2019 PostcardX with ASEAN Countries

This year, every student at SMK Tabuan Jaya will write a postcard to an ASEAN counterpart!
   
A few months ago, I was engaged as a mentor at a YSEALI regional workshop with representatives from all 11 ASEAN countries. At the end of the workshop, I had access to all of them via a WhatsApp Group. I really hate WhatsApp Groups. I realized the value of having contacts abroad & the great potential for collaboration, so I asked if anyone in the group wanted to do a postcard exchange between their classes & mine.

Working with students who have low-proficiency, low-confidence & low-interest in English is a significant challenge & I jumped at the opportunity to provide a authentic context for my students to use English & to experience first hand how this language can connect them with the world. Fortunately, I received enough affirmatives to pair every class at my school with a different ASEAN partner, specifically Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines & Cambodia. Almost had a Timur Leste counterpart too, but she had difficulties securing an address. Maybe next time!

How The Exchange Was Carried Out:

1. Pair up a class at SMK Tabuan Jaya with an ASEAN counterpart's class. (You can probably find some in international English teacher Facebook groups.)
2. Collect mailing addresses from counterparts. (I had to make sure I collected recipient names, school names, & postcodes.)
3. Produce a working paper & purchase order so principal can approve access to school funds.
4. Purchase commercial postcards for this project. (I wanted students to focus on their writing skills, so I decided against having students make their own postcards. If you want your ss to make their own postcards, feel free to do so.)
5. Brief colleagues about the project & distribute postcards. Determine if students will write a postcard in groups or individually. (I decided to have my students write in groups to mitigate issues with low-proficiency. With this experience, my students should be able to do future postcard exchanges individually.)
6. Conduct 1-hour postcard-writing lessons for own classes.
7. Collect postcards & mail them through school.
***Foreign counterparts will simultaneously do the above at their end.

Estimated Cost: RM2/postcard + Postage (roughly RM1.20-RM2.00/group)

Some of the groups from my school taking part in the project.
   

How The Lesson Was Carried Out:

Duration: 1 hour.
Materials: Postcards + color paper + scissors + glue

1. "What is ASEAN?" In pairs, ss name all 11 ASEAN countries. Announce postcard exchange activity & ASEAN partner pair-ups.
2. Ss brainstorm & write on wb appropriate topics for the postcard. I.e., focusing on "Sarawak": culture, food, music, festivals, etc.
3. Elicit & write on wb specifications for the 3 paragraphs ss must write. (Include sentence starters for weaker ss)
-- Para 1: salutation + greeting + names + school + class.
-- Para 2: choose 1 topic + examples (local terms with English explanations written in brackets, pansuh [chicken cooked in bamboo]) + descriptions (based on 5 senses).
-- Para 3: I hope you will visit Sarawak, because... + Thank you + signatures
4. In groups, ss write your drafts based on the framework. Ss reminded that this is an English activity, so speak as much English as possible.
5. After draft is checked & approved, ss choose a color paper & a postcard. Crop the paper according to the size of the postcard. Paste it on the writing-side of the postcard. Copy revised draft onto the paper.
6. After completing postcard, t takes team's photo (with postcard) & collects postcard.
7. T sends photos to ASEAN partner & mails postcards via school.

Interesting how even the rowdiest students were on-task when their writing task had some authenticity
as someone other than their teacher would read & respond to it.
They are really looking forward to receiving postcards from their ASEAN counterparts.
  

How The Postcards Will Be Received

1. Share the photos of foreign partners with students while waiting for the postcards to arrive.
2. Once arrived, confirm receipt of the postcards with counterpart.
3. Bring the postcards to class during a lesson. Lesson Objective: Reading for main ideas/key details.
4. Designate different sections of the class as Reading Stations, according to the number of postcards received.
5. Divide ss into groups of 4. Task: Read the postcards for main ideas/key details. You have 5 minutes to read the postcards & take notes. Decide how you want to divide the work.
6. Ss carry out the task.
7. Return to your groups & share what you have learned. Practice your speaking. You must speak English. Take notes of what your friends have shared.
8. Write a 3 paragraph reflection. Para 1 = Who + Where + What | Para 2 = What do you think? What surprised you? What did you learn? | Para 3 = What do you want to do? (Provide sentence starters for weaker students.)
9. Best reflections will be featured on the bulletin board / school newsletter.


Pictures of my students & their postcards as well as the postcards received: https://www.facebook.com/pg/jarodyjk/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2275419735920759

My favorite thing about this program is even my weakest & naughtiest students were on-task & I could see that they were proud of their work. I am encouraged to run a similar program next year.

I hope that this has provided you with ideas of how you would run a similar program yourself with your students! Let me know how it went!

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