher engages them in a new interactive radio instruction (IRI) activity designed to make learning English fun, relevant, and memorable. The lesson plays on a boom box in the front of the classroom, while both teacher and students follow along and chime in when prompted.
Bilingual Radio for Colombia is a pilot program developed by Universidad del Norte (UniNorte), with technical assistance on IRI from EDC. The program, which is funded by the Colombian Ministry of Education, includes 90 audio lessons and complimentary curriculum materials, including teacher manuals and student workbooks.
EDC’s Nathan Castillo describes one of the lessons. “There’s Johnny, an explorer who comes to Colombia to track an endangered bird throughout the country. His niece Lilly and nephew Mike join him on the journey. So every time we want to introduce new English vocabulary, it’s done through communication between those characters.”
Teachers use songs, games, and dramas to teach basic English to rural students in grades 1–3. The program was pilot-tested in approximately 20 classrooms per district in the Department of Boyacá and the city of Cartagena.
Says EDC Project Director Kit Yasin, “This program provides a solid half hour of English instruction for Colombian students. The radio teacher models how to pronounce the words, which helps classroom teachers who aren’t confident in their own pronunciation. They also learn fun ways to teach the English language.”
By learning English now, students improve their future chances of landing jobs in the region’s island tourism industry and in the trades. “It’s important for people who live here in Cartagena to have the skills to work in the tourism industry,” says Yasin. “This is a way to help Colombians eventually find employment as the industry grows.”
Originally published on April 16, 2012