Practising what we pre-teach

The Hands Up Project isn’t really very good at  ‘teaching’ language.

After three years of running this project, I’ve come to the conclusion that with all the power cuts, the often weak internet connection and the lack of physical presence, working online like this is actually quite an ineffective way of teaching anybody anything at all.  The sound quality is nowhere near good enough for most kinds of pronunciation clarification, and it’s really hard to know whether learners have understood any grammar or vocabulary focus that we might do, simply because we can’t see enough of them at the same time to be able to gauge whether they are following us, or not.

But thankfully we don’t need to worry about this too much. The children we work with in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan have their own English classes at UNRWA, the Palestinian Ministry of Education, and Relief International. Their teachers generally have a high level of English, and are very experienced and proficient in teaching grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. The fact that these teachers know their own curriculums inside out, and speak fluent Arabic as well, means that they are probably much better equipped than we ‘outsiders’ are to know what to teach, and how to clarify meanings.

But anyone who has ever taught a language for any period of time will know that there is much more to language teaching than teaching language. What the Hands Up Project can offer is an opportunity for learners to use the language that they are being taught in their regular classes with someone in a different context – someone with whom Arabic wouldn’t be the language of choice for communication. I think this can make their learning of English become more meaningful and motivating.

On Thursday I started a new connection with a new group of 50 grade four boys in a school in Gaza. Their teacher Ashraf, had been working with a unit in the coursebook called ‘Let’s make a cake’ and he’d asked me if I could do some practice activities with them to activate some of the language he’d been teaching. In the video below you can see some of the activities that we did.

6 thoughts on “Practising what we pre-teach

  1. That ‘s 100% true. The most important and effective learning of a language is when learners are able to communicate, not only transmitting, but expressing themselves.


    1. I think you’re right, Marcio, but actually having the right conditions for that to happen is quite hard to achieve in most language classrooms around the world, isn’t it?


  2. I’m sure the discovery and fun that occurs through Hands Up’s online exchanges has a huge motivational effect. Hope it increases the interest to learn in regular classes too. Trying to find the motivation without ‘outside contact’ is that illusive goal, but if it’s there… there to be valued! I’d love to have had that extra ‘F2F’ motivation in some of the distance learning I’ve done.


    1. Yes, that is the big question, isn’t it..Does the motivation that is clearly activated in these online link ups, transfer over into the learners’ regular English classes. I’d love it if somebody was interested in researching this. Any takers?


  3. “I think this can make their learning of English become more meaningful and motivating”. It certainly feels like it! I’d love to research this. I guess it would be best done by the actual teachers though, wouldn’t it?


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