At one time, if any student should say “you can still be a scholar even if you play and study”, the teacher would glare at you for making such a sarcastic remark. However, today teachers in Ban Ko Sai School situated in Lam Thap area, Krabi province can smile proudly at the 145 students who these days “excel in Thai language through learning and playing”.
“Our school uses learning materials to boost Thai language literacy, which is a vinyl sheet with Thai consonants and vowels printed on it,” said Rattiya Nopenop, a Ban Ko Sai School teacher. Immediately she added, “The school received support from World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT). We teach by mixing play with learning to stimulate the children’s interest in their studies. This helps the children remember the consonants and vowels better, as well as improves their literacy. Previously there were students from almost every class who didn’t know the consonants or remember the vowels.”
As described by teacher Rattiya, since 2014 Ban Ko Sai School has been using this literacy learning material as the hero tool in mixing play with learning. The process begins with the teacher leading students to a spacious area outside the classroom. She then spreads out the large vinyl sheet on the floor and asks students to sit around it. From there she hands out to each student a flashcard inscribed with different words. Afterwards, individual student has to step forward and spells aloud the word written on their flashcard for the teacher to hear.
If the spelling is read out correctly, the student has to go search for the right consonants and vowels matching their word on the vinyl sheet. At this stage, other fellow students who are sitting and watching often can no longer keep still, but break out in loud cheers to help their friend.
“The children are having fun. For small children from grade 1 to 3, I use easy words for them to search. For older children, from grade 4 to 6, the focus is on practising the spelling. The teaching method depends on each teacher’s approach,” articulated teacher Rattiya while smiling.
The teacher is smiling not only because her approach to solving students’ poor Thai language literacy is on the right path. But it’s also because Thai language subject, which used to repel students like bitter medicine, has now become an addictive dessert. Children cannot stop coming back for more as the teacher does not scold them despite her loud voice.
At the same time students feel proud for being able to display their abilities, plus get to learn in an open space instead of being confined in a square, closed classroom. This vinyl sheet is therefore more than a Thai language teaching tool, but also something students can play with during class break.
“Before the students take the vinyl sheet to play with, they come and ask the teachers’ permission. We let them take it because as they play together, the student who is already fluent will teach their peers who are not as skilled. It cultivates peer-to-peer teaching,” commented teacher Rattiya. The teacher can’t help but break out in smiles. Who can blame her?