VENTESOL - UPEL INMERSION CAMP 2014
Based on the educational background of Immersion Camps in Venezuela and her experience as participant, coordinator and organizer of different immersion camps, Professor Waleska Ruiz from UPEL Maracay sent a proposal to the U.S Embassy last year in order to get funds to support a Immersion Camp project for her students of the Methodology of ELT course in 2014. This project was approved and the activity was organized as an assessment strategy within the subject “Metodología y Evaluación del Proceso Instruccional en Lengua Extranjera I” (6th semester) with the following pedagogical objectives:
-To review academic content about methods and approaches in language teaching.
-To practice the language skills (listening – speaking – reading - writing).
-To reduce speaking fears and barriers.
-To promote team work.
-To increase motivation for the teaching practice.
-To apply teaching strategies in recreational settings.
-To adapt the activities in other EFL contexts.
This pedagogical experience was also considered a cooperative learning strategy very meaningful to be used as a demonstration of the theory about methods and approaches of language teaching studied during the current academic period. Every activity in the program was an example of a teaching strategy suggested by a method or approach to teaching languages. Besides, it was shown to the students other possibilities of carrying out different teaching strategies in recreational contexts outside formal classrooms.
After the approval, the project was developed through the support of VenTESOL Association. The organizing team was built up by three professors from this university: Waleska Ruiz, Alnaldo Rodríguez and Diana Feliciano under the general supervision of Prof. Ruiz. Also, five teachers were invited to participate as facilitators of the working groups during the camp. They were Evelin Ojeda and Gizeph Henríquez from Universidad de Carabobo, Joyce Muñoz from UPEL Maracay, María Daal from Instituto de Educación Integral and Eva Sulbaran from The Language College.). On the other hand, a native speaker Cora Lavin who works in Mérida as teaching assistant from the U.S Embassy Fullbright program participated as a presenter and two other teachers Rhoda Ruiz and José Burgos were invited as Helping hands.
The program was arranged for 33 participants who were immersed into 12 different academic/recreational activities during 2 days. The activities were: team formation, group knot, let´s save the planet, scrambled sentences, my favorite teaching strategies, methodology contest, relaxing activities (soccer, belly dance and yoga), thematic show (back to the 60s, 70s and 80s), teaching American history with folk songs, the longest line, teaching design and solo reflection.
All activities were conducted in the target language which was encouraged to be used even during the free time and meals. It is also important to mention that students worked hard preparing themselves for two activities: my favorite teaching strategies and the thematic show. During a month, they were practicing their reading/writing skills and putting their creativity on to prepare group/individual artistic performances after researching about famous people from the mass media in the decades 60s, 70s and 80s. Finally, based on the Dessugestopedia method, the arts, creative adaption and role plays were incorporated into those presentations.
During this weekend, there was a cheerful, happy and motivating atmosphere among participants (teachers and students) to cooperate to develop the activities with wonderful results. At the end of the second day, an evaluation form written by Prof. Ruiz was filled out by all participants in order to get feedback about the experience and get opinions, suggestions and comments.
Within this rubric, the aspects of logistics regarding U.S Embassy and VenTESOL support, general organization, transportation, meals, venue, schedule and camp personnel were evaluated on a scale from excellent to poor. The majority considered that those aspects were excellent or good, but the aspect of transportation was marked as poor. In this sense, it is important to mention that the transportation private company hired by the camp director in Caracas was too bad and caused different problematic situations that were finally solved without bigger consequences.
On the other hand, in the comments section teachers expressed that the whole activity was an excellent enriching experience not only for practicing the language, but also for refreshing theory and developing creativity. Also, that this type of event allows institutions to get connected in order to share knowledge and establish links for cooperation. In the case of students, most of them stated that the camp experience was an amazing opportunity within the course for helping them to practice language skills, to develop team work, and to reinforce knowledge about teaching strategies in a relaxing and funny way. Also, some of them considered that it was a wonderful and unforgettable experience that should be organized every year at the university, so all the students to take advantage of it.
Finally, based on this feedback it can be said that this experience had a very positive impact among all the participants of the camp who were also very grateful for all the support received for making it possible.
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