This is easily one of our favorites. Toddlers are such fun in any culture, and when they are shouting out “Auntie Kelli! Uncle Stephen!” it just gets better.
For years, in our effort to learn Burmese and in our personal dread of teaching, we have avoided English classes. I have tried one here and there, but I am not a teacher. I was doing it out of love. But I will be the first to admit that as students dropped off or forgot to show, I was relieved and occasionally elated. That is probably the end of any class.
Then last year arrived, when a favorite “little sister” took her matriculation for Burmese high school. It is the equivalent of the American ACT or SAT standardized test, with six subjects: Burmese, English, math, chemistry, biology, and physics. She was second in her class at the high school down the street, and we knew she’d do well. What we didn’t anticipate was her passing five subjects and failing one: English.
As her native-English auntie and uncle that spent hours upon hours a week with her, this was a big failure on our part. We still feel awful for her now, retaking her senior year in Burma with hopes to try the test again next year.
But, that has led to another attempt at English. We won’t let this happen again! Our first step was to buy two Rosetta Stone licenses for adults and students to learn English without us being the official teacher.
The second step was a toddler class. They learn so fast, it seemed an obvious step. They are also so very easy to entertain; I thought surely I could teach colors, numbers, shapes, and basic words with little preparation. And just in case I couldn’t, I called in help from Mway Mway. Before she begins making jewelry on Thursday, she helped with the class. She would rally the kids while I taught English, and then we’d swap. I’d rally the kids while she taught Burmese.
It has turned out to be the highlight of every week!
First, there are the backpacks: all empty, some purses, some lunch boxes. All carried in with great importance.
Then, there are the cutest kids ever. I’ve been focusing on colors, counting, animals & sounds, and opposites.
We have this fun opposite book that teaches them the idea, and then we’ll use a few of them: we sing the ABCs quietly and then loudly; we sing Head & Shoulders slowly & then fast. Before we sing If You’re Happy & You Know It, I go over happy and sad. I act them out: HAPPY! with a smile; ssaaadddd with a frown. Zwe, without fail, shouts SAD! with a giant smile on his face.
Stephen also leads our singing with guitar, which the kids love. It’s really our very own little library storytime, and I’m not sure I could love something more!
We do animal sounds, which has turned out hilariously. They love Old McDonald but struggle through every bit except ei-ei-o. And we left a lion in at the end, despite it not being a farm animal, because it is fun to growl at each other. I also taught them a few with hand motions: “elephant” with a trunk; and “rabbit” with little ears. What I didn’t realize was that as I do the rabbit ears I also say, “Bop bop bop.” So now they all make rabbit ears and say “Bop bop bop.” Whoops.
The colors are going off the best–easy to review in the afternoons and we all love picking out the colors we’re each wearing! One week I asked the usual, “Who is wearing BLUE?” Zuzu proudly lifted up her dress and pointed to her panties, “BLUE! I’m wearing BLUE!” She was right, at least 😂
We’ve also been practicing our colors with superheroes: SPIDERMAN! Spiderman is RED and BLUE. The HULK! The HULK is GREEN and PURPLE. We have hand motions, as you can see below. It’s adorable.
The mixture of Burmese & English is tricky for little brains: they struggle to know which to say. I teach them all the colors in English, and then Mwei Mwei follows in Burmese. This leads to them shouting all the colors in all the languages. We have since decided it’s better if we teach different things for now: she’s been focusing on fruits, vegetables, and first words. In the mean time, there is a lot of confusion about chicken–which is pronounced similar to “jet” in Burmese, and is now most often called “jetkin” in our home. Again, whoops. I mentioned I wasn’t a great teacher, right?
It’s been a great opportunity to give the kids attention and teaching, in addition to the social lessons of thank you’s and following instructions. And of course we go home with a snack, so that everyone’s winning!