Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Not in Kansas Anymore

Direct on the heels of Angi's visit to the Project and her work with the teachers to help them improve their lesson-planning and strategies for teaching slow learners, Toa Nafasi was fortunate enough to receive more guests with even more wisdom to bestow.

This time, it was Dr. Marilyn Kaff, a professor of Special Education at Kansas State University.  Like Angi, I had known Marilyn in the past, though not so well.  She also worked in Lushoto at the Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU), a private teacher training college dedicated to serving people with disabilities.  Our paths had crossed several times over the years as our missions in Tanzania are cross-collaborative.  This year, we were able to finally connect as Marilyn came to Moshi for a short period on her way back to Lushoto with four undergrads and a whole lotta book learnin'!

Marilyn and her students (Katie, Caitlyn, Alyssa, and Mary) spent a full day with us visiting all four Toa sites and then spending time with the teachers doing a "storyboard" of The Little Red Chicken or, in Swahili, Kuku Mdogo Mwekundu.

A storyboard is a sketch of how a story is organized and a list of its contents: Who are the characters?  Where is the setting?  What is the plot?

By having both texted and text-free versions of this simple story, teachers are able to elicit participatory responses from their young pupils.  We can ask the children who they see in the text-free version, where they are, and what is taking place.  These things can be verified or refuted by then reading the texted version.

I don't know, honestly, if the Tanzanian teachers will use this technique in the Toa classrooms, but they sure had fun learning a new way of teaching our kids to use their critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as another way to read a book.

Even though time was short, I think Marilyn and her Kansas kids enjoyed their visit to the Project and their short presentation on storyboards.  They were certainly effusive and enthusiastic!

For my part, I enjoyed the infusion of youth in imparting this new strategy, and the hopeful and buoyant spirits of the four lovely girls; their vision of our Project through the gaze of youth and novelty was truly energizing.

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