English Study Group
The Hogares Guadalupe children's home in Santa Apolonia, Chimaltenango, Guatemala, hosts an annual intensive English program for residents and members of the surrounding community.
The program immediately follows the end of the regular school year in October. In 2010 and 2011, the program ran for four weeks. This represents a significant increase in the school year for these students. In 2011, rural Guatemalan children actually received only about 87 days of instruction during the school year, according to a news report (far below the number of days they are legally entitled to).
The program has two components: a young adult/adult program for older students and community participants, and a younger students' program for children ages 6 to 12. There are four hours of instruction each day.
The young adult/adult section is organized as a FOCAL SKILLS program. FOCAL SKILLS is an approach to teaching English that emphasizes rapid acquisition of practical language proficiency through exposure to and use of the language in meaningful contexts.
At the beginning of the program, standardized FOCAL SKILLS tests are used to place students in skill-focused classes based on their proficiency level. Most students focus on Listening, some on Reading. Two hours a day are spent on their focal skill, and one hour on studying problem areas encountered during their focus area studies. Each day ends with a music hour, when students practice pronunciation and fluency by learning folk, blues and pop music. At the end of the program, students are re-tested to measure progress and presented with certificates showing their results.
The younger students' program focuses on language in context, helping students learn to understand and incorporate words into phrases and sentences at a beginning level. Music, movement and stories make the language come alive for the young students. The students are divided into two groups by age, with the four hours of instruction split between the groups, so that each student spends two hours a day in English class.
While the program is still only a couple of years old, students report being much more confident in their English classes at school. The students are eager to use English in their further studies and job training and the Intensive English Program may insure a competitive chance for these options in the future.The program is funded entirely by donations and staffed entirely by volunteer teachers. The volunteers are qualified ESL/EFL teachers and interns. Donations cover their travel expenses to Santa Apolonia. The Hogares Guadalupe children's home contributes classroom facilities and equipment and provides housing and meals for the teachers.