I was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community, and I was lucky to get acquainted with the Ann Foundation.  I started off as an ESL teaching volunteer for the Project at Sowbhagya Illam, Dindigul. However, soon I was given the responsibility of managing the curriculum team and co-ordinating with ESL volunteers. When the project started there was no defined curriculum. Each volunteer made their own lessons, but we felt the need to standardize our curriculum. So, we created lesson plans based on textbooks and started incorporating them into our daily teaching, since Ann felt it could help their regular academics and improve their language skills. However, based on the assessments, we realized that these lessons were not helping improve students’ language skills adequately. We came up with an alternative plan, and started piloting new grammar and speaking lessons. It was encouraging to see improvement, and we observed that the children were more involved in the ESL classes than before.

A few months ago, we decided to go full throttle with building up students’ speaking and reading skills. After a lot of brainstorming with the curriculum team, teaching volunteers, and the Project Manager, we put in place an effective system that would give us measureable results. Now, teaching volunteers update class logs which mirror daily class activities and provide feedback on how the lesson plan worked in the classroom. These class logs allow us to update each other and plan changes. This has been a critical step to ensure we are providing a great learning experience for the students. Additionally, regular meetings are conducted to improve instruction and time/activity management. Our volunteers are given complete liberty to use their creative skills to make class interactive, vibrant and meaningful. They also make sure every student participates in class activities. For effective usage of class time, each class is split to include different stimulating and innovative activities that target vocabulary, reading, and conversational skills like Word of The Day, Conversation of the Day and Story Reading.

The ESL curriculum plan is an evolving process which has shown success because of the valuable inputs from every team member. It has been close to six months since this system has been put in place, and all our projects are now following the same curriculum. We have started to take baby steps and are keeping our fingers crossed that the work we do will help bring meaningful change in the lives of children at the Illam.

Rizwana hails from Chennai and is currently based in Hong Kong. She has a Master’s degree in education, Bachelor’s in Plant Biology and Plant Biotechnology from the University Of Madras. She has over two years of teaching experience in Chennai and Hong Kong. Rizwana is very fond of children and is also very passionate about teaching. She believes strongly in giving back to society. She is able to accomplish both by volunteering in Ann foundation.

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