Twice weekly I lead KKIS Project volunteers (Keeping Kids in School) to CECYTE high school in Playa del Carmen, Mexico where we practice conversational English with small groups of students. Each day we meet with three classes. Some are quite proficient while others are just getting started with English.
Playa del Carmen is a very transient city with families coming and going a lot, so many students have come from other school districts. English education is required in Mexico but conversation is not stressed but is vitally necessary for jobs in this tourist location or for university. The English teacher at this school came to KKIS asking for help and we have designed the program around the needs of her students, including sessions in which we practiced job interviews.
Sheets of conversation starter questions are provided to volunteers but often the discussion veers off topic which is perfectly fine as the goal is to get the kids talking. Conversations range from video games to which animal they would like to be and everything in between.
At the beginning of the semester I ask the students to evaluate themselves on a scale of 1 – 5 defining their comfort speaking and understanding English. Last Fall at the end of the semester their self evaluations average had risen a full point! Both the students and volunteers have really enjoyed participating in this project and we hope to include another high school this year.