I don’t teach much in the lower classroom, grades 1-3. English isn’t in their curriculum, but every once in a while, I get to do a little English class with them.
One day, a few weeks ago, though, their teacher went to town for a meeting, so I took their class for a few hours. I didn’t know I would be taking that class, so I didn’t have much time to plan anything. I looked around my house for something to do. The Peace Corps gave us a few picture books to use in class, one of which was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Jackpot. Who doesn’t love that book?
I forgot that the kids just learned about the life cycle of caterpillars until we started, and I realized what luck that I picked that book. We did some pre-reading activities, which went really well since this was all fresh in their minds about caterpillars. One of the things we did was talk about what foods we eat when we’re very hungry. I asked the kids to tell me what they like to eat, and, this being Tonga, I got great answers. “Breadfruit!” “Sea snails!” “Fish!” “Dog!” “Horse!”
Then we read the book together. Since the kids don’t speak English, I translated, or had the kids translate by looking at what happened in the picture. There is a popular song in Tongan and English about butterflies, so we sang and acted it out.
Then came the best part. Someone, back in the day, had donated Play-Doh to the school. It had never been used before, so I took it out, lay down some Play-Doh rules, and let the kids go. We played around with it for a while, then we started making our creatures. We made little caterpillars, pupa, and butterflies.
The kids loved Play-Doh! We had to end eventually, but they all begged to play again tomorrow. I said we’d play again, but I didn’t know when.
At the latest PTA meeting, the parents approved my request to start an after school program. Hopefully when I actually start it next term, the parents will remember how enthusiastic they were at the meeting. Then, maybe the kids and I can do all sorts of things they never get to do in school, Play-Doh included!