Classroom Creativity in Tanzania

Last week's blog showed how a WorldTeach Namibia volunteer used a pen pal program to foster learning in Namibia. In a different region of Africa, a WorldTeach Tanzania volunteer has also found creative ways to encourage learning in a school with limited resources. Read on to learn about Katie's creative techniques in Tanzania...

The author with her students at a graduation ceremony

At orientation nine months ago (yikes!) we had a session(s) about teaching in a classroom with limited resources and the possibility for encountering this situation in our schools. That first day of school seems ages ago, but I remember my first time going into the classroom armed with a handful of chalk and a lesson plan I'd put together based on where they'd left off at the end of the previous term, not knowing what to really expect.

There's been a huge learning curve since then, nonetheless it's an ever continuing learning process.

A stereotypical government classroom has a blackboard, and individual desks and chairs occupied by students. Sometimes each student has their own desk and chair, but depending on the class size students will often share a desk and/or chair with another student. Some schools have a science laboratory with equipment and a supply of school textbooks, but the quantity of textbooks per class or subject range tremendously, but generally there's a couple of textbooks for every class, but the textbook to student ratio is generally very high. Think 3 textbooks for a classroom of 50 students, making it challenging to utilize to their full potential. With an ounce of creativity and rotating activities though, it can be done!

Limited resources isn't as crippling as it may seem. In truth, it was intimidating at first, but as time has passed it has evolved into an opportunity to get creative in the classroom with students.  A Baseline (used for a 6-week English orientation for Form I students) lesson included using a picture of a town for students to practice creating sentences using "There is..."or "There are...". I did not have any pictures of a town, so instead I whipped out my supply of Sharpies and colored pencils and decided to make my own.

Flip charts are quickly becoming my new best friend.

I am not artist, but I promise I can draw better then stick figures, but they're quick and easy. So I created a generic village complete with a hospital, school and students, and other common sites. Apparently I cannot draw chickens to save my life...they look more like a cross between chickens and dogs, but it still doesn't come close to my dogs. Which I didn't even try and include on my poster. I really, really cannot draw dogs.

In addition to flip charts, I've played a Disney song to practice listening skills with articles, used old calendar photos to practice using adjectives for describing physical appearances, tossed around a blow-up globe to review Geography, to name a few. It takes some planning and forethought, but it's been a challenge that I've really come to enjoy. It has also had the unintended consequence of turning us into pack-rats, to a certain extent, but you never know what you'll end up using in the classroom!

My students did laugh when I put this poster on the blackboard.

-Katie Shannon, WorldTeach Tanzania 2013-2014

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