Teaching children in Za’atari

This week a post from Julietta Schoenmann who has recently started volunteering with us with a group of Syrian children in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan. Jules is the joint coordinator of the IATEFL Global issues Special interest group and has just returned from a week training teachers of refugees in Greece. Over to you Jules…

Ding! The screen lights up and thirteen expectant faces are looking at me from their classroom in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. I wave and say hello and the girls wave back. It’s 11.30 on a Tuesday morning and our lesson has started!

I’ve been working with Shadia’s class for a few weeks now and we’re getting to know each other quite well. It’s not that easy to do as nothing can take the place of being physically present in a classroom. But the platform provided by Zoom allows us to connect despite the distance between us so I’m getting to know the class slowly: the twins Aya and Asmaa, the three Meleks, Soha and Sajaa…

Jules 1 png

All the girls enjoy drawing so I try to incorporate this into our lessons wherever possible. They are inventive and creative artists, spending time on outlining the details of their families or pictures of their favourite animal. They like singing songs and doing chants too. We recently learnt Bingo! which was part of our topic on ‘animals’. I started the lesson with an animal brainstorm and asked the groups to read out their lists of animals. Then they showed me the pictures they had drawn of their favourite animals for homework. I made a note of all the animals in the pictures then we played a guessing game where I described an animal and they had to say which one it was.

I showed the class a picture of a farmer with his dog Bingo and other animals around him.

Bingo a

I described the picture and then blanked the screen and read out true or false statements to the class about the picture – they had to try and remember what they had seen and say if my statements were true or not.

Then we got to the fun part – clapping! For those of you who don’t know this song, students have to substitute the letters of the name ‘Bingo’ with a clap. The first time they sing the chorus they spell out the whole name B-I-N-G-O but for each subsequent verse you lose a letter until you’re only clapping in the final verse. For example, verse 2 goes Clap I-N-G-O and verse 3 goes Clap clap –N-G-O… I’m sure you get the idea!

Jules 2

Anyway after practising the chorus we were ready to learn the song. Time was now beginning to get a bit short but I sang the song a few times and Shadia fortunately said she knew this song so I didn’t have to worry.

We said the words together and then had a few minutes to try them with the melody before our lesson ended. Shadia told me she would practise Bingo with the class for homework.


The following week I was treated to the most enthusiastic rendition of Bingo that I have ever heard! The girls sang the song word perfect and with incredible gusto, complete with clapping for the chorus. Shadia asked me if I liked the song and I was momentarily speechless, but gathered my thoughts and told her that she and the class had done a wonderful job.

More songs to come in the future for sure with or without the clapping…


3 thoughts on “Teaching children in Za’atari

  1. Hey Jules, That sounds amazing! I met Shadia when I was doing teacher training and she is striving to do so much in class using this too, her students are lucky to have you both! Thanks for writing this.


  2. Hey Jules, you are wonderful as usual. I really liked the way you structure the session so it can incorporate different language skills. The girls seem so excited and I’m not surprised. The implemented activities are very engaging. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s