Tips for Teaching English on a Gap Year in Fiji

Published 06/11/2017

Teaching is a big part of any Think Pacific volunteering project and is a fantastic way to provide real value to local communities on a gap year. Being able to offer support, ideas and encouragement for children and young adults, means you can truly make an impact in a relatively short amount of time.

In Fiji, although English is the official language, most children, particularly those in rural areas, are brought up predominantly speaking Fijian. As they get older, they start to get taught in English and slowly adopt both languages.

Teaching English and helping children get used to communicating in English provides incredible benefits for them. The ability to communicate in English will help dramatically with their studies as they get older and play a big part in their future career opportunities.

This makes teaching English a huge objective for Think Pacific teams entering Fijian villages. We want to do everything we can to help the children improve their English and help them get used to communicating in English. Often the children in remote parts of Fiji don’t have the same opportunities as those in the cities and towns. We want to help ensure their education isn’t compromised and that they develop the highest standard of English possible. We want to see a generation of Fijian children growing up in rural areas becoming whoever they want to be, whether that’s a teacher, doctor, pilot, rugby player, farmer, whatever – for us, it’s just making sure they have the opportunity to make their dreams happen. Improving their English is great first step in helping them achieve their career and personal prospects.

So, how can you help teach English in rural parts of Fiji?

Teaching English in Fiji – Speaking English

Helping children speak English is an extremely useful activity. Many young Fijian children will have basic English speaking skills, but helping identify how they can improve and supporting them in activities like presentations, provides real tangle benefits for them.

The best way to get involved is to listen first and then help provide constructive feedback into how they can improve. In many instances, having a clear objective for the lesson will help, both you as a teaching assistant and the pupil, gain an understanding of what is trying to be achieved.

Some children may need help with pronunciations, while others may benefit from tips on how to improve their public speaking.

We’ve found that working 1-2-1 with children, whether that’s the children who are struggling in class, or those who are progressing much quicker than their fellow pupils, helps provide the most value. Instead of trying to juggle a class of different standards, we help identify pupils who would really benefit from more time and effort, so we can work with them closely. This means our volunteers often don’t need to worry about teaching a whole class or preparing big lessons, instead it’s about donating their time and effort to work closely with specific children and providing personal support.

Teaching English in Fiji – Grammar and Written English

We often find some Fijian children who appear fluent in speaking English actually really struggle with their grammar and written English. English is considered quite a difficult language to write, with words sounding the same having different spelling/meaning, as well as many words being spelt very differently to how they sound. Therefore, spending time to help with written English is really useful, especially for the older children who will need such skills if they decide to go on to further education or work.

For helping with written English, volunteers can really utilise all the amazing resources online and those available in the UK/Europe/US/Australia. From printable revision cards to grammar games, to downloading useful videos on their phone, leveraging this wealth of knowledge is a great way to support children in Fiji.

Teaching English in Fiji – Listening and Interpreting

Listening to spoken English is another important skill for Fijian children to develop. Fijian children are most likely to be better at listening and interpreting English than they are writing or speaking it (as is the case with learning any language), but having the opportunity to listen to different accents as well as using different vocabulary in a sentence, is a great way for them to learn.

Many of our volunteers bring with them strong and proud accents from around the British Isles as well as around the world. This means Fijians get to hear different ways people speak English, helping them cement their knowledge of the language.

Extra Curricular Learning

House Cup is also something we’ve developed here at Think Pacific to help tie together the formal side of education, with the more informal side of youth development. This helps create fun, engaging and memorable sessions where our volunteers and the school children can focus on developing lots of the skills taught in the classroom in more innovative ways.

Tips for Teaching on a Gap Year

Teacher Resources – bring with you as many teacher resources as possible. From videos on your phone, to games and learning aids, these resources are hugely valuable in the classroom.
Identify an Objective for Each Lesson – by identifying an objective for each lesson, you can help create more quantifiable results for the children and school. For example, as opposed to “helping a child improve their reading”, being able to say, “the child went from reading 30 words a minute, to 50”, demonstrates real tangible progress. This helps the school really understand the benefits you’ve provided.
Work as a Team – communicating with other volunteers and team leaders can ensure that each volunteer is helping to contribute to the same objectives. One volunteer may work with a child for a week, and can then pass on their ideas and thoughts to another volunteer who may work with that child for the next week. This helps create stability in the classroom.
Think Outside the Box – there are lots of ways you can help teach in Fiji, so don’t be afraid to try something different. As long as you can keep the children engaged in the lesson, give it a go.
Make it Relatable – make sure you use examples that are relatable for Fijian children. This will help keep them engaged during the lessons.
Games are Great – games that incorporate learning are a fantastic way to introduce new topics or help keep children engaged.
Ask for Help – Think Pacific has over a decade of experience teaching in Fiji so if you have any ideas or even concerns about teaching, simply talk to your expedition leader. They can help ensure you get the most out of the teaching, as well as the children.
Keep it Simple – don’t feel you need to introduce something complex. Often, the best lessons are those that are simple and clear.
Have Fun – don’t be nervous about teaching in Fiji. The children are naturally well behaved and eager to learn from you. Just relax, and have fun, because it’s going to be an incredibly rewarding opportunity for you.

If you’d like to learn more about teaching in Fiji, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We specialise in volunteering in Fiji and work with government partners to achieve amazing things in the remotest parts of Fiji.

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