English Village in Yilan
What is English Village?
An immersive English environment, English Village is a language camp at XinSheng Elementary school that hosts fifth graders from different schools around Yilan every Friday from 8:00 to noon. It’s a chance for the students to get away from a standard English classroom style and enjoy a field trip to an exciting new place with foreign teachers, giving them a chance to finally utilize the English that they’ve spent their elementary-school careers accumulating.
There are six stations at English Village, each of which is unique from the others in its environment and content. Students will get to attend four out of the six stations.
Yes, there is an actual airplane at English Village. Donated by EVA Airlines, the airplane is among the most popular features of the students. They’re excited from the moment they receive their English Village passports and pass through the security scanner to when they board the jet, buckle up and drop their tray tables on the way to their destination.
The food at English Village’s restaurant may be fake, but it’s more than enough to whet the appetites of the students and get them in the mood for talking—in English—about eating. With a functional kitchen area, plenty of food to play with and an open area for the students to move around in, the restaurant is always an exciting station for the kids.
The Health Clinic
The best way to learn about being sick is by going to the English Village health clinic and sneezing, wheezing and coughing on everything in sight, for the sake of learning of course. Here, the students can dress up as doctors and nurses while acquiring superior English that will allow them to diagnose any ailment they may encounter!
The Bank and Post Office
Money money money! The kids love it, and the vaults at English Village’s bank are filled to the brim with money just waiting to be counted, exchanged, added and traded. And where better to spend money than at the post office, where they can buy stamps and postcards to fill out, which English Village then mails to their homes at the end of the day.
The Dance Room
This is the time for students to let loose and release some of that youthful energy. Here, students learn some great classic dances, such as the ChaCha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle and any other dance moves they may need. Next time they attend a birthday party, prom or wedding, they’ll not only be prepared for that dance floor, they’ll rule it!
The Shopping Mall
Students love to buy items from the well-equipped English Village shopping mall. Be it toys, food or clothes, the mall has it, and the kids will buy it. When they’re not spending all their money (likely acquired from the bank), they’re ringing up their classmates with the authentic and functional cash register. The shopping-mall station teaches kids the necessary vocabulary to make them into excellent hagglers and salespeople. Watch out, Taiwan!
The students come from different parts all around Yilan. Some come from large urban schools with great English programs, others come from small rural schools with a single English teacher. As such, the English level of students will vary from week to week. It’s up to the English Village teachers to gauge the levels of their students and adjust their lessons accordingly. After the first few weeks of English Village, you’ll quickly be able to determine your students’ level and make changes to increase or decrease the difficulty of your lesson.
A good way to get a quick idea of the students’ English levels is to ask them at the beginning of the first class period to tell you their English names. If most of your students don’t know their names, you might consider decreasing the difficulty level of your lesson. On the other end of the spectrum, if all students can say their names, try asking them other basic questions, such as “Which station is this? What do you do at this station?” If most can answer these questions with ease, your lesson will probably be fine as is, though you can consider throwing in more advanced vocabulary and sentences.
The students are broken up into six teams. The team names usually revolve around a theme. In 2014-2015, the teams were holiday-based, and therefore named Christmas, Halloween, New Year, Independence Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. The year before, they were themed around different colors.
Each student is provided a special English Village bag that contains “English Village” money, necessary worksheet and materials for different stations, a pen and other miscellaneous items they may use throughout the day.
The Teaching Styles
There are two main ways to teach at English Village: Camp Style and Station Style.
Each teacher is assigned one of the six teams of students. The teacher is responsible for teaching those students for the entire day at each of the four stations that the students visit.
Because a teacher is with the same group all day, the teacher can more easily enforce his or her classroom-management rules, rather than starting over with a new group of students each period.
The teacher will be able to familiarize him/herself with the students’ strengths and weaknesses throughout the day and provide assistance to those students when needed.
The teacher gets the chance to experience more stations faster.
The teacher is required to teach four different stations, as opposed to one, which could potentially limit his or her effectiveness in teaching certain stations.
If you have a tough group of students, you have that group all day.
In this method, a teacher is not assigned a group of students but is instead assigned a station to teach at for the entire day.
The teacher is able to learn to teach a single station really well. He or she can learn the ins and outs of it and typically the station becomes easier to teach as the day goes on.
The teacher gets to interact with way more students this way, making for a more diverse experience for both the students and teachers.
A group of tough students isn’t always tough with every teacher. Having a different teacher each period gives the chance for the students to find a teacher they jive with.
Teaching one station all day, depending on a teacher’s style, can be boring and tiring.
There is less consistency in classroom management, since each teacher has his or her own style.
The teacher has to reassess English levels each class period.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately, it’s up to the teachers to choose which style they prefer. It is recommended that both styles are tried, so as to find which way works better with the majority of the teachers.
English Village Procedures
The XinSheng Elementary School administration takes care of most of the logistics of English Village, which means teachers are there almost solely to teach and monitor the students during breaks. The teachers, for example, are not responsible for separating the students into groups or preparing the English Village bags that students receive.
When the students arrive, they are given name tags that indicate their English name on one side and their assigned team on the other.
The English Village restaurant acts as the auditorium where students gather during the introduction, break times and closing time. After being given name tags, students will sit with their group in the restaurant and watch a short video explaining the rules at English Village (no running, no stealing, no screaming, etc.). After the video finishes, the teachers enter from the back room and introduce themselves to the students.
Optional: It is fun for both teachers and students if the teachers try to have a bit of an unorthodox entrance. For example, some introductions tried in 2014-2015 included:
The teachers hid in different areas around the restaurant and popped out one at a time and engaged in a mock gun battle with each other. James Bond music played in the background.
A dance-off between some of the teachers.
Around Christmastime, a Grinch-themed introduction was done, where one teacher dressed as Santa, while the other teachers were his helpers. The last teacher came out with green face paint and stole all the presents, only to be shown the meaning of Christmas. The presents were then returned.
The introductions are simple and only take up about two minutes. The kids usually enjoy them the more eccentric they are, and because there will be a different group of students each week, introductions can be reused, rehashed, or tossed out altogether at the discretion of the teachers.
After introductions, the teachers try to motivate students with a simple, attention-getting warm-up. In 2014-2015, a simple chant was used. The teachers would yell “English!” and students would respond by yelling “Village!” Teachers took turns yelling “English” and at different tones and octaves, with the students mimicking with the word “Village.”
Following the warm-up, the teachers take their assigned groups to their first class, and English Village is officially underway.